After years of being told that English football is no longer a force in Europe, this is apparently ‘turning into a golden period’ (Neil Ashton, The Sun). After two rounds and ten games of the Champions League. If it feels a little early to be declaring a ‘golden period’, it is because it really bloody is.
Ashton’s Sun colleague Duncan Wright takes up the baton as he writes that ‘PREMIER LEAGUE clubs have re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with with a series of emphatic displays in the Champions League this season.
‘After years languishing in the wilderness while other countries have flourished, English clubs have quickly sent out a message they are finally ready to mount a serious challenge in Europe.’
It’s been ten games. And one of those was against FC Qarabag.
Granted, Chelsea’s win over Atletico Madrid was impressive, as was Manchester United’s stroll in Moscow. But it has only been ten games. It’s not a big enough sample to declare English clubs ‘have re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with’. Or is it?
‘The Premier League clubs have a win percentage of 80 per cent in the Champions League this season, with only Liverpool letting them down with two draws from their opening matches.
‘Contrast that with a year ago when the overall win percentage was just 43.8 per cent as Tottenham failed to make it out of the group and City and Arsenal lost in the first knock-out stage.
‘The Premier League’s overall decline has been steady since 2010/2011 when they finished the campaign with a winning percentage of 58.5.’
Wright has even included a graph to illustrate that yes, 80% is considerably more than all the other win percentages from all the other seasons. So we are definitely now brilliant!
Can anybody spot the problem with this comparison? Ah yes, all of you. The Sun are rather simplistically (who could have predicted that?) comparing ten games of this campaign with the entire tournaments of previous seasons when, because of the actual rules of knock-out competitions, almost every club has to lose at some point.
So even in 2008, when two English clubs actually reached the final, the win percentage of English clubs was a paltry 54.2%. We were sh*t!
Which makes last season’s win percentage at this stage of the competition – 62.5% – also look like a ‘golden period’ for English football.
Lesson: Never, ever allow anybody at The Sun to make a graph.
‘Man United’s seven injury problems v Crystal Palace’ is the headline on 101 Great Goals, who presumably take the cue from a Manchester Evening News story that begins ‘Manchester United could be without up to seven players for their weekend Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace’.
How are they going to cope without seven players? That’s over 60% of their team. And who are these seven players?
They are – according to the MEN – Anthony Martial, Michael Carrick, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba, Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Yes, the same Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who have not played a minute all season.
So Manchester United could in fact be without two of the 14 players they used against Southampton last weekend. Crystal Palace will almost certainly win now.
He’s got the power!
Thankfully, Romelu Lukaku is fit to face Crystal Palace on Saturday, even if he basically has to do it on his own.
But maybe they would be better off without the Belgian, who has scored just ten goals in his first nine appearances for Manchester United.
Flashback to former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen earlier this summer, when he said: “Yes, he would bring power, he would bring strength, but when you look over the years at the strikers United have had, does he fit in the same line of strikers? I don’t think so.”
No, Rene. Maybe he will be better.
Power and strength watch
“Sergio Aguero is a terrific striker, Alvaro Morata is on fire, Romelu Lukaku has power and strength but at this moment in time I would go with Harry Kane” – Ally McCoist, this week.
Havne’t they done well?
It’s gallery time on the Daily Telegraph website as they ask ‘Which country has scored the most goals for your Premier League team?’
To be fair, it is a question we often ask.
For Arsenal, the answer is ‘France’. Of course.
‘What is remarkable here, though, is that Arsenal are the only [one] of the Premier League teams (who have played more than one season in the top flight) for whom English players havne’t [sic] scored the most goals. Tres bien!’
No, what is remarkable here is that this story ever got published.
Troll with it
‘Michy Batshuayi trolls Diego Costa after scoring winner against Atletico Madrid’ – Metro
‘Michy Batshuayi trolls Diego Costa after Chelsea winner at Atletico’ – 101 Great Goals
Well the cheeky bugger. After all, he wouldn’t have a Premier League winner’s medal if it weren’t for Diego Costa.
So what did he say?
— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) September 27, 2017
Oh. Has he ‘trolled’ him or just pointed out that Fernando Torres is five years older than Costa and so far more likely to be an inspiration to a young striker?
Though to be fair, he may indeed be ‘trolling’ because Costa looks about 48.
We take it back; he’s a troll.
‘There is something fresh, something exciting, something intoxicating about watching Chelsea’s new forward line,’ writes a giddy Neil Ashton in The Sun as he writes about Chelsea’s ‘big win’ over Atletico Madrid in Spain that leaves them with one foot in the Champions League knock-out stages.
A reminder is due – because that’s what we do, with our irritating memories – that Ashton declared six weeks ago that ‘there is something sinister going on at Stamford Bridge’ and that ‘something is very, very wrong around here’.
That came a week after he declared that ‘the mood around the place is dark, the atmosphere sombre’ as he predicted that Antonio Conte would walk away this season. Apparently, ‘the body language gave it all away’, because the Chief Football Reporter of The Sun is of course an expert in body language.
He also predicted that not only would Nemanja Matic be missed but ‘so, too, will Diego Costa’. Obviously, Ashton had not foreseen his intoxication when watching Chelsea’s new forward line. Now all that is forgotten with a cry of ‘OH DIEGO, what have you done?’ and a gloating ‘nobody at Chelsea is crying’.
We are particularly confused as it is less than four weeks since Ashton wrote about ‘a frustrating summer’ for Chelsea in which they were ‘outmanoeuvred’, with Romelu Lukaku, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fernando Llorente and Ross Barkley all slipping through their grasp. Oh how they missed them on Wednesday night.
He wrote: ‘The Champions League campaign is about to start and Chelsea’s squad is not deep enough to sustain challenges in two competitions.’
Well, the Champions League has started, Chelsea have recorded two very impressive wins and they faced Atletico Madrid with seven full internationals on the bench and Danny Drinkwater yet to play. We think they will be okay.
It doesn’t feel like there is something sinister going on.