GMS contributor takes us through what we learnt from the second match day in the Champions League.
Manchester City a long way away from having European pedigree
After two miserable campaigns in the competition, it was time to end the ridicule and more importantly start to realise some returns on the massive investment by the City hierarchy on the European front for the club.
Cue the merry-go-round, enter Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano from Barcelona, exit Roberto Mancini and enter Manuel Pellegrini.
It was complete, surely now City would be more than a laughing stock in European competition…on the evidence of what transpired at the Etihad last evening, they still have a long way to go.
Granted they were coming up against the current cup holders, treble-winners, a team that set upto 25 records last season and more crucially, were now being managed by a man who City tried to lure to Eastlands, Pep Guardiola. However, in Manuel Pellegrini is no dugout novice in continental football, his CV holds its own when put up against the very best on the continent. But after the 90 minutes were up, he was made to look like a teaching assistant taking on a Harvard Law Professor.
Bayern Munich were imperious, majestic, mystical even.
They seemed like they had been playing from another planet and were at the Etihad to conduct a footballing clinic. Everywhere you looked within the white lines, a Bayern player was operating on a different level to his direct opponent, a damning statement considering the amount of money, bordering on the ridiculous, which has been spent on the squad every year for the past five years.
City’s transfer dealings this past summer leaned towards a more continental outlook to them.
In came Manuel Pellegrini from Malaga, quarter-finalists last season, Jesus Navas who boasts considerable experience in Europe, his co-conspirator and partner in crime Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic - promising but unproven and Martin Demichelis who has played at the very highest level with spells acroos a host of top European clubs – Bayern Munich, Malaga and Atletico Madrid.
They knew they needed to improve their dismal record in Europe and this recruitment suggest a commendable attempt at addressing that.
Against Bayern though, it was more of the same. City just failed to turn up, the City that so dominantly and authoritatively destroyed rivals United was nowhere to be seen. Pep Guardiola’s tactical superiority was evident for all and sundry, especially in central midfield where Phillip Lahm (a right back under other coaches), Bastian Schweinsteiger and the outstanding Toni Kroos completely outclassed and stifled Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, a pair who have already bossed their way in a number of premier league games already this season.
Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were unplayable, Richards and Clichy (horribly at fault for Muller’s goal), had no answers.
Matijs Nastasic was at sea, in awe of what was happening ahead of him. Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri, Segio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, who might as well have stepped out with a magazine or newspaper to keep him occupied, cut an isolated and frustrated figures.
The 3-1 scoreline does not tell the whole story, Pellegrini endured a chastening
evening and surely now fully comprehends the monumental task ahead of him in
Serie A has sunk into the doldrums
Once revered, once playing host to the best players in the world; once boasting ownership of the watermark of great defending and passion. The whole Italian package. Well not anymore, atleast not if what happened at the Emirates and the Juventus Stadium is anything to go by.
Napoli, under new management, new players and an unbeaten start to their domestic league and an impressive victory in their opening match against last season’s beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund, seemed like an exciting proposition for fans and neutrals alike.
Heck, even talk of a long run in the competition did not sound ludicrous for the team from Naples… they had Mr. Europe in Rafa Benitez anyway. Then came the trip to the Emirates, and all that talk was cut off like an unpaid electricity bill.
Napoli were so poor you would be forgiven their camouflaged way kit was actually keeping away the real football players.
They were limp, lethargic, without purpose or ideas. From the first whistle Arsenal tore them to shreds, without ever having to get out of second gear. The game was wrapped up in the first fifteen minutes as a free flowing Arsenal made the most of slack, schoolboy defending to kill the game off.
From that point on, it was no longer a contest…it never was from the start to be honest. Even deprived of Gonzalo Higuain due to a calf injury hours before the game, Napoli were disastrous and inept, his presence would not have changed anything.
Fast forward to Turin where Serie A holders Juventus faced a reeling Galatasaray side that was languishing in tenth place in their league and were thrashed 6-1 by Madrid in Matchday 1.
Three points were guaranteed surely, at the Juventus Stadium you would think right…wrong. The champions of Italy could only manage a 2-2 draw infront of their fans against a team that is very much out-of-sorts and just had a change of manager. They were lackluster to say the least. Drogba’s goal was the complete antithesis of what Italian defending is reputedly known for- meanness, bullishness, dominance, calmness, authoritarian.
That was not all, their forward play was lacking, infact, in the final third,
Juventus were abysmal. Pogba had his worst game yet for the club, Quagliarella
and Tevez found the Gala defence too big and too stubborn, Mauricio Isla spent
most of his time after coming on for the brilliant Litchsteiner passing the
ball to Gala players.
To their credit, as they did for most of the group stage last year, Juve managed to come up with the goods, once again, Quagliarella, after winning the penalty that got his side back in the game, got on the end of the one decent delivery into the box all night, to power home what surely looked to be the winner, sending the crowd into raptures.
They celebrated passionately, almost more in relief than expectation. That relief lasted a mere 71 seconds however, as a harmless long ball caught Juve napping at the back.
Drogba won the header, flicking it on to Umut Bulut who was in acres of space to rifle it home. Criminal defending. Now Juventus have to get a result in atleast one of the two games coming against leaders Madrid to stand a chance of qualifying and even that looks like too much to ask. Italy has faded.
David Moyes does not have faith in Kagawa
On a night when United were to start a Champions League game away at a difficult venue without their talisman Wayne Rooney, one would be forgiven to think that, ideally and logically, the best thing to do in that circumstance would be to replace him with a similar type of player, if not one more suited to that role.
A quick glance at United’s bench and you can only settle on one player for the job, Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese has been on the fringes his entire career so far at United but what has been particularly baffling, not just to him but fans and neutrals alike, has been both his previous and current manager not picking him even when one of either Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney who are automatic starters, is absent.
Against West Brom he was picked in the absence of Rvp but was subbed at half-time for 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj.
It is becoming ever more evident that David Moyes does not really have faith in the prodigious Japanese playmaker, even on a night when Robin van Persie was deprived of service, cut an isolated figure upfront and United were sorely lacking in creativity in the middle of the park.
Cristiano Ronaldo should play as a center-forward, with Di Maria to his right
I will not say anything further.
If you did not get to watch the match against Copenhagen, catch a rerun,
download it, match picture trailers if you must. Benzema’s days as a Madrid
forward should be up.
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