Declan Rice claims the ‘fronting-up’ trophy for Arsenal as ‘axis of power’ shifts

Editor F365
Arsenal man Declan Rice 'fronting up'
Arsenal man Declan Rice 'fronting up'

Well done Declan Rice because you shook hands and clapped the fans for Arsenal. But others are losing their minds about the Champions League semi-final line-up.


Arsenal claim the Fronting-Up trophy
Declan Rice was pretty rotten for Arsenal against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night but the important thing – as far as the Mirror are concerned at least – is that he ‘fronted up’.

This feels like a peculiarly English thing to laud, but here we are in a world where we see this (grammatically incorrect) headline:

Declan Rice’s actions after Arsenal’s defeat to Bayern Munich speaks volumes

It’s a column from Andy Dunn and we cannot help thinking it’s a curious way to approach a meek Champions League defeat but we don’t have that weird tabloid obsession with being a man and reacting to adversity with stoicism.

At the final whistle, a few Arsenal players collapsed to the Allianz turf, but not Declan Rice.

He might have gone down on his haunches briefly but was soon stood bolt upright, striding around the field, congratulating Bayern players, shaking the hands of his team-mates and making a beeline for the travelling Arsenal supporters, hands raised above his head in applause for their backing.

No crying, no hiding.

Well done, Declan. That really does speaks volumes.

Rice has been heralded as one of the Premier League’s best players in this current campaign, a signing of the season. There is now a good chance he will not win a trophy in his first season with Arsenal.

But no matter how far below his usual standards his performance was, Rice will front up, Rice will learn from it.

We’re not quite sure what the alternative might be to ‘fronting up’ but we suspect it’s something only the foreigns do.

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Big bad Borussia Dortmund
You would think that the Independent‘s Miguel Delaney – who has committed roughly 427 million words to the subject of money making football predictable – would be happy that the Champions League semi-final line-up contains the fifth-best team in Germany who last reached this stage over a decade ago.

But no, he is now so far down the rabbit-hole that nothing can please him.

On the other side, then, is the other major sportswashing project in Qatar’s Paris Saint-Germain. Their way may yet be barred by Borussia Dortmund, who are probably the closest club to a “saviour” this season has.

Even that is overstating it a little when you see their financial strength compared to 99.99% of football. Dortmund – like Bayern and PSG – were also invited to the Super League, although they admirably rejected it. That is who counts as an underdog in modern football.

It absolutely does. It’s not 1979. And curiously, it was fine for Delaney just eight days ago when he wrote about ‘Why Atletico Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund represents the Champions League’s lost era’.

Then there was ‘certainly no sense of staleness about the Champions League for either of these clubs’; now the miserablist has once again found a reason to be miserable. He won’t be happy until Servette face Glentoran for a place in the Champions League final.


England, my England
Over in the Daily Telegraph, Oliver Brown is – not for the first time – getting way, way, way beyond himself.

At a time when three of the top seven in Opta’s rankings of the most influential clubs on Earth are English, they have been shut out of even a semi-final on the grandest stage. The line-up is set: one from Spain, one from France, two from Germany. The bare facts indicate that the axis of power has shifted.

In one season? The ‘axis of power’ has shifted in one season? That’s not how this works.

The ‘bare facts’ show that seven of the last 12 Champions League finalists have been from the Premier League.

The last time there were no semi-finalists from England was 2019/20. Had the axis of power shifted then? The fact that the very next final was an all-English affair would suggest that perhaps not.

Harry Kane could be forgiven for smiling at the notion. Here is a player widely depicted as having taken a step down by moving from England to the Bundesliga, supposedly a one-team league before Bayer Leverkusen broke Bayern’s 11-year stranglehold last weekend. Now he has the chance to prove that his original ambition for the switch – to contend regularly for European titles – was well-founded.

Harry Kane is probably smiling because he is in a Champions League semi-final. But congratulations on the construction of a straw man who said he has taken a ‘step down’ from Tottenham to Bayern Munich.

The last time that the Premier League confronted such a bleak outlook was in 2020, at the end of a campaign profoundly warped by the pandemic. City lost tamely to Lyon in a ghostly quarter-final, with the knockout stages concertinaed into a mini-contest behind closed doors in Lisbon, before Bayern took the crown against Paris St-Germain. That particular ending could be written off as an aberration. This feels more galling, more wounding to the Premier League’s sense of its own hegemony.

It doesn’t. Not to anybody who hasn’t lost their mind. A lack of a Champions League semi-finalist is down to three things and none of them are indicative of a shift in the axis of power.

Those three things are 1) The sixth and seventh best Premier League teams this season being in the Champions League, 2) Arsenal being drawn against wily Bayern Munich and being more than a tad green and 3) Manchester City taking some poor penalties. That’s it.

Sometimes teams just lose football matches.


Blow job
This is sweet in the Manchester Evening News:

UEFA coefficient explained as Man United, Tottenham and Aston Villa suffer Champions League blow

There’s a 10-point gap, fellas. And Man Utd have picked up three points from their last four Premier League games.

The real ‘Champions League blow’ came when they became absolutely sh*t.

READ: The miserable UEFA co-efficient update from F365


Could it get any worse for Arsenal?
But the real blow is being felt by Arsenal, with The Sun bringing the big reveal that ‘things are only getting worse for the Gunners and their fans’ with this gut punch:

Arsenal miss out on Club World Cup place to side who’ve only ever got out of their Champions League group once

Mediawatch cannot imagine the despair on the plane home from Munich when they realised that not only have they lost in the Champions League to Bayern Munich, but they have missed out on the chance to play Auckland City in the Club World Cup. Now that’s real pain.


This means more tears
Mediawatch is just astonished that Liverpool have not been awarded a place in the Club World Cup for, well, this means more and sh*t.

Instead, they must make do with a likely ignominious Europa League exit in Italy, which the Mirror‘s David Anderson really is struggling to comprehend.

The last we heard of Anderson on these pages was when he wrote that Liverpool had a ‘significant’ advantage over Manchester City in the Premier League title race because they were quite literally two points ahead. How did that go?

And now he is back bemoaning the fact that this is how the mighty Jurgen Klopp will bow out of Europe with Liverpool.

It was not meant to end this way after that incredible night against Barcelona in May 2019.

Well of course not. But that’s five years ago now and the last two seasons have been a massive disappointment in Europe. No amount of carping about ‘so many great nights’ changes that. And there is a great deal of carping to be done here. And isn’t ‘carping’ a bizarre word when you write it more than once? Should we stop now?

Anderson would like it to be known that Klopp has a better record in Europe with Liverpool than Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, which is really very bizarre as City top the UEFA co-efficient table and Liverpool are in fifth behind PSG.

For all of the resources at Pep Guardiola’s fingertips, he has only reached two finals with Manchester City. Of all Liverpool’s managers, Klopp is one of the very best in Europe and he reached his four finals in just six campaigns.

Pesky facts: It was four finals in seven campaigns. He lost three of them. And the first was the Europa League, which for some reason Manchester City have never entered under Pep. Maybe they should try.