Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Germans taught us all a lesson

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Arjen Robben of Bayern Muenchen celebrates with the trophy after victory in the UEFA Champions League final match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2013 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

Now that really was a proper game of football on Saturday night, wasn't it? How often do you see that kind of intensity and fitness in the Premier League, with so much goalmouth incident and goalkeeping brilliance? Not very often, I'd bet.

Both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were uninterested in a draw, both going all out to win.

Those Bundesliga teams, and the wonderful game they brought us, reminded me of what English football used to be like, and confirmed in my mind that, in this country, the last ten months represented a very ordinary, forgettable, football season.

Of course, the cup triumphs will go down in history for Swansea City and Wigan Athletic – I only wish the Latics hadn't been relegated as well.

And I'm not knocking the achievement of Manchester United in securing a 20th league title.

It's just that if you sit back, and try to be objective, it wasn't a 'great' United side or squad that we saw this season: yes, they were substantially better than the rest but ... actually great?

Having had a week or so to ruminate, I really struggle to look elsewhere in the Premier League, outside of those three and Chelsea, who continue to garner trophies despite the eccentricities of their owner, and say yes ... they had a good season.

Certainly not Manchester City, of whom I expected a great deal more, nor Arsenal who have unbounded faith in a manager, simply because they continue to qualify for the Champions League. Haven't the once-mighty fallen?

Spurs? Ask their fans what they think about another looming campaign in the Europa League and the possibility of losing Gareth Bale.

Daniel Levy needs to spend big to encourage the Welshman to fend off interest from Real Madrid and to show Andre Villas-Boas that his work is appreciated.

Of course, both Merseyside clubs can argue they've shown improvement. Everton continue to punch above their weight, but I fear for them now that Moyes has gone, and Fellaini looks like following him. At best, mid-table next season?

Across Stanley Park, Liverpool played some excellent football at times but were staggeringly inconsistent, and that won't do for a club that believes it should be regularly playing Champions League football and challenging for the title. Rodgers talks too much and sometimes talks without thinking it through: did he really believe they could get second place? Critically, what if Suarez goes?

Thereafter, we were swamped by mediocrity and it was shocking to see that, until the last couple of weeks of the league campaign, HALF of the clubs were looking over their shoulders in panic at the thought of being relegated, all of them finishing on less, some far less, than half the points won by the Champions. Don't tell me this is a healthy division.

So perhaps it's as well I'm now 'off' until September. By the time I lift up the microphone again I hope to see a refreshed, re-invigorated, much more competitive Barclays Premier League.

And that goes for me as well.

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