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Old 07-01-2005, 06:59 PM
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Spanish League Superior To The Premiership

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The Incredibles
Phil Ball

Back in London this last Saturday, I tuned into Match of the Day in the evening. The theme tune's comforting chimes always make me smile, taking me back to childhood when my mother would occasionally allow me to stay up until ten o'clock to watch the highlights of a couple of matches.

It was enough to feed the obsession, and weaned on the programme's weekly milk it is difficult not to feel a certain affinity to it even now, after years of watching and enjoying the different scene that is Spanish football.

Nevertheless, despite the programme's fame and longevity, few European countries have ever taken up its format. The Spanish certainly haven't, and remain stubbornly resistant to the 'collective extended highlights' concept that the programme still champions.

With the technological advances (and investment) in television coverage now permitting Match of the Day to cover every single Premiership game, the format usually means that one game will be accorded a slice of say, 30% of the total highlight pie, another game 20%, with the rest given an equal share of the remaining time. It seems a satisfactory arrangement, with every game warranting reasonable attention.

In Spain, there is a live game on the national channel on Saturday, followed by one with Canal Plus on Sunday - then a host of round-up programmes on every channel. They are of varying quality, but none of them follows the Match of the Day highlights plus analysis format. The Spanish round-ups show the goals and the occasional goalmouth incident, but they are not 'highlights', in the English sense of the word. Why is this?

Watching the slick editing and deluge of goals on Saturday night's Premiership highlights one could well have been convinced - as many surely are - that the English Premiership is the place to be. It looked dazzlingly exciting, breathless and spectacular. Wonderful goals, non-stop action, and football of the highest quality.

The ending collage to the programme, where the best goals were shown in close-up focus to the accompaniment of a testosteronic guitar riff, only served to package the product more spectacularly. I thought that people had grown out of this, that they had cottoned on to the mass delusion this creates - but apparently not, according to the viewing figures. And it's not surprising, for the show is indeed an entertaining one.

Nevertheless, it is to real football what Johann Cruyff was to modesty. There is no link between what one sees on the programme and the actual reality. The implicit truth of last Saturday's highlights, beneath the well-presented hype, was to show up, in glaring terms, the gaping chasm that exists between the have and the have-nots. It seems almost pointless to carry on with such a charade.

The standard of defending of most of the have-nots in the Premiership was so poor as to raise the question of exactly what these teams get up to in training every week - but what one witnessed last weekend was in no way typical of La Liga, for example.

There is a general feeling in Europe that Spain consists of Real Madrid, Barcelona and the rest, but whilst these two sides have undoubtedly a large slice of the country's attention (and money) you only have to watch a Spanish game or round-up to see that the lesser teams are much cannier, much more likely to put the spokes into the big wheels.

Maybe the previous century's statistics do not bear this so-called democracy out, with only nine different sides ever having won the top league prize, but that's not quite the issue at hand. Norwich's 4-0 capitulation at Chelsea was extraordinary for a side of supposedly top-flight status, despite the quality of the opposition facing them. The standard of the defending was abysmal, as was that of Crystal Palace in their 5-2 defeat at Manchester United.

No Spanish side of similar status would commit such a litany of schoolboy errors, and yet here it was, for all to see. Frank Lampard's wonderful second goal for Chelsea, a swerving shot from twenty yards which left the 'keeper grasping at atoms, was talked up enthusiastically by the programme's panel, conveniently ignoring the fact that Lampard had been left in several hectares of space and been permitted the time to sit down and unwrap his Christmas presents.

Game after game it was the same story - great goals, rock and roll, defenders stumbling or wholly absent from proceedings. Real Madrid have knocked in a few goals recently, against Albacete and Levante, but in general this season they have had to work for their suppers. So have Barcelona. Back in the Premiership, ex-Barça stalwart Reizeger scored for Middlesborough in their 3-0 win over Aston Villa, the type of goal that he never scored in Spain.

Playing at left-back, he cut in from the touchline, drifted almost apologetically past three defenders and almost shoulder-shrugged the ball into the net. You could tell by his smile that he wasn't used to such generosity. And so, to answer the original question - there are no extended highlights in Spain because there is no collective desire to fool the public.

Match of the Day can make the most tedious of goalless draws look like a classic, but the brief, matter-of-fact presentation of a 0-0 draw between Málaga and Numancia will never wish to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. Though the Spanish often excel in the art of self-deception in other matters, they at least try to be realistic about their football.

The so-called hard-nosed TV analysis of English football is really nothing of the sort. It's amusing that the same English pundits who were trashing José Mourinho so easily in September for his apparently cynical defensive attitude to the game are now queuing up to lavish their belated praise upon his neat small head.

Mourinho basically understood (as opposed to the English media) that to make Chelsea truly competitive he had to make them more 'continental', if that is what being defensively competent means. Once he had established that, the rest could fit into place, as it now appears to be doing.

The Chelsea v Barcelona draw is thus an absolute classic in the making. It could even restore one's faith in the Champions League. And the game should not be viewed as a clash of styles, i.e. Chelsea's pragmatism versus Barcelona's spectacle. The truth is surely that both sides have proved this year the primacy of intelligent defending, and that you need to have (and use) an effective midfield hod-carrier. Makelele for Chelsea, and Marquez for Barça. Should you get past those two, there are still some formidable chaps standing in your way.

It's not all about Ronaldinho and Robben, excellent though they both are. These two sides best characterise the new model football - where you don't make mistakes, but you pack your squad so full of quality that when the opposition does make them your own thoroughbred attackers move in for the kill. This is why I tentatively favour Barcelona's chances in the quarter-finals, because they are more accustomed to feeding on less free morsels than are a side like Chelsea. There is no team in La Liga who would have handed them a 4-0 win on the sort of broken plate that Norwich offered up to Chelsea.

La Liga takes its break next week, after a midweek league programme that has been squeezed in to ensure that the second half of the season doesn't get too jam-packed with fixtures. The spectacle then resumes on the weekend of January 9th. There'll be some great games, there'll be some poor games, and there'll be some in-between games, but the Spanish media will, thankfully, continue to present the product in those very terms.

As Dash says to his mother in The Incredibles; 'If you say that everybody's special, that's just a way of saying that nobody is'.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:02 PM
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Agree 100%! Spanish football is far superior to it's English counterpart!
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:07 PM
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An intresting factor of Spanish football is how the visiting teams always never seem to bring many fans.

It is usually the local supporters club for that team and that is about it.
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I've always been extremely disappointed at the number of Chelsea 'fans' from the Wallington/Carshalton/Sutton area. They have no place here. They are not wanted.

If they've suffered a bit of distress this weekend... good.

Please allow decent Palace fans like c_block_lad his moment of happiness. He's living on the front line, and doing a marvellous job.

Keep the striped flag flying high.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:21 PM
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I was talking about this the other night; regardless of whether Spanish football is of a higher quality, the premiership wins hands down as an overall product.

You can have all the technical football you want, the fact is that it is rather dull to watch. Give me high tempo, thud and blunder any day of the week.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by c_block_lad
An intresting factor of Spanish football is how the visiting teams always never seem to bring many fans.

It is usually the local supporters club for that team and that is about it.
Mainly due to the size of the country! Many people forget that compared to Spain we are tiny. Most matches are within a local vicinity e.g. 2 1/2 hours away, whereas in Spain pretty much every game is 5 hours or more away. Especially if you consider say Malaga or Betis playing away to Bilbao, Sociedad, Racing, Barcelona away which take in the region of 8-10 hours travel one way! Hence the reason outside of the top two divisions is split into regional leagues.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jay_Palace
I was talking about this the other night; regardless of whether Spanish football is of a higher quality, the premiership wins hands down as an overall product.

You can have all the technical football you want, the fact is that it is rather dull to watch. Give me high tempo, thud and blunder any day of the week.
Agreed 100%.

Who the hell wants to watch 2 highly disciplined defences snub out the attackers in a game with no mistakes.

Give me sending off's, dodgy pass backs, mass brawls, slide tackles in the mud...oh yeh the occasional wonder goal ala Ryan Giggs V Arsenal in the FA Cup.

The Premierleague is exciting. In La Liga & Serie A the players are so sh*t scared of making any mistakes that the games are invariably dull. Of course, this isn't a rule, but a general theme in these leagues.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Latvian Eagle
Mainly due to the size of the country! Many people forget that compared to Spain we are tiny. Most matches are within a local vicinity e.g. 2 1/2 hours away, whereas in Spain pretty much every game is 5 hours or more away. Especially if you consider say Malaga or Betis playing away to Bilbao, Sociedad, Racing, Barcelona away which take in the region of 8-10 hours travel one way! Hence the reason outside of the top two divisions is split into regional leagues.
Which is also why so much more emphasis is placed on local derby's.

...and also why television coverage of spanish games is far more comprehensive than in the UK.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:45 PM
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Originally posted by Barry

The Premierleague is exciting. In La Liga & Serie A the players are so sh*t scared of making any mistakes that the games are invariably dull. Of course, this isn't a rule, but a general theme in these leagues.
In the Serie A perhaps, but I don't remember Spanish football being based on that.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jay_Palace
I was talking about this the other night; regardless of whether Spanish football is of a higher quality, the premiership wins hands down as an overall product.

You can have all the technical football you want, the fact is that it is rather dull to watch. Give me high tempo, thud and blunder any day of the week.
And that attitude, which is highly prevalent in England, is the exact reason why our national side will continue to underachieve I'm afraid.
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:56 PM
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and also why television coverage of spanish games is far more comprehensive than in the UK.
What do you mean by this?
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Old 07-01-2005, 07:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by AndyStreet
And that attitude, which is highly prevalent in England, is the exact reason why our national side will continue to underachieve I'm afraid.
Well having a brilliantly technical league hasn't exactly helped Spain to do anything in world football lately, nor has it helped Italy for that matter
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Old 07-01-2005, 08:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by zonin2000
What do you mean by this?
You can watch any Spanish match live on pay per view television.

Because people can't and won't afford to travel around Spain to follow their team, there's been a greater reliance on television coverage.
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Old 07-01-2005, 08:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by AndyStreet
And that attitude, which is highly prevalent in England, is the exact reason why our national side will continue to underachieve I'm afraid.
Personally I could not give a feck about the national side.

English football I believe is now the most watched throughout the world. Hence why people in South Africa for example take more intrest in the Premiership than their own national league.

English football is world famous, for it's passion, it's support and it's rough and ready style of play, personally I would not change that.

For example take the 1st leg home play off game V Sunderland, I doubt you would that get some of game anywhere else in the world, it had a bit of everything.

I think Di Canio summed it up while when he said; "Italian supporters love to see their side win, British supporters love to see their side full stop".
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Originally posted by Jack Regan
I've always been extremely disappointed at the number of Chelsea 'fans' from the Wallington/Carshalton/Sutton area. They have no place here. They are not wanted.

If they've suffered a bit of distress this weekend... good.

Please allow decent Palace fans like c_block_lad his moment of happiness. He's living on the front line, and doing a marvellous job.

Keep the striped flag flying high.
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Old 07-01-2005, 08:03 PM
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Old 07-01-2005, 08:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jay_Palace
Well having a brilliantly technical league hasn't exactly helped Spain to do anything in world football lately, nor has it helped Italy for that matter
Calm down, it wasn't necessarily an indictment against your opinion.

All I'm saying is that the general antagonism in Britain towards technically accomplished football is one of the factors behind the underachievement of our national side over the last couple of years. Whilst you're right that Italy and Spain have underachieved over the last decade (although Italy did reach the Euro2000 final) the better indicator of the superior quality of their football comes from the number of times that UEFA Cup and Champions League winners have come from those two countries over the last 6 or so years.
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Old 07-01-2005, 08:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by AndyStreet
Calm down, it wasn't necessarily an indictment against your opinion.

All I'm saying is that the general antagonism in Britain towards technically accomplished football is one of the factors behind the underachievement of our national side over the last couple of years. Whilst you're right that Italy and Spain have underachieved over the last decade (although Italy did reach the Euro2000 final) the better indicator of the superior quality of their football comes from the number of times that UEFA Cup and Champions League winners have come from those two countries over the last 6 or so years.
I know, I see the point you're making.

The trouble is, I think that C block has hit the nail on the head by saying that many people couldn't give a toss about the national team and given the choice, would put their club above the national side.

I have no antagonism towards technical ability, however it cannot be denied that there is an over-reliance of the technical aspect of the game in Spain and Italy, often to the detrimemtn of the overall entertainment of the game.

In England we have the best of both worlds, some fantastic players who are worth the admission fee alone, coupled with passionate supporters and a high tempo agressive style in the premier league.

I personally wouldn't change it for anything.
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Old 07-01-2005, 09:52 PM
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I'm glad I can watch both leagues, though I think I preferred watching Palace last season to this. He makes some good points though, apart from the one about Johann Cruyff (I can't think of anyone with less reason to be modest).
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Old 07-01-2005, 10:10 PM
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I know, I see the point you're making.

The trouble is, I think that C block has hit the nail on the head by saying that many people couldn't give a toss about the national team and given the choice, would put their club above the national side.

I have no antagonism towards technical ability, however it cannot be denied that there is an over-reliance of the technical aspect of the game in Spain and Italy, often to the detrimemtn of the overall entertainment of the game.

In England we have the best of both worlds, some fantastic players who are worth the admission fee alone, coupled with passionate supporters and a high tempo agressive style in the premier league.

I personally wouldn't change it for anything.
There is an over-reliance on technical aspect? How on earth can there be over-emphasis on doing things properly? In your work place, are you expected to do things correctly or to make the task as "interesting" as possible by making the odd stupid mistake?

They are different animals, but when you talk about the quality of the game, which is surely the purest measure, Spanish and Italian football are still streets ahead.
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Old 07-01-2005, 10:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by CHE
There is an over-reliance on technical aspect? How on earth can there be over-emphasis on doing things properly? In your work place, are you expected to do things correctly or to make the task as "interesting" as possible by making the odd stupid mistake?

They are different animals, but when you talk about the quality of the game, which is surely the purest measure, Spanish and Italian football are still streets ahead.
Watch Serie A as a prime example of the teams playing an overly tactical and technical game; teams are more interested in moving the ball acorss the park, passing back to the keeper, passing to the full backs and so forth. Whenever a team gains posession, there is a real lack of urgency and spark in their play. When you contrast this to the premiership, teams focus on a high tempo and play with the main objective to score goals.

I get the impression that Italian teams would rather grind out a dour 1-0 win, than actually press forward and score several goals, albeit running the risk of conceding.

This is an observation of Serie A that I have formed and on that basis I don't class it in the same pedigree as the Premier league.

Spanish football is slightly different in that it does contain the better aspects of both Serie A and the Premiership. However I find La Liga, although technically better than our league, inferior to the Premiership in terms of all round quality and entertainment.
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Old 07-01-2005, 10:31 PM
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Definately have to agree with that article, apart from 4 or 5 teams the rest are pretty average.

The difference in technical ability between the top and bottom teams in the prem is far greater than in spain, I watch the odd spainish game and the bottom teams regularly seem to outplay the top teams, they keep the ball and look decent, in England its pure desperation and 11 men behind the ball most times
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