English Premier League Clubs…Dominant Force In Europe Once Again
English football clubs are back at the forefront of European football with Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal all progressing to the finals of UEFA’s elite competitions.
Liverpool and Tottenham sealed a date in the Champions League final by defeating Barcelona and Ajax respectively in dramatic semi-final encounters before Arsenal and Chelsea also made sure they successfully flew the flag for English football. A look at how the Premier League has taken over European football once again.
Premier League clubs have the funds to attract the best players to England with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid having to compete with Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United for star signings.
Eight of Europe’s top 20 spenders play in the Premier League with Manchester City’s squad the most expensive having spent £843million to assemble. Manchester United (£679m), Liverpool (£608m), Chelsea (£581m), Arsenal (£370m), Tottenham (£339m), Everton (£332m) and Leicester (£238m) also feature in the top 20 in terms of most expensive squads which shows just how powerful Premier League clubs are.
The Premier League has the best pool of managers with Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Unai Emery all guiding their sides to European finals. Top English clubs have been able to poach managers from rival leagues with Klopp and Guardiola arriving after spells in Germany with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively.
Southampton appointed Pochettino after he impressed in Spain with Espanyol while Emery also swapped Spain for England.
Rivals Spur Each Other On
As the case with this season’s title race, healthy competition is only good for the league with Manchester City and Liverpool pushing each other to new levels. The Premier League duo have set new heights this season with Liverpool in second place with one match remaining despite losing just one game. The Italian league has been dominated by Juventus during the past eight seasons, which means they struggle to up their game when it comes to facing fellow European heavyweights. Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have also eased to domestic title wins this season.
England National Team On A High
England’s best players have been buoyed by a successful World Cup under Gareth Southgate. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson (both of Liverpool), Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli (all of Tottenham), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Gary Cahill (both of Chelsea) and Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) were all part of England’s squad for the tournament in Russia last summer.
Demise Of European’s Heavyweights
This summer is going to be crucial for several of Europe’s top clubs with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan among the clubs who are likely to overhaul their squads during the upcoming transfer window.
They are no longer the dominant forces they once were as they have failed to replace their previous stars who led them to success. They will now have to find a way of competing with England’s top clubs to attract new talent.
Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp are man-managers supreme…
Tottenham and Liverpool contesting the Champions League final is testament to their methods. Every weekend, the influence of an imported coach can be seen on Match Of The Day
The Premier League demonstrating itself to be the greatest league in the world? The demise of the powerhouses of the European game? An era of all-out-attacking football in which 3-0 deficits are breeze? All of the above have been cited as reasons for Liverpool and Tottenham contesting the second all-English European Cup final.
The over-whelming reason is infinitely more life-affirming, though. These two teams are Europe’s best because they are led by two supremely optimistic and humane individuals, who have reminded football lovers that managers really can make good players great.
Neither Jurgen Klopp nor Mauricio Pochettino have lacked money to build. But the players who have delivered them to Madrid cost a fraction of those assembled by the continent’s high rollers. What links the two is their fundamental optimism about the players they have inherited. And a predisposition to build relationships which them which have created a soaring self-belief.
A revealing story from Son Heung-min’s difficult first season at Tottenham says much about why he has been in place to shape Spurs’ route to the Bernabeu. The South Korean had been struggling – even lacking a clinical finish in an 11-a-side game against the club’s academy players– and not getting the game time he wanted. A club in Germany was interested. He was thinking about leaving.
The easy option for Pochettino would have been to accept. Son has a very big entourage around him, including a secretary. His father is his agent. ‘Managing all that isn’t easy,’ Pochettino reflected in Inside Pochettino’s Spurs – his chronicle of the 2016-17 season.
Yet he sensed there were still grounds for hope and a conversation with Son ensued that demanded the utmost dexterity, given that one of the Argentine’s mantras – shared by Klopp – is never to guarantee a starting place to a player. Slightly against his better judgement, because the player had again looked unconvincing in training, Pochettino fielded Son at Stoke, four games into the season, in an attempt to ‘wipe the slate clean’. He scored, provided an assist, defended in spades and did not look back.
At so many clubs, that German offer would have been accepted. As Premier League clubs have grown fabulously wealthy on the Premier League’s £5.1bn TV deal, players have become an instantly dispensable commodity in the ugly churn of the transfer market.
But a touchstone for both Pochettino and Klopp is their belief that new levels of technical ability and quality can emerge from those individuals who put in the effort. Collectivism is more significant than the next transfer target. ‘It becomes a serious matter… if the footballer’s aim isn’t a shared one, but purely individual,’ Pochettino has said. ‘And when he forgets the required order in this sport: that the individual shines more when at the service of the team.’
Klopp’s coaching assistant and chief scout Peter Krawietz has described the German’s identical creed. ‘One guy doing it by himself is nothing. That player will try once, he’ll try again, but then he’ll turn around and say, ‘Where’s everybody else?’
Adam Lallana, who has played for both these managers, tells Klopp’s biographer Rafa Honigstein: ‘Their demand is similar – put in the graft. [Klopp] understands you will make mistakes and not play so well in a game but if you leave blood and sweat on the pitch for him. That is what he likes most.’
Compare this philosophy with Jose Mourinho, lamenting the physical superiority of players like Andy Robertson, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Fabinho when his United side faced them earlier this season, which he claimed he was powerless to affect. ‘There are qualities that a player has or he doesn’t have,’ Mourinho claimed at the time. ‘You cannot improve, you cannot make them have [these qualities].’ Someone described this as classic football ‘fixed-mindset’, compared with what psychologists would describe as the ‘growth mindset’ of Klopp and Pochettino.
Nothing in football is new of course. Sir Alex Ferguson loved young players and the possibilities they brought. In his office at Carrington hung a print of Charles C Ebbets ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’, the iconic Depression era photograph of 11 men sitting on a girder with their legs dangling precariously over New York.
‘The photograph explains what a football team is and has to do,’ Ferguson once explained. ‘What is the greatest thing a team can do? They can sacrifice their life for each other and sometimes when one falls two can save him. That is what you call sacrifice.’
But there’s precious little of such philosophy to be found among the giants. United laboured under the inflexibility of Louis van Gaal before opting for Mourinho’s brooding negativity, blowing millions in the process. Juventus have bet the bank of Cristiano Ronaldo delivering them to their holy grail of Europe’s ultimate prize.
Pep Guardiola certainly does brings the emotional intelligence of Klopp and Pochettino, though his club have spent far much more than the finalists.
There is another way and this was the week when two supreme semi-finals revealed it. Liverpool and Tottenham are testament to the fruits of man management in its purest form.
Debate On Best Ever Comeback In Football History
The aftermath of Tottenham and Liverpool’s sensational fightbacks against Ajax and Barcelona has led to a wider discussion about football’s greatest comeback.
Liverpool have another contender of their own with Istanbul in 2005, while Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League win is also very highly regarded.
Sportsmail’s reporters reveal their picks for the best football comeback.
Spurs 3 Man City 4 (Feb 2004)
Spurs were 3-0 up at half time in this FA Cup fourth-round replay and Man City were reduced to 10 men with Joey Barton dismissed for dissent while leaving the pitch after the first half.
Somehow Kevin Keegan’s team produced an astonishing second half at White Hart Lane with Jon Macken scoring in the 90th minute.
Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (May 2019)
Until this week I would have always said Manchester United in that remarkable climax to the ‘99 Champions League final.
But Liverpool’s performance against Barcelona this week supersedes that, United in Turin, Steven Gerrard and Co in Istanbul and even Tottenham the night after.
And why? Because it was the best performance; a complete team effort against a side boasting the finest footballer in history. It will take some beating.
Newcastle 4 Leicester 3 (February 1997)
The Magpies were trailing 3-1 with 13 minutes remaining and St James’ Park was starting to empty when they won a free-kick 20 yards out.
Alan Shearer shoved Tino Asprilla out of the way to take responsibility and duly smashed low and hard through the wall for 2-3. Six minutes later and Shearer had somehow worked an angle for a shot through the legs of a defender and the ball nestled in the bottom corner.
Entering stoppage-time it looked like Newcastle would have to settle for what was a valiant point. Rob Lee and Shearer had other ideas and the former burst clear in the area before squaring for the latter to turn in from close range for his first black and white hat-trick – and what a way to get it.
Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 And Ajax 2 Tottenham 3 (May 2019)
I can’t split the two from this week.
For Liverpool to have come back with their strongest XI would have been incredible but to do it with no Mo Salah or Roberto Firmino and with Andy Robertson off at half-time was a footballing miracle. James Milner at left-back, Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri – are you kidding me?
As for Spurs, it is rare in football for good things to happen to good people. Mauricio Pochettino is one of the finest managers to ever grace these shores and one of the nicest blokes.
For his side to do what they did in 45 minutes without Harry Kane was astonishing. I was almost crying with him at the end!
Tottenham 3 Manchester City 4 (February 2004)
Manchester City hadn’t won a league game for three months and not only trailed Spurs 3-0 at half-time, they had also lost their best player, Nicolas Anelka, to injury after 27 minutes and were reduced to 10 men when Joey Barton got sent off.
So what happened? They fought back to win 4-3 with Jon Macken scoring the unlikeliest of winners in the last minute. It could only have been pulled off by a Kevin Keegan team.
The only comeback greater than Liverpool fighting back from 3-0 down against Barcelona minus Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino,
Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1 (May 1999)
As we approach the 20th anniversary of Manchester United’s Champions League win over Bayern Munich this month, we shouldn’t forget that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side went from losers to winners in the space of three minutes of injury time.
It wasn’t a classic but it was the final and United won the European Cup without the need for extra-time or penalties. As comebacks go, it ranks above Liverpool’s sensational victory over Barcelona on Tuesday night and even their heroics in Istanbul.
Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3 Liverpool win on pens (May 2005)
Yes, of course, Barcelona was beyond phenomenal. Something incredibly beautiful. BUT – despite the views of the many who put it on a level beyond any other – I just can’t agree that it was as great a comeback as Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005.
Not only did Rafa Benitez’s side have only 45 minutes to reverse the 3-0 deficit back then but they had to do so in the final – in the arena: the ultimate stage – AND by doing so, had to overcome the huge psychological barrier of having been cut apart in the first half against AC Milan.
The evisceration of Barcelona at Anfield was a better performance. The greatest technical display I’ve seen from a British team. But Istanbul was the football’s greatest comeback.
QPR 5 Newcastle 5 (September 1984)
Obviously the defining comeback by which all comebacks are judged is QPR’s 5-5 draw with Newcastle in September 1984 at Loftus Road. A Chris Waddle hat-trick and Neil McDonald goal put Newcastle 4-0 up at half time. Cue the usual mayhem: tearing up of season-tickets, fans storming out. QPR hauled it back to 4-3 only for Kenny Wharton to make it 5-3 on 84 minutes.
Never have I been more deflated. Like they say, it’s the hope that kills you. But what’s this? QPR go up the other end and make it 5-4 immediately from a Steve Wicks header? Gary Micklewhite added the coup de grace – otherwise known as the equaliser – which, as should always be the case in a classic comeback, came in the 90th minute (I was pleased to see Tottenham observed that convention. Liverpool lose marks for having it all wrapped up on 79 minutes).
I was in Istanbul, I was at Anfield on Tuesday and I was at Ajax on Wednesday and nothing tops that (OK. If you insist, they both topped it. And, simply because of the standard of the opposition I’d marginally say Liverpool’s comeback was more extraordinary. But, really, I just want to enjoy both.).
As a footnote, that was a Newcastle side with Waddle and Peter Beardsley. So not all that bad. And with Jack Charlton as manager. That’s a post-match dressing-room debrief I’d pay good money to watch.
Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1 (May 1999)
I was there in the Nou Camp 20 years ago so have to say that was the best from a personal perspective. Desperation to elation in a couple of minutes.
This season I was at Aston Villa v Sheffield United, when Dean Smith’s side came back from 3-0 down with 10 minutes left. Crazy.
Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1 (May 1999)
The context of a final cannot be matched. Nor can the scale of a comeback when it features two game-changing goals in stoppage time. Still the benchmark.
Culled from Sportsmail