Arsene Wenger is a great manager and he is in charge of a good team, but they still came up short on four fronts this season. Arsenal lacked a top class goalkeeper, an imposing central defender, a consistent partner for Robin van Persie, threw away too many leads – Spurs at the Emirates for example – and generally lacked the mental toughness and winning attitude, so evident in Manchester United’s run to the title. Wenger’s Plan A – attacking football – is excellent. He does not have a Plan B. His team did not grind out results, did not rise to the occasion when needed most and in the end paid for the weaknesses that were evident to every football fan.
Football may have sold its soul to television, but can still manage to pull at the emotional heart strings. The sight of Barcelona players pushing Eric Abidal to lift the Champions League trophy months after a life threatening illness was one such instance.
Chelsea used to be the most disliked team in European football. Their crown has now been taken over by Manchester City with Real Madrid a close second. Money may buy a lot of things including success, but in football as in life it still cannot buy class and respect.
Diving used to be considered a part of the game that was only perpetuated by South American players in the World Cup. As we saw this season it is now so pervasive in football that even players who suffer serious injury are accused of diving. FIFA needs to clamp down on this part of the game or risk being open to ridicule for years to come. Video technology needs to be introduced and retroactive punishment used for any player found guilt of feigning injury to earn a penalty, a free kick, or to have an opponent sent off. The cheaters bring the game into disrepute and should be named, shamed, fined and suspended.
Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. His performances throughout the season in general and in the Champions League Final in particular assure him of this status. The only people that doubted his quality was the English media and some English fans who swear blind allegiance to the Wapping or Fleet Street red tops. Messi tore apart the English champions in England, in a major final, at the home of football and finally scored against an English team on English soil. His inspired performance led Barcelona to another Champions League triumph to cement their status as the best club team in the world.