Although Bayern Munich were pushed all the way by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final, their victory allows us to reflect on a remarkable season. They've set a high bar...
That's the difference between him and someone like Cristiano Ronaldo - his body just isn't right. We have mails on him, Sparky, Brendan Rodgers and the Europa Lge...
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We'll Start With This
I'm sure you'll have seen this already, but on the off chance you haven't I shall leave this Djimi Traore (yes that one) screamer here with no comment:
Have Arsenal Thrown The Towel In Already?
Rumours abound that Arsenal will be resting players (Walcott and Cazorla
apparently) in a Champions league last 16 tie second leg, so they can be fit to aid qualification for next year's tournament.
This surely shows the depths to which Arsenal have fallen. Even if there is a small chance of a turnaround they should have the appetite to give it a go, instead the white flag of surrender has already been hoisted high above the Allianz Arena. I cannot imagine any other club taking such an approach.
I always want English clubs to do well in Europe so this is not some anti Arsenal rant, but if this transpires I hope they get a pasting from Bayern and Swansea, and that UEFA get their rulebook out. Arsene needs to show some balls for once.
Chris Nixon, CFC, Surrey
I'm pleased that Vinnie Harte has discovered a new optimism about Liverpool's future after one win. However, I can't help but question his predictions for the summer, which seem to be entirely based on the assumption that Liverpool's rivals will all repeat the same mistakes they've made in the past (bad managerial appointments, not spending, not reinforcing adequately), whereas Liverpool will suddenly learn from theirs. Surely logic would dictate that they, too, will continue to squander their transfer budget, having done so for several seasons (Vinnie's assertion, not mine)? Let's not forget that Brendan Rogers is relatively new to handling a large budget.
I'm also particularly keen to learn exactly on what basis Spurs will be unable to re-inforce their attacking options? If they qualify for the Champions League AND sell Gareth Bale they could feasibly begin 2013/14 with £100m of new strikers.
An alternative prediction: Luis Suarez joins Real Madrid to replace PSG-bound Cristiano Ronaldo; Jose Reina & Daniel Agger leave for Arsenal and Man City respectively (and are not properly replaced); Lucas picks up a season-ending injury in August; Glen Johnson receives a 6-month prison sentence after being caught nicking a bath from Aintree Homebase; Brendan Rodgers blows £40m on Scott Sinclair and Garry Monk, who have both entirely forgotten by that point how to play football.
The above, of course, will not happen but let's try and stick to predictions which are based (at least slightly) on reality, not blind faith, yeah?
Tom (I support Coventry City. The word 'optimism' is not in my vocabulary), Brighton.
Di Canio To Reading?
I had a wee soft spot for Brian McDermott because, unfortunately for both us, I look exactly like him.
Anyway, onto his replacement.
Can the whole country collectively beg Reading to appoint Paulo Di Canio immediately ?
I so want this to happen. I would bloody love the two months of madness and meltdowns that Paulo would undoubtedly bring before going out in a blaze of glory. I'm predicting some sort of siege/coat made of dynamite situation on the final day if the season.
Come on Reading, what have you got to lose ?
Dave (can everyone shut up about 4th, its not gonna happen), LFC, Southport.
Cheer Up Reading Fans, You Could Be Following Palermo
Having seen the deluge of man-love for McDermott in the last couple of mailboxes, I do feel a little sorry for Reading fans in general. Much like Adkins, McDermott has simply been punished for unrealistic expectations following a quality season last year in the Championship.
This may not make Reading fans feel any better, but my message to them would be: it could be so much worse. Serie A's bottom club Palermo are now looking at their 5th managerial change of the season, having sacked Gasperini for the 2nd time in 2 months. And who are they supposedly looking at to take on the job? Why, the guy they booted out last September!
Their president has also been quoted as saying "We won't be able to save ourselves now." Palermo fans must feel really hopeful after hearing that. I suppose at the very least, their new manager isn't going to be under any pressure to deliver.
The whole thing reeks of utter madness. The top people at Palermo are making a mockery of the whole situation, and I can't imagine how the conversation went when Gasperini learnt he was being tossed yet again. What was that about 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me'?
In a world where so many players are holding clubs to ransom, it beggars belief that managers remain so vulnerable to the whims and fancies of their bosses. Why aren't these managers given as much faith as say a misfiring striker? Or is the way forward to limit clubs to a certain number of managerial changes (1 should be more than enough) in a season? Then maybe we could get some semblance of sanity back in football.
Aaron, Singaporean Gooner
Well done Barcelona. Proof indeed that football has been making t*ts out of knee jerkers since time immemorial.
...Jordi Alba is like Jose Enrique but stronger, faster, better on the ball and a better finisher. And better looking.
Not Quite A 10/10 Performance
Difficult to argue that Barcelona don't have class from 1 to 11 after that performance last night. Not too sure the same can be said of the physio mind. Anyone else notice that when he taped up Flaminis head last night (on about 25 minutes if you can find it, cursed filters) he left the whole roll attached? Poor sod ran back on the pitch with it swinging around like a swingball. A moment that sullied the whole performance for me. 9.5/10.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
On Barca & Piquenbauer
I honestly didn't think Barcelona would pull it back, I was convinced they would concede and in the end it was really only the footballing Gods that prevented Milan from doing so.
Defensively the likes of Bayern, Real and Dortmund will be licking their lips, Pique looks absolutely rubbish, a shadow of the man I considered the best centre back in the world a couple of seasons back, he gets beaten so easily it's ridiculous and he's constantly out of position or doing his Beckenbauer impersonation and bombing forward, but then adding the Piquenbauer twist by inevitably losing the ball. He is a liability at the moment and the theory gone by was that he was made to look good by the very solid Puyol, with Puyol a perma-crock now and Pique having to lead the (defensive) line, he looks decidedly average. Mascherano isn't much better and his glaring mistake nearly led to Milan taking a foothold in the game that I don't think Barcelona would have recovered from.
Offensively every team left in the champions league will not want to face this Barcelona team, when they have the balance right with Iniesta in Midfield running at defenders they look unstoppable. I've said for a while now that Cesc is shoehorned into the side and it essentially messes with the system and Cesc is not a good enough player (anyway when compared to his current teammates) to build a side around, and I think his non-participation in this match and the subsequent result is an eye opener for all those who believe having Cesc is good enough to start in this current Barca side.
Messi, been poor this season in the Big games but boy how special was he. Back to his best against a side camped around the edge of the box which normally sees him have very little influence but today he seemed so determined, a masterclass performance from a once in a millennium footballer.
The last eight will be fantastic, I'd love to see a semi of Bayern vs Madrid and Barca vs Dortmund.
Sizwe (cracking game. Niang's shot going in would have made it even better for the neutral) JHB RSA
On Robinho And His Pathetic Free-Kick
I think Robinho needs to commended for the superb 30 minute shift he put in, of which 15 minutes he seemed to be complaining to anyone would listen. Why he did not put the ball in the box when there were only two minutes left in the match is beyond me. This was probably Milan's best chance to snag a late game winner, that they did not deserve.
Instead, he fuddled around like a lost five year old looking for their parents in a crowd and then kicked the ball directly to the Barcelona player about three yards in front of him. The ensuing counterattack that resulted in Alba's goal was a direct result of his poor decision. Then of all things, he goes and exchanges his jersey with his former international teammate, Dani Alves, instead of walking off the field in shame. He should have just gave Alba his jersey when he gave Barcelona the match.
Disappointed With Milan
I watched the Barca v Milan game last night and thought there was an incredible difference in style of play and expectation from both sides. Barcelona played their usual passing game, holding something like 71% possession over the first half an hour but hardly creating any notable chances. Even their goal in this space of time wasn't really a great chance, but rather individual genius from Messi *cough* one man team *cough*.
Milan on the other hand played like one would expect a League 1 side to play at Old Trafford. They played a very deep defensive line and attempted to swarm Messi whenever the ball was played to him, which makes his brace simply all the more remarkable. They were content with allowing Constant to drop inside and make Dani Alves the obvious option to pass to on the right flank, knowing his crosses were likely to be largely ineffective when aiming at Messi's slight frame. They took possession and hacked it clear as soon as possible.
It took some remembering to remind myself that this side was AC Milan for crying out loud! Home of some exceptionally good midfielders and young attackers so full of promise that they kept Robinho on the bench, yet walk out at the Nou Camp and they were seemingly incapable of stringing 3 passes together, never mind holding some possession in Barca's half. These were world class footballers who just seemed timid, scattering misplaced passes left right and centre and sitting as deep as possible. It felt as if the game had been lost before the teams had left the tunnel. Milan had accepted that they were the vastly weaker side before a ball had been kicked, somehow forgetting how they beat the same team just 3 weeks previously. How much of every Barcelona home victory is won in the mind?
On Celtic Park
Re Craig Logan's mail - I would like to direct you to a few choice quotes
"Every professional footballer should seek to play at least one game at Celtic Park. I have never felt anything like it" - Paolo Maldini
"The atmosphere generated by the fans in Celtic's stadium for our visit was the most impressive I've ever witnessed. The grounds of Liverpool and Manchester United are good and the hostile feeling of playing against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu is also excellent, but the atmosphere against Celtic was the best." Xavi Hernandez
"When we played at Celtic Park for Bayern in the Champions League it was unbelievable and I think all our players said the same thing afterwards. The atmosphere was just totally unique. I've played in lots of big games and stadiums but I've never witnessed fans making that much noise in 90 minutes." Owen Hargreaves
There are plenty more from many other players and managers. Good luck finding any on the great atmosphere at Tannadice.
Are you really going to call the Green Brigade rent a fans? They are by far the best fan group in the UK. They have brought noise, colour and humor back into the dying Scottish game. Do you lot even have any songs?
Also do you really not think that it's obvious that the atmosphere is going to be 10 times better on a European night/title decider etc? That goes for pretty much any team/ground. When was the last time Dundee Utd had an atmosphere? Probably when Celtic won the League at Tannadice back in 2008.
LK 'Ohhhh Victor Wanyama!'
Nikolai (complete grammar Nazi) V
An apostrophe is a perfectly acceptable way of representing missing letters as well as indicating possession.
For example take the 'anger' out of Rangers and you get R's.
You'll have to learn to be far more pedantic if you really want to join the Grammar SS.
Dear Mr Anonymous, I don't hate Aaron Ramsey. I'm an Arsenal fan and, to be honest, he seems like a really nice lad and a genuine trier - which is more than can be said for many a Premier League player. Unfortunately, being nice is desirable rather than essential for a football. Until he 'steps up' his game, I don't want to see him playing for Arsenal because he's not good enough.
His distribution is very average, his pace is very average, his tackling is very average, his shooting is very average, he often slows up play and is indecisive not instinctive. I do believe there's a decent footballer buried in there somewhere but I feel his place in the squad displaces a player who could offer more.
It's my opinion (right or wrong) that to be a footballer at a big club you need to offer something or have at least one real strength. Almost every first team player at Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U, Man City, Tottenham etc. has one or more immediately identifiable attributes - Bale's pace, Cazorla's passing, Van Persie's shooting. Even the weaker players bring something to the table. They will tall, strong, fast, skillfull, powerful, a great crosser or passer - they have something to warrant their selection over someone else and offer different qualities depending on the situation/opposition.
I feel for Ramsey as he's in a bit of a catch 22 - not good enough to be played in his favoured position means he can't get the experience to improve there. Maybe a loan spell might be in order? Still, I'd swap jobs with him.
Dan (Below average at everything) P, Cambridge