What’s the point of Champions League Qualification?

With clubs putting as much importance into qualifying for the next season’s Champions League as performing well in the current, Simon Smith asks what the point of the competition is…

Much has been made in recent weeks of the apparent unwillingness of Premier League clubs to participate in the dreaded Thursday football squad exhauster that is the Europa League. The earlier season push for Europe reached its absolute peak with victories over Arsenal for Southampton’s on New Year’s Day and Tottenham’s in the north London derby keeping the victors in the Champions League places on both occasions. But, with predictable familiarity, the enthusiasm for European football seems to have left both squads once the top prize became out of reach. Spurs and Saints have joined Liverpool on the list of suitors seeking to avoid the booby trap fifth place that consigns a team to the Europa League.

The size of the competition, endless travel to far off destinations in Turkey and Ukraine, and distraction of continually playing on Thursdays and Sundays are often touted as legitimate reasons for the Europa League being a poisoned chalice. One need only look at what Liverpool achieved – well, almost achieved – in their season bereft of midweek continentalism to see the damage it can cause, and so on. This is well covered ground.

What I want to know is, why don’t we see the same sort of thing in the Champions League? I mean what has the top level of elite European Club football ever done for the Premier League clubs? Besides the televisual and marketing exposure, commercial opportunities, additional revenue and pulling power when attracting players in the transfer market, is there an actual footballing reason for being in the competition? Continue reading

Premier League Gameweek 31: 5 things that (may or may not have) happened

Joe Devine returns with his weekly look at things that may or may not have happened in the Premier League…

John Carver Wins ‘Biggest Fan’ Competition

It’s been a great week for Newcastle manager John Carver. Not only did he get to wake up as Newcastle manager every day, but on Sunday, he won a competition held by the club to discover the world’s biggest Toon fan. First prize was lunch with Mike Ashley, which Carver was reportedly thrilled about, as he’d been trying to get a meeting with Ashley since taking the job. This is the second competition John Carver has won this year, the first being the one he entered to become Newcastle manager. 

Tim Sherwood Maintains 100% Record Against Man United

After Saturday’s game at Old Trafford, Tim Sherwood told reporters that he was pleased to have maintained his 100% record against Manchester United, despite having lost the game. When puzzled members of the press quizzed the Aston Villa manager, Sherwood explained that the record he referred to related to a “battle of the managers” – “We might have lost on the pitch, and that’s fine, but off the pitch, between me and Louis, I won that battle. You see? I know we lost the game but in our mind battle I actually won. My tactics were correct, it’s just that it didn’t work out, BUT I am the cleverer manager, is what I’m saying. I won. Just not where you can see, but I did win. 100%. They’ll forget that though, won’t they, when the people all say I’m useless, that I’ve got a 100% record against Manchester United, they’ll forget that. My ratios are sky high. Higher than the sky. I’m 100%.” Continue reading

Andros Townsend scores against Italy: 5 things that (may or may not have) happened

After the unthinkable happened and Andros Townsend scored against Italy, Joe Devine looks at 5 things that may or may not have happened…

Andros Townsend Saves England Again

In the biggest news of the week, Andros Townsend once again, single-handedly saved our proud island from those murky foreigners on the mainland. Thousands of adoring fans spoke out about their love for the young journeyman; with many praising Roy Hodgson’s staying faith in the Tottenham midfielder. Townsend himself was delighted to be the centre of attention and professed his glee that a team so mediocre existed as to allow any scraps of burgeoning spotlight to be on him and him alone. Amidst all the glory of a one-all draw with Italy, not even Townsend’s “I was here first” jive, directed at Harry Kane, was enough to dampen the spirits. 

Andros Townsend Silences Critics

Tottenham midfielder Andros Townsend is being investigated in association with a string of ruthless murders. Professional football pundits Paul Merson, Phil Neville and Martin Keown were all discovered decapitated and disembowelled in their homes on Wednesday morning. Each had publicly criticised the England player and newspaper cuttings of their criticisms were found littered around the bodies. Townsend insists he did nothing and only that the men “had it coming”. He is currently being held at a police station in North London, though it is thought that he will be released this afternoon for an unorthodox, early knighting ceremony. Continue reading

The Race for the Champions League: A Short History

With the race for Champions League places at its tightest in history, James Dutton takes a closer look…

Another chastening week for English football in the Champions League and Europa League. Much like many knock-out round evenings in the last five years, a lack of quality, adaptability and in-game intelligence, a naivety that has once again exposed the flaws of the best sides in the rough-and-tumble Barclay’s Premier League on the European stage. All the money, facilities and resources but barely a hint of nous between them; English teams obsess over qualifying for the continental competitions yet have little idea what to do when they get there.

Qualification for the Champions League is that pot of gold at the end of a 38-game-long rainbow; as equally exalted as silverware now is the opportunity to be knocked out by a side from a second-rate European league in the knock-out stage. Priorities may be skewed but when the financial reward for a top four finish is so grandiose it becomes, as Tim Sherwood would say, a no-brainer.

As money has proliferated in the Premier League so the Race for the Champions League™ has become ever increasingly hard-fought. This is where it has been heading since Jesper Gronkjaer sank Liverpool in 2003 and scored the biggest goal in the history of Chelsea Football Club. TV deals have increased manifold since, and with that prize money and the desperation to gatecrash the party. Continue reading

Editor’s Column: Tottenham Hotspur fans, it’s time to wake up

With discontent growing at White Hart Lane, James Dutton believes Tottenham fans should take a step back from glorifying the club’s recent past…

January 22, 2012: Harry Redknapp’s third-placed Tottenham Hotspur are level with table-topping Manchester City at the Etihad. It’s 2-2; five points separate the two sides as the second half enters five minutes of season-shaping stoppage time.

Stefan Savic miscontrols the ball on the half-way line in the 91st minute, and Spurs are ready to counter; it’s two against one. Gareth Bale sprints past Joleon Lescott and into the penalty area with Jermain Defoe square. The Welshman passes ahead of Defoe, who was expecting a cutback, and the ball rolls along the six-yard box and beyond Hart. Defoe sprawls. He reaches out with his right leg out and arrows it inches wide.

Bale is on his hunches, hands on his head. Defoe clatters into the post in disbelief.

Minutes later, Ledley King clumsily brings down Mario Balotelli who was angling to take a shot on goal; Howard Webb points to the spot. The Italian is lucky to still be on the pitch after stamping on Scott Parker but calmly slides the ball into the bottom corner past Brad Friedel; arms outstretched, the match-winner receives the adulation of his teammates and the roar of the home fans.

Tottenham, so close to a such an unlikely comeback victory, fall eight points behind the champions-elect. Their title challenge turns to ashes. A month later they let a two-goal lead at Arsenal slip. The capitulation continues; their North London neighbours beat them into third by a single point. Spurs’ Champions League plans are cast asunder by a Didier Drogba inspired Chelsea in Munich. Having stuttered to fourth, Spurs’ right to enter Europe’s premier competition next year is revoked by Roberto Di Matteo’s new, sixth-placed European champions.

Harry Redknapp is sacked, Luka Modric is sold and Tottenham go back to square one. Continue reading

Editor’s Column: Is Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero the best in the Premier League?

The False Nine’s editor column returns as James Dutton assesses the true value of Sergio Aguero, and looks back at a fascinating international break…

The Premier League has undoubtedly lost a little of its stardust over the last two seasons. The departures of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez to La Liga have shorn the country’s greatest export of its two most globally acclaimed star players.

The summer arrivals of Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Alexis Sanchez were welcome steps in the right direction for a league which prides itself on being The Best In The World™. But perhaps the league’s shining light was already staring us in the face?

Is it time to recognise that Sergio Aguero is the best footballer in the Premier League? This is not just in response to the four goal burst on Saturday that blew away Tottenham Hotspur away from home yet again. The regularity of injuries that curse the Argentine striker mean it is very easy to overlook his outstanding ability. Continue reading

Podcast: The Third False Nine Pubcast with Jack McInroy and Rob Pollard

TFN’s Greg Johnson, Hugo Greenhalgh and James Dutton welcome Jack McInroy of Yids and South London Hardcore and Rob “Typical City” Pollard onto the panel for a third live “Pubcast” at The Old Red Lion Theatre Pub, in Angel.

With Rob running late, racing across London in a taxi straight from the League Cup final, the diminished foursome chat about Spurs, anti-semitism in football and Alan Pardew’s fighting skills. Once completed, the five-piece then turn their attentions to City’s Capital One Cup win, directors of football and a footballing take on the Oscars.

The chat is interspersed with the usual frivolities, audience interaction and mind-twisting tangents to keep you and your ears entertained throughout the show.

Listen via Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/thefalsenine/the-third-false-nine-pubcast …

Or via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/thefalsenine/id784149140