2016-17 European football leagues – analysis

After skipping last year’s recap article – due to the Euros (very conveniently I take off in World Cup and Euro years, which essentially means that I publish posts like this every other year :D) – I’m back to dissect this mundane, yet topsy-turvy, season.

[all snapshots courtsey Goal.com]

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English Premier League – Chelsea won its 5th top flight league title, the first in five-year, at the beginning of May, with 3 games to spare. Scratch that. That was the line from 2 seasons ago. Chelsea won its 6th title, with 1 game to spare. After finishing 10th last season, Chelsea bounced back like a cat on a trampoline. 1st-10th-1st. That one game to spare turned out to be an awkward homage to John Terry’s last game in a Blues shirt. Spurs finished 2nd two years in a row, and managed to finish over Arsenal in 22 years. Arsenal was 5th, consigned to the Europa league next year. In fact, I have never witnessed Arsenal outside the top 4 in my 20 years of seriously watching and following European club competitions, that incidentally matched their longest top-4 finish. The saving grace for Arsenal was winning the FA Cup, beating Chelsea, who by the time the final rolled in were in warm beaches, at least their minds were. Leicester after the fairy tale run last year settle into 12th place not before scaring everyone with a potential relegation.

Harry Kane continued his fine form by topping the scoring charts for 2nd consecutive year. Lukaku flourished under Koeman with Everton. The rest are usual suspects.

My prediction for 2017-18

It’s hard to see both Arsenal and ManU not improving upon this season, though even harder to see how they can dislodge the teams above them. Wenger staying on at Arsenal could actually bode worse for the team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sacked if there is a spell of few losing games. He’s on thin ice, I think. Conte has won the league the last 4 times he has coached a club (Juve 3, Chelsea 1). Would be foolish to count them off. Liverpool under Klopp is coming together nicely, missing only a few pieces. Guardiola will be in his 2nd seasoan as coach of City. This campaign was the only time in his entire career that he hasn’t won the league as a coach.

My top 6 for next year: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal, Tottenham.

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German BundesligaThe German top flight has become a one-horse league. Munich won their 3rd 5th straight title, 2527th overall. Dortmund’s challenge has fallen off and no other team even thinks, let alone look, to fight for anything higher than the 2nd place spot. [copied pasted from the article 2 years ago]. Leipzig, newly promoted last year, finished a distant second. With Robben and Ribery not getting any younger, though you wouldn’t know that by watching the last 2 games of the season where Robben scored absolute scorchers; Mueller not playing up to his erstwhile golden standard; Lahm and Xabi Alonso (two of the behemoths of the game) retiring – it will be interesting to see how Ancelotti shapes up this Munich team. Dortmund has a young, pacy, exciting team. The strange thing was their coach Thomas Tuchel was sacked after Dortmund won the DFB Pokal (German Cup)!

Aubameyang and Lewandowski continue to score for fun and old warhorse Mario Gomez still is hunting. Incidentally Lewandowski was the leading scorer heading up to the final game day, where Aubameyang scored 2 goals and Lewandowski scored none, and later complained that he was very angry at his team mates by not giving him opportunities to score!

My predictions for 2017-18

Whoever takes the reigns up at Dortmund will inherit a technically talented team with young, speedy players. The US teenager Christian Pulisic has put in impressive performances for club and country and will only develop more. Munich will NOT finish lower than 2nd place. The rest are just guesses; not educated guesses, just guesses.

Top 4: Dortmund, Munich, Monchelgladbach, Werder Bremen

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Italian Serie AMuch like the Bundesliga, Juventus has turned the Serie A into something they own. The Bianconeri won their 46th title in row, 31st33rd overall, and they won the Scudetto with 41 game to spare [copied pasted from the article 2 years ago]. Even a slew of high profile departures such as Tevez, Vidal, Morata, Pogba has not prevented them from bossing around the league. Mandzukic and Khedira have reinvented themselves while the Argentinian duo of Dybala and Higuain have a tremendous chemistry in front of goal. BBC (Bonuci, Barzhagli, and Chielini) hold up fort at the back, with the very sprightly 40-year old Buffon in goal.  Roma and Napoli had a concerted challenge throughout but it was quite evident that they were jostling for the 2nd place. Atalanta was a surprise finishing as high as 4th, while both Milan and Inter failed to land any European action next season. Milan is so pathetic that it is embarrassing. Hopefully the new Chinese buyers will get on the path to restore a semblance of the old Milan of lore, whose sheen has been worn out by previous owner Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the disgraced ex-Prime Minister of Italy) and longtime GM, and godfather lookalike, Adriano Galliani. Totti ended his 25 year career with Roma.

Juventus though couldn’t attain the treble by losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid.

Edin Dzeko, formerly of Man City, was the surprise lead scorer and both he and his Roma team Mohammed Saleh (Chelsea) are having a great resurgence. The diminutive Dries Martens filled in the void left by Higuain at Napoli, with Calderon and Insigne picking up a fair amount of goals as well. Higuain’s move to Juve gave him the 4th place.

My predictions for 2017-18

Hard to predict against Juve. With Totti now retired, I think Roma will flourish more without having to fit in the 40-year old. Napoli should be in the mix as well. Milan will still flounder.

My top 6: Roma, Napoli, Juventus, Inter, Milan, Lazio

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Spanish La Liga – Real Madrid won their first league title after 5 years. Think about it for a moment. The richest club in the world, with all the Galacticos, could not win the league 5 years in a row. This was their longest streak since 1980. Barca gave them a tough fight till the end but their one extra loss in the whole campaign (4) compared to Madrid’s was the deciding factor. Messi’s superlative performance in the second El Classico was a performance for ages but ultimately that win could not make up for ground lost earlier in the season. Sevilla and Atletico had something resembling a challenge going on but those aspirations faded by April.

Messi with a tally (*mediocre* by his lofty standards!) of 37 goals was the Golden Boot winner in Europe. The big guns from Barca and Madrid filled up the top slots, though Neymar not featuring in the top 5 had some bearing on Barca not winning the league.

My predictions for 2017-18

Atletico will sell their best player (Griezeman), Madrid will add a couple of more Galacticos, Ronaldo and Messi will keep on scoring. The same, the same …

Top 4: Barca, Madrid, Atletico, Villareal

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French Ligue 1 – Monaco has got to be this year’s Leicester! The brand of fearless, attacking football played by their young squad, epitomized by Mbappe and led by the written-off Falcao, was a treat to watch. Unay Emery’s first year as coach of PSG can only be described as a failure, though there are reports that he will get another year. To be pipped by Monaco by 8 freaking points is nothing short of a catastrophe! And Monaco made it further in the Champion’s League as well.

Cavani continues his domination of the minows in Ligue 1 and needs a ton of scoring opportunities to actually score. Lacazette continues his impressive run and is bound to be snapped up by top clubs this year. Falcao has risen like a proverbial phoenix.

My predictions for 2017-18

With Monaco selling their prized assets (their and Atletico’s off season game plans are very similar) to bigger clubs, it will be hard to repeat this season’s triumph. PSG will reclaim their throne, and also continue to falter in Europe. Nice was the another surprise package this year; should not be repeated again.

Top 4: PSG, Lyon, Monaco, Marseille

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