Once Arsenal have completed their traditional annual departure from the Champions League at the Round of 16 Stage, I find I can really enjoy the tournament as it gets serious from the Quarter Final Stage onwards. I have to say I really wasn’t expecting City to get past PSG, however credit where it is due and it seems that Pellegrini’s team has taken a step forward and broken through a mental barrier in Europe this year.
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the Atletico performance in both games against Barca but especially the second leg. As someone growing ever increasingly frustrated by Arsenal’s tactical naivety and lack of defensive organisation, it was refreshing to watch a performance based on focus, organisation, aggressive pressing and a team spirit that has been nurtured by a manager that is so involved in the game that he may as well be actually playing. Simeone’s players would run through brick walls for him and they and the fans seem to relish being up against it and adopting a siege mentality. Some would write them off as being a boring and defensive team but for me there is something to really be admired in the way they play and the way they consistently take on bigger (and richer) names in both their domestic competition and the Champions League.
It seemed like an incredible atmosphere at Anfield for the Dortmund game, quite how Liverpool managed to come back and win it; or in fact Dortmund managed to lose, is one of those football mysteries. I guess it is nights like last Thursday that make football what it is and why we all enjoy watching it so much.
It remains to be seen what impact Leicester dropping points for the first time in 6 games will have on the Premier League title race? West Ham were always going to be a tough nut to crack, especially having been reduced to ten men; but from a losing position they managed to salvage a point. Whether it feels like a point gained or two dropped will depend on how Tottenham cope with their trip to Stoke tonight. Personally, and not solely for Arsenal-biased reasons, I hope that the fairy tale can continue.
The big story away from the pitch last week centred on West Ham’s deal for the use of the Olympic Stadium, with an annual rent of £2.5 million and a contribution of only £15 million to the conversion costs, the Hammers have exploited their position as being the only realistically viable option for the future use of the stadium. Essentially the club has significantly upgraded its stadium without having to find hundreds of millions of pounds to finance it. The complaints about West Ham being handed a stadium essentially funded by the taxpayer are understandable, but the real fault lies with the Olympic organisers who had no real plan for the use of the stadium after the games and put themselves in a weak negotiating position. Whatever the rights and wrongs of how the situation came about, it seems certain that the impact will be to elevate West Ham to a position of greater financial power and amongst the biggest clubs in the country.