Editor’s note: Is Chelsea’s victory against Barcelona a sign that English football is in a revival, or is it a false dawn? EPL Talk blogger Ahmed Yussuf takes one side of the argument, while I (The Gaffer) take another. Read both articles, and then you decide whose argument is more valid, in the comments section below. We look forward to reading your opinions.
Why Chelsea’s Win Against Barcelona Doesn’t Mean English Football is Revived
By Ahmed Yussuf
In the recent UEFA Champions League semi-final, Chelsea defeated Barcelona. This is a huge scalp for the west London side. However, it doesn’t pave over the cracks which are facing this team and equally English football.
English football has been in a decline of late, and the fact that they’ve managed seven English finalists in the last eight Champions League finals isn’t representative of this decline. This decline is evident in the style in which Chelsea won. It reeked of thuggery, much like the last team to beat Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League — Inter Milan.
This may have won the west London side a place in the final, but by no means is this a step in the right direction for Chelsea football club or English football.
English football has built their European success on energetic, dynamic and high intensity based football, as opposed to the thuggish and Catenaccio style Chelsea has chosen to adopt.
This doesn’t mean Chelsea is expected to play an expansive style of football. The side has an ageing squad which was built to be physical, counterattacking and most importantly resilient. But, to see the veterans of this side stoop to tomfoolery to win a game is disheartening for lovers of English football and is a wrong perception for football played in England.
English football’s problems result from the lowest levels of the game. England technical director Gareth Southgate said, “We still look for the physical and athletic player.” This has been something said about English football for decades, as they produce technically inept footballers which are usually one dimensional.
Furthermore, the production of English footballers hasn’t been up to scratch, and “One of the things we’re trying to end is the stop-start style of coaching for your kids,” said Southgate. As they try to rectify it with “more games and less talk,” Southgate added.
The English FA have chosen to transcend with the times and help English football progress further. Gareth Southgate said, “We have…to study, have that research, and culturing that through into the game.”
That suggests The FA understands that English football needs a more scientific approach, more studying of the game and a more profound tactical approach. Southgate wants the new training facilities to be called “Club England.”
It’s refreshing news to see that English football may escalate to levels we knew were possible. Football played in England already has so many components. With more study and scrutiny, football in England will only progress. The upper echelons of club football elites might have an Englishman at the helm, opposed to a Frenchman, Scotsman or Italian.
Even though there are a few football manager who are English and doing credible jobs, it needs to be a recurrence if English football has aspirations of development. The likes of Alan Pardew should be educating and sharing their methods and football philosophies. That’s what Club England plans to implement — to join all of English football under one roof.
Maybe if English football continues on this new project, we’ll be talking in 10 years about how England and English clubs alike play an expansive, technical and total football — that everyone associates with Spain and Barcelona.
Why Chelsea’s Win Is A Victory For English Football
by The Gaffer
Chelsea’s victory against Barcelona on Tuesday night is a triumph for English football.
For so long, especially this past season, critics — and especially the English media — have placed Barcelona on a holier-than-thou pedestal, glorifying everything that the club has done on the pitch and romanticizing about how wonderful the sport of soccer is thanks to the Spanish club. At the same time, many soccer fans have fed off the Barcelona and La Liga lovefest by criticizing and lampooning the Premier League and English football, laughing that clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal were knocked out in earlier rounds of the Champions League, and talking about the decline of English football.
Now that Chelsea has defeated the mighty Barcelona, what does that say about English football? To me, soccer is not about how you play. Barcelona plays lovely football, but the object of the game is to win. No bonus points are awarded for playing pretty passes.
Chelsea’s performance in both legs against Barcelona was route one football from the 1970’s or 1980’s. English football at its worst, according to the critics. But there’s no rule in soccer that dictates how the game should be played. As long as the English clubs are playing within the rules, anything goes. And in order to beat a team such as Barcelona, the only way to do it is to play a system that prevents them from playing their fluid brand of soccer. That’s not anti-soccer. That’s out-smarting your opposition.
Chelsea can, if and when they want, play a lovely brand of exciting, attacking soccer. Barcelona, on the other hand, can only play one style. So when it doesn’t work for Barcelona, like it didn’t in both legs against Chelsea, Barcelona has no other option. That, to me, is a massive weakness and a lack of adaptability. Criticize Chelsea and English football all you want, but at least the Blues and most English clubs can adapt their tactics to beat their opposition.
While Chelsea’s squad is filled with foreign players, Chelsea is still an English club and still represents England and the Premier League. In the globalized world that we live in, few club teams that are on the international stage are filled with players from their own country. So, even though a Brazilian and a Spaniard scored for Chelsea on Tuesday night, it’s still a victory for English football.
While the foreign players at Chelsea stole the limelight against Barcelona, let us not forget the incredible impact that the English players had on this team. Despite his sending off, John Terry was on top of his game in both legs, giving a heroic defensive display, throwing his body into shots and knowing where to position himself to block Barcelona’s attacks and through-balls. Left back Ashley Cole was equally impressive. So too was Gary Cahill in defense before his unfortunate injury. And what about Frank Lampard? The man, who was discarded by Andre Villas-Boas just a few months ago, never gave up against Barcelona and rallied his team against all odds. His performance was spectacular, especially the beautiful weighted pass to Ramires that led to Chelsea’s first goal on Tuesday night.
These Englishmen will all benefit from the experience and thrill of playing the highest level of soccer against the best team in the world. That they won is such a massive confidence boost for them as individuals, as well as their Chelsea and England teammates.
Tuesday night’s performance by Chelsea encapsulated everything that is wonderful about English football — a never say die attitude, guts before glory, incredible defensive performances, brilliant counter-attacks and, in just 90 minutes, all of the highs and lows of the most exciting league in world soccer — the Premier League.