Thoughts on Premier League Teams Performance in Europe
The 2021/22 Premier League campaign ended in rather dramatic fashion with Manchester City and Liverpool leaving it to the final day of the season to decide the fate of the league. The Cityzens retained the Premier League title with 93 points, while Liverpool suffered heartache, as their 92 points wasn’t good enough to finish the campaign triumphant. Chelsea had some poor form in the tail end of the campaign and still finished in third place, while Tottenham Hotspurs pipped past Arsenal at the business end of the season to nick the last Champions League spot. There was a little battle between Manchester United and West Ham United to determine who would get the newly formed Conference League slot, but the Hammers had the honors.
This essentially meant that England had sent seven teams to conquer Europe in three different competitions. The early parts of the campaign saw all the teams feature in Group Stage action but at this point, we are in the business end of the competition, and I intend to see how all seven teams have fared so far in their respective competitions.
I will start with the team in the Conference League, then check out the ones in Europa and of course, the big one, the Champions League.
West Ham United
David Moyes and his West Ham side have been in the trenches all season long with just five wins from a possible 23, languishing in the relegation zone. Arsenal is also interested in one of their prized assets, Declan Rice, and with the club’s form still diminishing, I will not be surprised if the English midfielder jumps ship at the end of the season.
West Ham’s form in the UEFA Conference League though, is in stark contrast to their form in the Premier League, and I’d guess it has to do with the quality of the opposition they have faced thus far. In August, they had to go through a qualification phase, smashing six goals past Danish outfit, Viborg, to qualify for the competition proper. They were paired in the same group with Anderlecht, Silkeborg and Steaua Bucharest, amassing 18 points from their six games in the group. I guess the players are loving life in the Conference League, while their struggles continue in the Premier League.
For winning their group, West Ham awaits the outcome of the Playoff encounters, which are currently ongoing, and the draws for the Conference League Round of 16 takes place in a couple of days. There are not much teams that can strike fear in the heart of West Ham fans at this point in the competition, but going from the Playoff results so far, the only teams worth mentioning are Fiorentina, Lazio, Villarreal and OGC Nice.
Best of luck to West Ham as they progress further in the competition.
The Gunners used to be consistent qualifiers for the UEFA Champions League with regular top four finishes in the Premier League, but shockingly, Arsenal has not featured in Europe’s elite competition for close to seven seasons, with consecutive outings in the Europa League as well as a campaign where there was no European competition at all.
Following a painful fifth placed finish last season, after losing out of Champions League qualification to their bitter rivals, Spurs, Arsenal began this season in the Europa League with a win against FC Zurich and followed it up with three consecutive wins over Bodo/Glimt and PSV Eindhoven. A shock loss against PSV occurred in the fifth Matchday, but a win over Zurich on the last Matchday was enough to win the Group.
As a result of winning their group, Arsenal has qualified for the Europa League Round of 16, and will await the outcome of the Playoff games that are still ongoing. There are still some tough sides to face in the competition, especially those third placed Champions League teams like Barcelona, Sevilla and Juventus that have come to bully those teams that started from the onset.
Manchester United lost their opening match of the Europa League to Real Sociedad, and it turned out to be a decision that haunted the team for the rest of the competition. Despite winning their next five games against Sheriff Tiraspol, Omonoia and Real Sociedad in their own turf, Manchester United finished the group in second place, and got a Playoff tie against Barcelona in the knockout phase.
The first leg at Nou Camp was a pulsating encounter with both sides playing excellent football, and the 2-2 draw was a fair reflection of the proceedings. With UEFA no longer favoring the away goals rule, a winner must be decided at Old Trafford this Thursday, making it a must watch clash.
Graham Potter’s reign at the helm of affairs in Chelsea has been very shaky, with the Blues a far cry from the dominant team they used to be in years past. Even in the games they managed to win this season, the Premier League club has had to rely on Kepa Arrizabalaga to make outstanding saves to keep them in the tie.
Chelsea’s Champions League campaign started with a narrow defeat against Dinamo Zagreb, which was the final straw for Thomas Tuchel, as he was relieved of his job shortly afterwards. Potter started his Champions League adventure with a draw against Red Bull Salzburg, but four wins on the trot against AC Milan, Zagreb and Salzburg, saw Chelsea finish the group in pole position, setting up for a two-legged encounter with Borussia Dortmund.
The first leg loss to Dortmund doesn’t inspire any confidence but Chelsea have it all to do in the second leg in front of their home fans. Everyone associated with the club will be hoping that the moneybags have what it takes to progress to the next round of the competition.
For every Tottenham fan, it was quite the roller coaster ride against Arsenal for the final coveted Champions League spot and they must have been very elated to get it. Antonio Conte’s team was in quite the group, alongside Eintracht Frankfurt, Olympique Marseille and Sporting Lisbon. Even on the final matchday, all teams could have qualified and gotten eliminated.
In the Tottenham scaled through with 11 points, and set themselves up for a visit to the great San Siro to play AC Milan. The first leg didn’t go as planned with the Premier League side losing with a solitary goal, but they will have another chance at redemption when Olivier Giroud and his teammates visit London to take on the Lily Whites.
Liverpool is another team that has shockingly struggled this season. For a team that finished with 92 points in the last campaign, what was expected from them was another title charge, but the sale of Sadio Mane proved pivotal as his replacement, Darwin Nunez, has been doing his best, but consistency has been an issue for the Uruguayan maverick.
Liverpool began their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 drubbing in the hands of Napoli. Jurgen Klopp’s men won the next five, which included a 1-7 annihilation of Rangers, but their head to head record with the Serie A hotshots, saw Liverpool lock horns with Real Madrid, the same side that defeated them in the Champions League final of the previous campaign.
What we witnessed last night was an utter disgrace, as the visitors ran riot against Liverpool at Anfield, scoring five goals. Liverpool needs to visit the Santiago Bernabeu and score three unanswered goals for the game to go into extra time. Hey, I’ve seen miracles, so I’d get my popcorn ready for that one.
Manchester City suffered a surprising defeat to Real Madrid last season, with young striker, Rodrygo, scoring two goals in the dying minutes to send the game to extra time. This season, Manchester City coasted to the knockout stages with consummate ease, dispatching the likes of Sevilla, FC Copenhagen and Dortmund.
Pep Guardiola’s side visit RB Leipzig tonight, reeling from dropping points against Nottingham Forest in the Premier League, just after winning the all-important clash against Arsenal a couple of days earlier.
In conclusion, the English teams in Europe still have a very good chance of qualifying to the next rounds of their respective competitions in Europe, but their opponents are certainly no pushovers.
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Arsenal Lost the Man City Battle, but the PL Winning War Isn’t Over
For the first time this season, Arsenal has shown the poor level of form from previous campaigns which has allowed the haters have a field day at the fans, claiming that their aspirations to win the Premier League this season was a sham at best.
Prior to the loss against Man City in the FA Cup, Arsenal’s last defeat arrived in the hands of Brighton in the Carabao Cup, but after the World Cup break, the Gunners had won five of their last six games, which included very important victories in the League against arch-rivals, Tottenham and Manchester United.
You could tell from the initial defeat in the FA Cup that the team played so well and failed to deal with the chances afforded to them. You can’t look further than the close shots Leandro Trossard and Takehiro Tomiyasu had on the night that was saved by Ortega, but when you miss chances like that, they always come back to bite you on the face and that happened from the most unlikeliest of sources, Nathan Ake, eliminating Arsenal from the competition.
What followed was a visit to Goodison Park to take on Everton and their new manager, Satanball’s very own Sean Dyche. There was the cut back to Martin Odegaard that was launched into orbit, the Eddie Nketiah shot that killed an eagle in the sky and sadly, the Bukayo Saka goal-bound shot that was stopped on the line by Conor Coady. More chances missed. Everton had one corner and Odegaard could have done better against James Tarkowski, Aaron Ramsdale should have stationed a player on his far post – none of that happened and Arsenal was on the end of their first defeat in 14 league games.
Well, not all doom and gloom – there was the Brentford game at home, the same ground that the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham were vanquished. Arsenal had all the possession in the world, while Brentford had the big chances but when Trossard scored that goal, the Emirates went into rapture and we expected the team to go into cruise control, but sadly, poor defending and terrible officiating took center stage as Brentford shared the spoils of battle with their hosts, which made the clash against Man City a game of the season contender.
Man City came to town and showed their quality, recovering from what was an eight point advantage at some point, to leveling up, and going above their title challengers on goal difference.
Arsenal’s captain, Odegaard, has called for calm, stating that there’s a long way to go and we have to keep working hard and take it game by game. He touched on how we had many games to play and how we have the quality to bounce back and get those vital wins.
That’s the mentality I expect from the team that has been one of the most consistent in the league this season. We have 51 points on the log table because he have played some of the best football in the Premier League this season and have won many matches with our 11 heroes on the pitch. A blip in form like this shouldn’t deter us from trying to achieve our goals, and this is the point where we as fans have to rally behind the lads and give them our uttermost support because something exciting has been brewing at the Emirates this season.
It’s not like Man City is that invincible. They were just more clinical on the night. Remember that they have suffered defeats to Liverpool, Man Utd, Brentford and Tottenham this season, and the Premier League always has its own twists and turns, giving us so much drama each week. If Arsenal wins their game in hand against Everton at home on March 1st, the Gunners will return to the summit of the table.
Aston Villa comes up next and we would expect the team to shake off their jitters, pick up the pieces and focus on getting three vital points to put their title charge back on track. Arsenal plays the first game of the Gameweek so getting those three points, sends them back to the top, giving them a psychological advantage against their rivals, Man City.
Man City might have won the Battle of the Emirates, but the Premier League war is far from over.
Arsenal 1-3 Man City: Knocked Off the Summit
Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference
Final Result: Arsenal 1-3 Brentford (Saka 42′ | De Bruyne 24′, Grealish 72′, Haaland 82′)
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu (White 83′), Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Jorginho, Xhaka (F. Vieira 83′); Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli (Trossard 76′); Nketiah
In my preview of the Man City game, I made my opinions clear on what was expected of the team. What we got in reality was the complete opposite. Arsenal’s record against their opponents was as poor as it gets, with the Gunners winless against Man City in their last 10 Premier League outings – you’d have to go as far back as April 2020 for Arsenal’s last win over Man City, which was in the FA Cup semifinals. The team’s cause wasn’t helped with the fact that Thomas Partey missing the game due to a muscular injury, allowing Jorginho to make his home debut.
The first chance of the night arrived in the 12th minute when a sloppy pass by Kyle Walker was intercepted by Jorginho, who threaded the ball quickly to Eddie Nketiah that smashed the ball with a first-time shot but the ball was blocked superbly by Nathan Ake. Man City responded swiftly with Rodri intercepting Jorginho’s misplaced pass and fed Riyad Mahrez that showed some nifty footwork and lofted the ball to Erling Haaland on the far post but the Viking forward flashed the ball across goal and a good chance went begging.
There was some concern around the Emirates when Aaron Ramsdale took off his boots and felt some discomfort on his heel but after some intervention from the medical team, he was back on the grind. The first real chance of the night fell to Nketiah in the 22nd minute, after a precise cross from Oleksandr Zinchenko found him in the box, but his poorly directed header, went whiskers away from the right post. In games like these, quality comes to the fore when you take your chances and with Arsenal failing to take their chance, Man City showed them how it’s done, punishing the Gunners for ruing their opportunities.
Takehiro Tomiyasu got the nod ahead of Ben White, that had been out of sorts in recent weeks, and he showed his aerial prowess early on, connecting to those pinged balls from the goalie. However, it was unfortunate to see that the match opener was caused by a glaring error from the Japanese fullback. William Saliba nodded Ederson’s punt to Tomiyasu’s path and he was under some pressure from Jack Grealish, so instead of blasting the ball to Row Z, he blindly prodded a back pass to his goalie, only to find the surging run of Kevin De Bruyne who executed a one time shot past the hapless Ramsdale, into the empty net to silence the home fans.
Chances kept coming for Arsenal as Tomiyasu was presented with a chance to redeem himself, but sent his shot well over the bar.
With five minutes to go into the break, Nketiah collected a beautifully lofted pass in the box, directed his shot past the on-rushing Ederson, only to see his attempt cleared off the line by Ake. Anthony Taylor would then point to the penalty spot after deeming Nketiah to have been clattered into by Ederson.
A pressure penalty, needed a cool head, and that was exactly what Saka executed, as he sent Ederson the wrong way and coolly slotted past him.
At the death, Arsenal were almost behind again when Mahrez’s whipped free kick caused trouble in the opposition area before Tomiyasu flick the ball to safety but Rodri was on hand to execute a diving header on the ball that hit Ake on his shins before flying past Ramsdale to the post.
Both sides went in level at the break and the second half promised to be more of the same. The second half started with a little less fierceness as both sides played their cards close to their chests. Wrong passes, poor first touches and heavy controls from both sides as they battled to seize the initiative.
In the 57th minute, Gabriel was penalized by Taylor having been adjudged to have brought down Haaland in the tussle that ensued, only for VAR to overturn the decision, as there was an offside in the build up, Gabriel was a very lucky man. In the wake of the offside shenanigans that occurred in the Brentford game, the VAR officials ensured that they were not going to cock things up, but it was a massive let off for Arsenal.
Tomiyasu latched onto Martin Odegaard’s pass into space and drilled a cut back across the goalmouth but Nketiah failed to connect with the ball. On the other end, De Bruyne’s floated dead ball was attacked by Rodri, which brought a save from Ramsdale but the ball spilled to Manuel Akanji’s path and his side-footed effort was cleared off the line by Jorginho.
Granit Xhaka was uncharacteristically sloppy and that set the tone for the game, as some of the players kept making errors. Zinchenko lost his bearings at the edge of the box and De Bruyne fed Haaland swiftly, but Ramsdale did well to smother the Norwegian forward and quell that threat.
Man City didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough as a poor pass from Gabriel was picked up by Bernardo Silva, and with Arsenal on the backfoot, he teed up Ilkay Gundogan that cushioned the ball to Grealish whose one-timed shot was deflected past Ramsdale by Tomiyasu. It was certainly not a good night for the Japanese that tried to stake a claim today, and Ben White replaced him a few minutes later.
Arsenal chased the equalizer as Arteta sent on Leandro Trossard, who almost won a penalty, but the ref was no having it, but Man City will eventually kill off the game six minutes later as Haaland showed quick feet to control a pass from De Bruyne before blasting the ball with his weaker foot past Ramsdale. Arteta attempted the predictable Fabio Vieira to Xhaka substitution but it was too little, too late.
The defeat means Arsenal are winless in their last three league games and last four in all competitions. With a game in hand, Arsenal will need a quick response by Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff as they take on Aston villa at Villa park. In his post-match press conference, Arteta rued the mistakes the lads made but stated that he was proud of them.
The gulf of quality between Arsenal and Man City wasn’t far off, with Arsenal having the lion’s share of ball possession (64 percent), but Man City stood out with the quality of their finishing, scoring three goals from six big chances. This is a terrible period to show off poor form, but Arsenal will need to dust themselves up and focus on the very next game that’s against a familiar face, Unai Emery.
The Gunners have been knocked off the summit and lost the battle at the top of the table with Man City, but the Premier League winning war is far from over.
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