The 7th of October was a delightful day for global football fans and The Sunday Football Marathon. Since the nap after lunch, I have sparingly let me eye slip out of the sight of a football match. Regardless of whether the results of the games were in my favour, I was able to explore how the local leagues around Europe differ in development.
My first stop was England. The match time did not allow fans to enjoy three complete matches at one go, but I took the chance to watch Fulham for the first time this season. They continued their away struggles. Another round applause to the spiritual Saints, but whether Nigel Adkins is the guy to save them from relegation, I start to doubt. They really need to pick up points from teams they are capable of beating.
Tottenham’s match was less than impressive. Aston Villa is no longer the team who was proud of their quick attack. There are a group of youngsters with great potential, but they are just nowhere near clinical against a jaded and sluggish Tottenham. By the time I arrived at St James Park, it was already in the 2nd half, just in time for Cisse’s controversial header. To play another 40 minutes with only a slender 2-1 lead at St James Park would be quite a tough job, but Sir Alex was fortunate enough to escape a heart attack. Whether Cleverley intended to directly curl past Steve Harper does not matter. Newcastle had indeed barely created anything throughout the match. Are Newcastle at their most effective formation when Cisse has to play on the right while Ben Arfa plays on the left to accommodate Demba Ba as a central striker? I have not only once doubted Alan Pardew’s tactical ability, but he landed a shocking 8-year contract. Mark Hughes could get at least 3 then I guess?
After a break of less than an hour, I was fully recharged for the third El Clasico of the season. Cristiano Ronaldo responded with a performance, telling us “Even I’m no better than Messi, at least I’m not worse.” However, it was Sergio Ramos, Mehmet Ozil and Martin Montoya who caught my attention. Ozil was still far from his best, but the clinical pass showed he is still top class. Sergio Ramos withstood the home crowd pressure and dispossessed Barca’s attack with a handful of critical tackles. Martin Montoya once again was called upon to play the El Clasico with short notice, but he repaid Tito Vilanova’s faith with an above-average performance against Cristiano Ronaldo. Even the second goal conceded was only because of a wrong-footed Adriano who disrupted the offside trap rather than the young right back.
I had an adrenaline rush when Montoya hit the bar in the dying moments of the match, but my excitement was quickly, and strangely, calmed down by the Milan Derby. While both teams are undergoing redevelopment with Financial Fair Play in their minds, Inter Milan obviously is a year ahead of AC Milan. The Rossoneri fans have been asked to grant Allegri extra time to rebuild, but he failed to convince me why Bojan had more playing time than either El Shaarawy or Pazzini.
The corruption scandals have made Serie A even less attractive to top players. The popularity of the league is no longer comparable to La Liga and English Premier League, but the quality of defence is a built-in function in Italian teams. Whether it was Inter fighting off the 11 vs 10 attack, or Milan dispossessing a couple of breakaways by Inter, it proves the Italian’s reputation in defence.
There are pace and intensity in England, techniques and skills in Spain, spirits and discipline in Italy. It would be unfair to directly compare one league to another, because they just complement each other to offer football fans a colourful European football leagues.