Sunday, May 11, 2008

quick sunday post

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I know that not a big number of our readership are big English Premier League fans, but I just wanted to give a few of my thoughts on the season, which concluded today.

I am happy that Fulham stayed up. The team--comprised of Americans Dempsey, McBride, Johnson, Bocanegra and Keller-- has most of the American's playing in Europe's best league. It would have been a shame for all of these players to have to play in the Championship next year, but their victory today means that they will be playing with (and against) the big boys next year.

Manchester United deserved the title. One cannot argue with that--they were clearly the best team. The beautiful thing about English soccer is that it's a grind--one result matters as much as the rest, and even if you do well against the big four (which Arsenal consistently do better than any other teams, including the other teams that comprise the big four), you still have to get results against the teams that make up the remaining sixteen spots in the table (which Arsenal consistently does NOT do). We all know bsto and I love Arsenal and despise Manchester United and Chelsea, but these teams found a way to play week-in, week-out. It doesn't hurt that they're willing to spendspendspend and have two world-class players at every position (while Arsenal don't have one at many positions), but such is life.

Chelsea's (soon to be ex?) manager Avram Grant said that he feels that the title should have been decided via a play-off should Chelsea and Manchester be equal on points. Chelsea ended up drawing their final match--so this plea was null--but I believe that this would have stood for everything the title is not. The EPL is a grind, and having a one-off play-off negates the importance of every game played from August to May, which is the core ethic of the league (well, other than revenues).

Grant cited the Italian league, where a play-off is held in the event of a tie--but do we really want the EPL to be built like Serie A...where corruption is rife?

Yes, Manchester clearly had the best team. The interesting thing is that they're behind on their interest payments on the loan that Malcolm Glazer took out to finance his buy-out of the team. Basically, Glazer thought he could have re-financed the terms by now, but because of the global credit crunch, he can't find a lender who will let him re-finance at a more desirable rate. The result? Huge net losses. The team will have to use it's money from winning the EPL and appearing in the Champions League final to pay-off debts.

Betting on future results is what Glazer is doing...but it's risky
. A few years back, Leeds signed a bunch of incredible players and did so by taking out loans based on the the club getting payments from predicted participation in the CL. However, the club did not finish high enough in the EPL and did not do well enough in the CL and subsequently went bankrupt.

Obviously, Manchester United is not going to find itself in this hole, because the EPL is structured around the top four. The fact of the matter is that these four teams are consistently in the top of the table at season's end, so they're consistently getting better payments (and valuable Champions League positions) than the other teams.

However, one must also also remember that were it not for a certain Russian oil billionaire with KGB ties, Chelsea were also going to be bankrupt, on the verge of entering administration, and being dropped into a lower league. Fortunes change quickly, especially with billionaires, but it's important to remember that these billionaires leave just as soon as they come. Once they've got what they wanted, they'll discard old toys in search of new ones. Chelsea ended up $200 million in debt for the third straight year--you've got to ask how long it'll be before Abramovich decides he's sick of pumping money into Chelsea. There's already talk that he wants to buy an American football team, so only time can tell how serious he is about Chelsea.

Arsenal lost one of the players that became sort of a revelation this year--Mathieu Flamini. Flamini left for AC Milan. While this has been covered to death, Flamini said today that he was disappointed by Arsenal's collapse in February and March and their subsequent loss of the EPL title.

Hleb may also be on his way out--to Inter Milan. The sickening part is that, while in Milan in February for the Champions League fixture against AC Milan, Hleb met with representatives of Inter on the night before the game.

Remember Mighty Ducks Two, when the coach went out for ice cream with "the iceland chick" the night before the game? YEAH, something like that.

These two players can moan all they want about wanting to win things, but they need to take that desire and use it for motivation. You can't just walk leave because you don't win trophies.

We have a word for that: quitting.

How can Flamini talk about wanting to win when the club he went to play for is only going to finish fourth in the table...and was knocked out of the Champions League by Arsenal..THE VERY TEAM HE LEFT?

I just don't understand how you can promise to re-sign with a team and then bolt the next day. It's a lack of loyalty and it's quitting--plain and simple. Flamini gave his heart for the team, and if he wants to move on, it's fine. Just be honest.

It's disheartening, because neither of these players lived up to their promise until this year. They didn't come on the cheap, but the manager had faith in them. It's a bit telling of one's character to leave a coach who blindly trusted your ability in order to get a bigger paycheck.


right, then