Football: Raising Our Game: How British Clubs Negotiated the Learning Curve of the Champions' League and How Next Season's Contenders Might Fare

By Hayes, Alex | The Independent (London, England), May 13, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Football: Raising Our Game: How British Clubs Negotiated the Learning Curve of the Champions' League and How Next Season's Contenders Might Fare


Hayes, Alex, The Independent (London, England)


MAN UNITED

Taking stock: How the 2000-01 campaign unfoldedDisappointing campaign - by their high, post-1999 standards. Caught between two tactical stools. After last year's attacking policy failed, too defensive-minded this time.

Pitfalls and pratfalls: Banana skins to be avoided next timeUnited conceded 13 goals in the 14 matches they played, a much higher proportion than the 26 they have let in during the 37 matches of the Premiership campaign so far.

Good signs, bad signs: Prospects for 2001-02Mature enough these days to progress from the group stages, but Ferguson's men need to rediscover that extra gear when they reach the serious stuff of the knock-out stage.

Ace for the pack: Dream buy and an in-your-dreams buy?Lilian Thuram is viewed as the perfect partner for Jaap Stam in central defence, with Wes Brown at right-back for now. The man to take them on to a new plane, though, is Zinedine Zidane (pictured).

ARSENAL

Taking stock: How the 2000-01 campaign unfoldedThank God for Fortress Highbury. Although they made it to the quarter-finals, some of the away performances - Spartak Moscow and Bayern - left a lot to be desired.

Pitfalls and pratfalls: Banana skins to be avoided next timeThe Gunners are still finding their Champions' League feet, particularly on their travels. It is that inability to perform with gusto abroad which has cost them dear.

Good signs, bad signs: Prospects for 2001-02Need to buy big to do better than this year. Clubs from other, supposedly weaker, nations are getting stronger and qualifying for the latter stages will be tougher than ever.

Ace for the pack: Dream buy and an in-your-dreams buy?Emmanuel Petit would surely be welcomed back with open arms (and open cheque- book?). Alessandro Del Piero (pictured) of Juventus could link midfield and attack a la Bergkamp of old.

LEEDS UNITED

Taking stock: How the 2000-01 campaign unfoldedThe semi-final appearance surprised everybody - not just David O'Leary. Leeds' babes can be proud of their educational, and financially rewarding, first season with the big boys.

Pitfalls and pratfalls: Banana skins to be avoided next timeIn the end, all the things that O'Leary complained about all season - particularly tiredness and lack of experience - did prevent Leeds from reaching the final.

Good signs, bad signs: Prospects for 2001-02Unlikely to be at the top table again next year (they are currently fourth in the League), but should be stronger at home and could also go one better in the weaker Uefa Cup.

Ace for the pack: Dream buy and an in-your-dreams buy?Steve McManaman could offer width on the left, allowing Harry Kewell to move inside. Need an older head in defence alongside Rio Ferdinand. How about his England Sol brother, Campbell (pictured)?

CELTIC

Taking stock: How the 2000-01 campaign unfoldedHave swept all aside in Scotland. Now for the pinnacle of Europe. Can Martin O'Neill's side carry their form forward to emulate the 1967 winners and finalists of 1970?

Pitfalls and pratfalls: Banana skins to be avoided next timePlayed in the Uefa Cup and missed a number of excellent chances in defeat by Bordeaux. That lack of ruthlessness and European know- how let them down.

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