So Chelsea won the Champions League, and now we’ve all had a chance to get over it a little, let’s consider what that means. Is it better than winning the Premier League? Well, yeah, in some ways I guess it is. You are champions of the whole of Europe, not just of England. But is it harder to win than the Premier League? Not really. Because you don’t need to be the best team in it, you can be the seventh best, beat the eighth best in the quarters and then get a couple of lucky results and suddenly there’s John Terry pushing you out of the way for a photo. But everyone knows you need to be the best team in the League to win it, because that’s what league football decides.
The Champions’ League is a league in name only. Uefa have basically tried and failed to turn the old European Cup into a European Super League, even going as far as introducing a second group stage at one time. That proved too unwieldy, so it was soon scrapped, and as Arsène pointed out at the time, that turned it back into a cup competition. It now has exactly the same format as the World Cup finals, and I don’t hear anyone claiming that’s a league. All right, they only play each other once in the World Cup finals’ groups, but that’s a time issue and they’re on neutral ground anyway. Would France, World Cup winners in 1998 and European Champions in 2000, have been knocked out of the World Cup finals in 2002 quite so easily if it were a true league? A great team does not become a bad one that quickly, and the Fifa rankings, flawed as they may be in many ways, demonstrate this: France remained in the top two or three places solidly from 1998 to well after 2002, despite the catastrophe of Japan/Korea, when they went home having failed to score a goal.
The World Cup is usually, but not always, won by the best country in the world (1974 and 1978 being the most obvious years when it wasn’t). Is the Champions’ League usually won by the best team in Europe? I’d say it’s usually won by one of the best two or three, and almost always by one of the best four or five, but there are exceptions even to this. Cup competitions by their very nature allow the lesser lights to shine; hence Millwall, Portsmouth and Cardiff all reaching FA Cup finals in the last few years.
The top leagues in world football have evolved to have between 30 and 40 matches per season, because this is the minimum number required to decide who really is best. The best team doesn’t always win a particular match, but 30 or 40 matches will average out the luck much more effectively than a cup competition. Other sports may require more or fewer games to remove the element of fortune: the baseball season seems to be hundreds of games long, while American Football matches are won by the better team so often that 15 or 20 games is enough and extending the season beyond that would be a waste of everyone’s time.
So should we be bothered that Chelsea have won a cup? No. Who cares? Let them enjoy it. They’ll never be the Arsenal.
2/6: Nice to see so many Chelsea fans reading my blog and commenting. If the comments are purely abusive then I don’t bother posting them, so don’t waste your time. I don’t mind reasoned argument and different viewpoints. I don’t even mind completely illogical argument if it’s not abusive. I do mind terrible spelling and grammar, but I’m not going to bother correcting it for you and making you look cleverer than you are. By the way, you may like this as well, it’s all about Chelsea: http://wp.me/p1I44P-9d
Strangely, with all the Spurs piss-taking on this blog, their fans never turn up and comment. Maybe they can’t write.