March 08, 2007

The irony is lost on me

And the irony of PSV hero Alex’s links with Chelsea did not escape the beaten Wenger.

The reporting on the PSV – Arsenal matches of the past two weeks has been truly appalling. From Russian mafia conspiracy theories to negative tactics to the worst football product in recent years. And I don’t even read the Sun.

Simple fact: PSV scored more goals than Arsenal (in fact, they scored all goals). You generally don’t advance without scoring a goal. You cannot blame the other team for having a better understanding of this concept.

Here’s another one: PSV, with Valencia, are the only club left in the Champions League not amongst the 20 richest football clubs in Europe. Why? Because it’s not in the Premier League! It might be hard to believe, but football clubs outside the UK tend not to make so much money (one reason is that admission prices are below an average working day salary), and thus don’t have much to spend on the best of the best. Great local talent is snatched away – to be fair, PSV does the same locally, by attracting youngsters from smaller Dutch clubs, but only for them to be lured away by the money making machines elsewhere. And even if you’re lucky on the transfer market, your star player will not stay for more than two years. It’s only a matter of time until Farfan enters the global spotlight.

With restricted means, you have to be clever. Guus Hiddink managed to take PSV to the second round in the Champions League twice in a row with two rather dissimilar teams. He had a slightly more versatile selection than Ronald Koeman is managing this year, so he could be a bit more adventurous, but the big difference with PSV’s game from the 1990s is its serenity. The defence is solid, and with arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, there isn’t a lot of pressure on the team to make the game. And that one goal will come, as we’ve seen twice now.

A report in the Guardian noted more irony: how Arsenal appears to be the last stronghold of the revelled Dutch total football, whereas one cannot get further away from this system than with Dutch champions PSV’s game. Or even worse: how if PSV are the Dutch champions, the quality of the Dutch league must be rather poor. But who is to blame?

PSV manages to get maximum return out of its input. Perhaps it’s a shame it involves “negative tactics” and a star player on loan from a competitor. Perhaps it’s more of a shame it had to resort to such means, forced by the economic ways of the game.


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