Greed is not so good

The English Premier League is incredibly top heavy with the older and bigger clubs pocketing massive chunks of money, making the overall League setup in England weak. So, recent European catastrophes afflicting its leading clubs have not displeased Brian Glanville.

When the so called Premier League was founded on television money and at the expense of the lesser clubs throughout the League, I immediately nicknamed it “The greed is good League” and have felt no temptation to change my mind. Far from it! So, recent European catastrophes afflicting its leading clubs have not displeased me. Birds, one feels, might come home to roost.

But not Chelsea, the protest may be heard.

Not the mighty Mourinho’s dazzling Chelsea, running away with the Premiership to such an extent that the manager of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, has already and publicly given up the ghost. For yet another season, it seems, the Gunners will be striving desperately to attain that fourth place. Which, even if it forces them to play in an early European Champions League qualifier, enables them to compete. And they usually manage to get over that hurdle to qualify for the competition proper.

At present, unforgiving critics have warned them that even if they do somehow struggle out of their current qualifying group into the next, knockout round, they are all too likely to be humiliatingly knocked out right away.

Yet how good are Chelsea? At whose shrine critics and the likes even of Wenger are worshipping? This is a team which brims over with expensive talent. Only one player, and that a crucially important one in the shape of centre back John Terry, has not been expensively bought. Youth schemes? Yes they exist at Chelsea and by contrast with the days when they were poorly administered by the ex-Danish international Frank Arnesen (when the club actually had to pay compensation for filching two youngsters from Leeds United neither of whom as it transpired made any impact) the current youth team have been outstanding. Full of young talent, which alas virtually never gets a chance to break into the top team.

Obviously a team which can boast the effervescent likes of Eden Hazard, Matic, Oscar and Ivanovic is going to be a power in the game. Yet in the Champions League, Chelsea, could only draw at home with Schalke 04 team, which had been struggling in the Bundesliga and, almost incredibly, held to a draw away to little Maribor, after the Slovenians had been taken to pieces 6-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal last summer gave a new three year contract to Wenger and may live — may already live — to regret it. No doubt at all that when he arrived at the Gunners in 1996 Wenger was an inspired appointment, revolutionising training, diet and facilities. But unlike Alex Ferguson who went on for decades winning trophies with Manchester United, Wenger hasn’t won the Premiership for a decade and a decidedly laborious FA Cup final win over Hull City last May was their first major trophy for nine years.

Arsenal last season had shocking defeats at Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, but not only kept Wenger but gave him that new contract. True, he has been unlucky in recent seasons to lose the likes of Robin van Persie (firing blanks at the moment at Manchester United) and Samir Nasri. True, the expensive acquisition of the splendid Chilean attacker Alexis Sanchez has been a huge success, but of late he has also been a voice crying in the wilderness. His splendid goals not being good enough to save them from the humiliation of throwing away a three-goal lead against modest Anderlecht in London — after a very deceptive last ditch victory against the better team in Brussels — then going down 2-1 at Swansea, where their young right back Calum Chambers, from Southampton, was taken apart by Jefferson Montero, the Ecuadorian left winger, with Wenger doing nothing to spare poor Chambers his embarrassment and neutralise the danger.

The German World Cup centre back Per Mertesacker, who was hardly dominant in that game, and for me has always been suspect when obliged to turn, was neither on that occasion a commanding figure or an influential captain. Though, he has the honesty to dwell publicly at length on the fallings of his team, not least its lack of wing play: the very thing Montero showed with Swansea.

Arsenal are now, it is said, preparing to give Wenger GBP20 million to spend on new players in the next transfer break, but top stars may be reluctant to join a club with such scant European prospects and a close passing style, which has looked less and less productive. Crucially, why did Wenger not buy a resourceful centre half? Injuries to French international Laurent Koscielny and his compatriot Mathieu Debuchy have led to Wenger fielding Nacho Monreal, essentially a reserve full back, at centre half, no kind of a solution.

As for Manchester City, their recent form both in and out of Europe elicits that old saying, money isn’t everything. Just as Roman Abramovich has poured his millions into Chelsea, but with rather less success, so the Mansour family have enormously bankrolled City: but to what present effect? Were it not for the individual brilliance and finishing powers of that remarkable Argentine striker, Sergio Aguero, City would be faring still worse than they are, which in Europe, is indeed very poor.

Roma largely gave them a lesson in Manchester. A far less fashionable team in CSKA Moscow deservedly beat them there recently: the fact that City had two players deservedly sent off was no valid excuse. They were second best. Manuel Pellegrini, their Chilean manager, has become increasingly terse, and no wonder. That the essential Yaya Toure has lost form hasn’t helped. Nor has an injury, which puts out the Bosnian striker, Edin Dzeko. But too many supposed stars are out of form and Pellegrini’s tactics have come under fire.

Liverpool, and their supposedly resourceful manager, Brendan Rodgers, disgraced themselves in Madrid with a passive performance by a deliberately chosen under-strength team, by a club which once dominated European football. Rodgers had his eye on the imminent match against Chelsea, and they lost that too. Though it should be said that for all the lauding of Chelsea, the margin was only 2-1 and their centre back Gary Cahill, who scored a scrappy goal, should have given away two penalties.

Of course, the loss to Liverpool of the prolific Luis Suarez has been enormous, nor have they been helped by the injury which has put the incisive Daniel Sturridge out for so many weeks. But although the 3-0 defeat by Real at Anfield meant losing in Madrid was almost inevitable, at least Liverpool with a full team could have gone down fighting. That 1-0 defeat was flattering and, alas, sadly fatalistic.