Serie A Needs To Get the Refs Back on the Payroll
While I’m still basking in the glow of our triumph against Roma, the Champions League results suggest that Serie A may not be the strongest league in Europe. Inter, pride of Italy, were constantly on the back foot in Milan, and Juventus, the “Old Lady of Italian football” played like, well, an old lady. None of this diminishes Arsenal’s result yesterday, but it does call into question the strength of Europe’s old guard.
Italy is not the only nation deserving of some criticism. Spain supposedly has the best team in Europe, and Barcelona were lucky to escape Lyon without a two or three goal deficit. Real Madrid just finished mopping the floor with La Liga competition, only to lose at home to slumping Liverpool in the midst of their managerial unrest. Villareal couldn’t defend home field against suprise inclusion Panathanikos. Amazingly, Bayern Munich look like the class of the field after shaking off some rusty domestic form to destroy Sporting in Lisbon, 5-0. I’ve always felt that there is too much talent on the Munich roster for them to be so pededstrian. (It’s one of the reasons I like them as my second team on EA Sports Fifa 08.)
I suppose the inescapable conclusion from this first leg is that the English Premier League is still the strongest league in Europe. Somehow I don’t want that to be true. There’s no denying that the quality of play in the EPL has deteriorated this year. The mid-table and relegation troubled teams have been content to defend for 90 minutes of virtually every match against their stronger opponents. Perhaps, as the economy weakens, it makes the threat of relegation that much more terrifying. Maybe these teams have realized that they have their best chance at points versus the top four when the game is less open. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that life in the EPL this season has been largely devoid of beautiful football. La Liga has been more entertaining. Serie A has produced some brilliant fixtures. (the recent Milan derby was a classic.) Even Germany has enthralled with the rise of unlikely challengers. But the EPL has plodded along. Perhaps I see the league that way because of Arsenal’s pedestrial displays. Okay. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Unfortunately the miserly and ultra-physical nature of the EPL seems to have imbued the Champions League participants with mettle that the other contestants do not possess. C’est la vie.
It’s Fulham for us this weekend. AW will be looking at some interesting selection choices after the midweek fixture. Like a broken record; only three points will do this weekend. Aston Villa play Stoke and we must accept that they will probably take all three point. O’neill has admitted that the UEFA Cup is not a priority and it will show in tomorrows team sheet. Villa have tough games coming after this weekend, so if we can do the job against Fulham we will have the chance to put pressure on them again in the coming weeks.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our formation and team selection when all our players are healthy (does that ever happen). But I need something to write about tomorrow so let’s stop here.