Chelsea’s Not So Consoling Consolation

The Champions of Europe (for the next few weeks, at least) defeated FC Basel of Switzerland and  have moved on to the Europa League final to face Portugal’s Benfica. However, considering that I just called them the Champions of Europe, a term usually reserved for the winners of the Champions League, one would think that the last thing Chelsea FC wanted to be tasked with doing was winning Europe’s second-tier competition only a year after hoisting the big-earred cup.

In a campaign where Chelsea featured in eight tournaments, it wasn’t a stretch to think that they would come away with a trophy or two. The Club World Cup has had a history of being a pretty easy road for the Champions of Europe once they manage to navigate their way through the Copa Libertadores winner.

Masked man Fernando Torres has found a penchant for scoring in the Europa League.

Masked man Fernando Torres has found a penchant for scoring in the Europa League.

Instead, Chelsea has been knocked out of the running for all the tournaments they began the season in and have to settle for being the bridesmaid in the pecking order of European tournament champions to the winner of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s May 25th meeting at Wembley Stadium.

Some will say the Europa League serves as a second chance for the teams knocked out of the Champions League group stage. A chance for the supporters and the players to relive old memories of working their way through a grueling two-legged knockout stage that tests the mettle of all those involved. It’s safe to say that Roman Abramovich is not someone who thinks this way.

The Blues will have a chance to make history when they meet Benfica in Amsterdam. Should Chelsea defeat the Águias, they will become the fourth team to win all of Europe’s intercontinental titles joining Juventus, Ajax and Bayern, an impressive list to join. This will surely quiet a few who say the club has no history as they continue to add to their trophy case, but how consoling are such accolades?

Rafa Benitez made his name winning the UEFA Cup — the Europa League’s predecessor — but it is all but guaranteed that he will be gone at season’s end and is only going through the motions of managing the team for a few more months. For another season, they are without Premier League glory and the sting of being one of the few defending Champions League cup holders bounced in the group stage won’t be going away soon.

The money will flow again in the summer at Stamford Bridge. It has already begun with the agreement of the deal to bring André Schürrle to London. We will see players move in and players move out, but it won’t easily be forgotten that the season’s only trophy may be won in the Europa League by the manager that no Chelsea fan wanted to win for them.

From the supporters to the highest executives, May 15th may be a day where they hoist another piece of silverware but it will always fail in comparison to the miracle run of Roberto di Matteo and the team that never should have won the Champions League.

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The Beauty of the Away Goal Rule

In the past few days there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the away goal rule should be done away with, but I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. It’s easy to say you want it gone when it works against your club, but it wouldn’t be so easy to say that if your club benefits from it.

This week, we saw two big games decided by the away goal rule. Arsenal fell to Bayern Munich in the Champions League after beating the Bavarians 2-0 in the Allianz thanks to Bayern’s 3-1 win at the Emirates. Tottenham defeated Inter 4-4 in extra time when Emmanuel Adebayor scored the only away goal of the tie to move on to the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is probably ready to launch a campaign to get rid of the away goal rule after his side crashed out of the Champions League against Bayern Munich due to it.

Arsenal supporters hate the rule right now. Spurs supporters love it.

Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, you have to realize that the away goal rule is essentially necessary to two-legged knockout tournament ties. Without it, the away team would put their entire team within 25 yards of their goal and just play for a nil-nil draw in hopes of getting a goal in the return leg at their stadium.

It encourages the away team to be more aggressive and rewards them if they manage to score while on the road and punishes the home team if they concede.

Certainly, the away team is in the driving seat if they do happen to score and it puts the home team at a disadvantage but all they have to do is go and get a goal in the return fixture and the momentum is right back in their favor.

Naturally, we want to get rid of the rule because Arsenal and Inter (along with many other teams throughout the years) were adversely affected by it but that have no one to blame but themselves. If Arsenal didn’t allow 3 goals against Bayern, they wouldn’t have needed to play they way they did Wednesday. If Inter would have scored at White Hart Lane, they wouldn’t have needed to score 4 goals only to get the boot because they conceded in extra time at home.

Doing away with the away goal rule would just do away with entertaining two-legged ties in competitions.

Why is AVB Succeeding at Tottenham?

Andre Villas-Boas is one of the brightest young managers in the footballing world, that much is hard to be argued against. He is only 35 years old and has held jobs at some of the better clubs and done reasonably well wherever he has gone. However, following his stint at Chelsea, some were questioning his ability as a manager of a big name side.

There were plenty of reasons why Villas-Boas only lasted nine months at Stamford Bridge. He was too young to lead that club. He didn’t have the backing of the veteran players. His preferred style of player was entertaining but it allowed too many goals. And of course, Chelsea had a string of bad results prior to his sacking.

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Andre Villas-Boas has Tottenham believing they could do something great in the very near future.

All that being said, how is it possible that Villas-Boas has gone to another London club, Tottenham, and had much more success with arguably a less talented team and definitely a smaller transfer budget?

It’s a quite simple answer actually, he isn’t under ridiculous amounts of pressure.

I could just imagine how excited Roman Abramovich was to bring in a young manager who had working under Jose Mourinho, an 88% winning percentage at Porto and a Europa League victory on his CV. I could also imagine that he thought Villas-Boas was going to pull something along the lines of a quintuple.

Don’t get me wrong, Tottenham had Champions League aspirations when they began this season but I doubt Daniel Levy is as tough a boss as Abramovic is. Think about it. Harry Redknapp was given four years as Tottenham’s boss as their best finish was coming in 4th twice and they didn’t win any silverware. Levy probably also learned something from his quick fire decision to sack Martin Jol, but I digress.

Villas-Boas has Spurs playing some of, if not the, best football in the Premier League right now and at some point you have to look to the manager as part of the reason for it. His free-flowing tactics have allowed Gareth Bale to wreak havoc on defenses both domestically and in Europe, giving Tottenham a chance to win the Europa League if they continue this run of form.

Now that he has the supporters, the players and ownership behind him, I believe we will see AVB continue to flourish in his role as manager of Tottenham. They went from a club aiming to finish in a Champions League spot to a club that is a player or two from challenging for much more seemingly overnight with his hire.

A perfect end to this season would be if he could find someway to keep Bale in London for a few more years. Whether or not he does is another story altogether, just know that as of now there is nothing stopping AVB from achieving greatness at Tottenham.