Thoughts From Around Europe

Arsenal – Learning to play in big games? Sunday’s meeting between Arsenal and Chelsea must have been met with a sense of dread from Gunners fans still smarting from the way in which their team was demolished at Anfield only a few weeks prior.

News of the starting line-up and the notable omission of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil through injury would surely only have exacerbated those fears. Come 5.45pm, Arsenal fans were left perhaps wondering whether they should have taken more than a creditable point from Stamford Bridge. It’s no secret that Arsenal have struggled in games against the big sides in recent years, with Arsene Wenger’s refusal to adjust his own side’s ethos to cope with the other team’s strengths, preferring to rely on his own side’s ability to dictate a game. Sunday was interesting in the fact that he set his side up to be pragmatic and deny space for Chelsea’s flair players, Alex Iwobi and Danny Wellbeck, getting through a power of work to flood midfield and Arsenal’s back 3 becoming a back 5 at times as Chelsea struggled to create many goal scoring chances. Had Alexander Lacazette been more alert in the first half and made the most of a rebound from an Aaron Ramsey shot which hit the post, Arsenal could have left SW19 with a morale boosting victory. Perhaps a blueprint from which to work from in future big games for Wenger?

 

Serie A – The most competitive league in European football?

Calling a league in which one team has won the last 6 Championships ‘competitive’ may strike people as disingenuous at best and laughable at worst, hear me out though.........

Though it is still early days in Seria A, after 4 games played in the 2017/18 season, there are currently 3 teams; Napoli, Juventus and Inter sitting with 4 wins out of 4. Lazio sit a further 2 points back with AC Milan on 9 points from a possible 12. The summer saw a host of interesting moves from AC Milan as they splashed the cash on the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu, Andre Silva and Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus’ star defender for £40 million. Inter Milan, though a bit quieter than their Milanese rivals in the transfer market, held on to their star players in Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic, while signing influential Fiorentina midfielder Borja Valero to add a bit of much needed control and guile in their midfield. In the past few seasons Napoli have been Juventus’ closest rivals and this season they are showing that they are genuine contenders for the title, with Maurizio Sarri’s men in typically irresistible, free scoring form in the opening few weeks, including a 6-0 victory at home on Sunday. Lazio and Roma also have enough quality within their ranks to trouble Juventus and though the ‘Old Lady’ have started the season in typically dominant fashion, there is enough to suggest that Serie A may not be the cake walk for Juve that they have become accustomed to in previous years.

 

Neymar – Can you put a price on class?

Though there can be no doubt whatsoever of the class of Neymar Jr on the pitch, as evidenced once again in PSG’s romp of Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League, questions do often surround the Brazilian in terms of his character. His refusal to shake hands with Anthony Ralston, Celtic’s teenage defender who had marshalled him (to decent effect) during the game in Glasgow only served to fuel the feelings of those who feel that to be considered the ‘best ever’ he is still lacking in the requisite class that is befitting a player of his talents.

It was interesting then to see the ‘spat’ that occurred in the PSG v Lyon game on Sunday night which saw Neymar arguing with Edison Cavani over both a free-kick outside the area and a penalty kick which Cavani ended up missing. Dani Alves has already gone on record to deny any rift within the Parisian dressing room and coach Unai Emery has called on his players to come to a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on the pitch when it comes to taking spot kicks. Neymar pushed so hard for his summer move to PSG after becoming disgruntled at playing second fiddle to Messi at Barcelona. He wanted to move to a club where he would be the undisputed star, however he would be well served to remember that football is a team game and that PSG have many wonderful players all playing their part in trying to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Champions League.

Thoughts From Around Europe