As we look into the new season, which was kicked off by France over the last week, we cannot but eulogize what an amazing season we are coming on the back of, capped by a stellar performance by Bayern Munich, who defeated PSG to complete a historic treble.
What were the other outstanding performances, highlights, and happenings that punctuated the world of football over the course of the last week?
Bayern cut Europe’s elites to size to clinch UCL glory
If it wasn’t one of the big hitters in London getting knocked with goals aplenty, or it wasn’t a Spanish giant getting embarrassed with all of the world watching, it was the best team in France unable to crack open their defence. Whatever team, however the opposition went about it, at the end of the day Bayern Munich made it known that “We are the best around here, deal with it!”.
It’s easy, in hindsight and with the games having unraveled as they did, to make postulation and criticisms on how all the opponents that faced Bayern Munich went about the games. “Why didn’t this team play with better width?”, “Why didn’t the other team pack the middle with more bodies?” et cetera et cetera. But in all honesty, while Bayern thoroughly bested the oppositions they were greeted with, good showings from the opposition or otherwise, there is absolutely no other team that Bayern could have played, that one could confidently say would have caused them any more problems than the lot the German champions faced en route their UCL glory.
They’ve simply been the best!
vs Tottenham (10 – 2)
Of all the Bayern Munich riotous games that led them to UCL glory, the first leg game against Tottenham was one that Bayern didn’t look before and during the game to be clear and absolute favorites. Matter of factly, it will be Tottenham who will take the lead early on, only to be hit for 7 by a Gnabry that was hell-bent on proving that the London color is more Maroon than the off-white the Tottenham fans claim.
vs Chelsea (7-1)
The scores in both legs don’t tell half the story, as Bayern literally ran away with the win in both games much easier than a 6-goal difference illustrates – such was how far and away Bayern were superior to the other London side over both legs.
vs Barcelona (2-8)
Shame. It was a show of shame from the Blaugrana giants, but even that will be telling only half the story. It’s one thing to have a team of Barcelona’s standard refuses to come to the party or even be in a remotely competitive mood all game long, but to then bring the game to them and to go ahead and run them off the turf…that’s simply a thing only the current Bayern Munich side could have mustered.
French due, PSG and Lyon will take their fair share of beatings, none too embarrassing, but done with enough reckless nonchalance to show that the game was simply a formality.
All in all,Bayern have been head and shoulder above the rest of the European sides, and with only 2 losses in all competitions, and a treble to show, there can be questions about who the new Kings in Europe are.
Poor judgment on and off-pitch cost PSG their first UCL title
As games unfold, onus always lies on the coach to read the games’ proceedings and react accordingly. When things are already going to plan, refusing to react accordingly can be a forgiven error, for example when a team is leading 2-0 and the coach refuses to manage the game by bringing on changes and forces his team to struggle to a 2-1 win. Such errors are a tad excusable. But, to see your team losing with a lone goal in a Champions League final, and to leave your hit man and best striker on the bench for the full length of the game howbeit, with all sort of wayward and misfiring wingers littering the pitch, all of whom have refused to lace their scoring boots…such errors are fireable offenses!
That being said, Tuchel should be getting major stick for his horrendous management of the Champions League final game against Bayern Munich.
The German coach lined up his team decently, not too pragmatic(as he opted for an Ander Herrera and Paredes in place of Idrissa Gueye in midfield), howbeit not going all out either (as he went for a neat three-man attack, instead of playing Neymar in the hole with three attackers in the Brazilian’s front). It was a neat approach, it should have been tweaked much earlier in the second half.
It was apparent to all that Mbappe down the middle wasn’t yielding the required dividend, as the French attacker had fluffed one chance to many in the first half. One would have expected Tuchel to bring on Mario Icardi – a proven goalscorer and hook Mbappe to the right-wing, which incidentally was left vacant due to Alphonso Davies’ constant overlapping runs.
That, Tuchel didn’t do. Instead, he opted for more creativity instead – as if he didn’t have enough of that from Neymar and Di Maria already, and decided to bring on marco Verratti and Julian Draxler.
Bringing on Verratti, was in and of itself a decent move, because it restored a semblance of direction and balance to the PSG midfield, but that did nothing to resolve the issue they had up front – lack of goals. The Draxler move on the other hand was detrimental to the entire plot for PSG. With Neymar and Di Maria creating aplenty, Draxler was simply surplus to requirement in that regard, and seeing as he can’t offer much else, he was left to do pretty nothings all game long.
Then the straw that broke the Germains backs – Subbing on Choupo Moting.
For a vivid description of how ridiculous a substitution it was, a ball was stray in the box as it came off a poorly hit cross, and the former stoke city man absolutely failed to make any contact, due to his poor position and awareness – skills that a certain benched Icardi has in bucket loads.
It’s often touted that the PSG coach doesn’t do a lot of coaching – or even have to for that matter, based on the talent he has at his disposal. Without a doubt these are outlandish and untrue claims, however, his inability to act and react accordingly when it mattered the most for the PSG side leaves all sorts of questions hovering over his ability.
Messi and the Barca expendables
Ah! It’s the age-long tale of Barcelona and the Lionel Messidependencia.
Pull any Barcelona fan off the streets and quiz him about his ideals of how the Spanish team should be run and he or she would readily spill out to you tactics after tactics on how he believes things should be done. How this player should be better utilized, or how the other is finished and shouldn’t be anywhere near the starting team or how the tiki-taka way isn’t cutting it anymore. Yada yada yada!!!
When all is said and done, the Barcelona problem is still a personnel problem. There are problems that tactics and strategies can change…those are not Barcelona’s problems. Barcelona is a team riddled with fundamental issues that have been self-inflicted: poor recruitments and stalled long-overdue positional changes.
Barcelona had many problems on their hands before the Bayern thumping, internal and on the pitch. Somehow they have managed to paper over all these issues with a certain Argentine genius. Poor performances on the pitch were quickly resolved by Lionel Messi making a ridiculous goal or assist that secures three points. Likewise, poor recruitments were resolved by self-same Messi, stepping up to do more than his role requires and cover-up for the failings of new signings. Poor management and board decisions were resolved by members of the board saying “Hey, but Messi is here and he is happy. So we can’t be doing as bad”
Barcelona currently has a new and an absolutely unfamiliar problem: Lionel Messi, the one who held the severely damaged cracks of the team together for years, has had enough.
Thankfully for Barcelona, the solution of how to restore Messi’s desire to keep playing for them and the formula for building a better and more competitive team seem to be one and the same – get rid of the dead wood and bring people that can do the work.
The lot of the Barcelona veterans, that include the likes of Rakitic, Vidal, Alba, Suarez, Busquets and Pique all need to be re-evaluated for competence and relevance to what the clubs new goals are. Because, it is abundantly clear that Lionel Messi is not ready to play in a team where he can’t compete for the major silverwares anymore.
Should Barca fancy keeping their star player, and reclaiming their spot as world-beaters, they must find a way to resolve the issues of their expendables.
As one football chapter closed on Friday, yet another one, opened with the French Ligue commencing their new season in earnest. Applause must be given to the bodies responsible for enabling football to go on, considering the peculiar times we are in.
As lovers of the game, we are already looking toward the new campaign for all the wonderful memories it has in store for us. Cheers to an amazing season ahead!