Sunday, May 18, 2014

The champions

I managed to watch both matches yesterday on two screens in a bar in Monrovia. And both teams I was supporting came out as champions.

For a week I will be Atletico Madrid fan, and yesterday they took the first step in what could be their greatest season ever. 1-1 against FC Barcelona was enough to give them the Spanish league. This is the first time since 2004 a team other than Barcelona and Real Madrid has won the league, and the first time since since 2008 that the top-two is not Real Madrid and Barcelona.
So this is fantastic for Spanish football, and a victory against the rich-man arrogance of the two big sides.
That said, and from a more footballing perspective, Atletico Madrid are hardly a very entertaining side. They are defensive, strong pressure and good counter-attack. Simeone plays the kind of football that so many people hate Mourinho for playing. Simeone is a great coach, and it will be hugely interesting to see him coach another team some day.
Martino has been a flop as Barcelona coach. I could have told them that: when he coached Paraguay he played anti-football. Without Puyol the weakness of Barcelona's central defense has been exposed throughout the season. Without Xavi and closing the wings, Atletico managed to make Barcelona's possession seem like little else but... possession...
I think that Barcelona will take much longer rebuilding than Real Madrid, who in my view are likely to be champions next year.

The FA Cup final is always a fantastic match, and this year it was no exception. Arsenal were huge favourites against Hull, but the Arsenal defense did not hear that the match had started before Hull were ahead 0-2. Hull fought bravely and Arsenal pushed with everything, and finally they managed to get 2-2. In extra time Aaron Ramsey scored the 3-2 winner for Arsenal, who now took their first title in nine years.
One cannot help feeling a bit sorry for Hull and their great supporters. That said, Arsenal deserved the title mostly because of their great coach, Arsene Wenger, who has been under increased pressure this season as title remain absent from a club that expects much more. It is not easy to win titles (statistically you have to admit that most teams don't), but more important is to be true to a style and football approach, which in Arsene Wenger's case is about good, intelligent football, using many young and talented players.

So congratulations to Atletico and Arsenal fans! I had a few beers for both teams yesterday, and I am sure that there are many people happily hungover in Madrid and London today!

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