The European Cup week was of course overshadowed by the Carlos Tevez affair. Did he refuse to take the field for Manchester City in Munich as a substitute, as Roberto Mancini furiously believes, thus putting himself surely beyond the pale; and even beyond the light blue? Or were there as Tevez now insists mitigating circumstances, some kind of confusion, which resulted in Tevez being accused of mutiny, when he was actually innocent?
It is somewhat tempting to think that perhaps Tevez, having behaved as he did, or in his plea didn’t, is now prepared to recant and sue for peace.
It seems unlikely to be offered to him, yet the whole sad spectacle is not without its ironies and for those of us who believe that City’s inexhaustible spending backed by the infinite billions from Abu Dhabi, there is even a certain sense of justice.
Buy, buy, buy. Buy Dzeko, buy Silva and now buy Sergio Aguero; for another staggering fee. Meaning inevitably what might politely be called an embarrassment of riches. And at the same time seeing to it implicitly that rival clubs will be denied such costly talent.
In Munich however the mountain miserably parturated the mouse. For all their galaxy of stars, City were taken apart and only the supremely defiant goalkeeping of Hart, defiant behind a sloppy defence, prevented the defeat being still heavier.
There were those who wondered at Mancini’s surprising choice of Kolo Toure, only recently out of his suspension, at centre back to the exclusion of Lescott. It seemed to make little sense on the field where Toure’s lack of match practise was all too evident in a shaky defence.
Not that the attack and the midfield covered themselves with glory. Yet if Dzeko hadn’t thrown away that jewelled early chance, who knows how the game might have gone? Goals after all notoriously affect the psychological realities of football.
Mancini in the meantime, and not for the first time, seems lacking in psychological insight. One remembers all too well how he fell out with an attacker as gifted and effective as Craig Bellamy. Yes, a stormy petrel of the game but surely one who deserved more sympathetic treatment over training and tactics than he got from Mancini, who in due course cast him into outer darkness. Where Tevez, a stormier petrel still, seems likely to dwell for the foreseeable future. Good and healthy though to know that money isn’t everything. And perhaps City can console themselves that their eternal rivals United were so embarrassingly shown up in vapid defence against Basel.
Shades, I suppose, of that cruelly one-sided European Cup Final at Wembley against Barcelona who simply toyed with the United team. Winning 8-2 against a depleted Arsenal team is one quite limited thing. Failing so wretchedly to contain the double Frei attack of as unfashionable a team as Basel is quite another. How good is the supposed supreme Greed is Good League when push comes to shove?
At the Emirates, I watched Arsenal muddle their way through against an unfancied Olympiakos team which well deserved a draw and indeed would have got one had that late curling left footer from the enterprising Greek right back Vasilios Torosidis not bounced off the bar after curling over the Gunners’ young Polish keeper.
Arsenal went quickly ahead with a gloriously taken goal by the precocious £12 million right winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose pace, promise and self confidence suggest a remarkable future. Treading in the footsteps of his father, an England outside right of notable speed and skill.
But the cruel loss of Jack Wilshere for five months, on top of the departures of Nasri and the irreplaceable Cesc Fabregas, have left inevitable gaps in crucial midfield areas. Perhaps had Robin Van Persie played more than twenty odd minutes things might have been different. As it was Olympiakos were unlucky to lose.
Two goals, one from the spot, for the 21-year-old Ghanaian international Andre Ayew, plus a third from Remy and Marseille, under wise Didier Deschamps, surely provided the greatest surprise of the round with their trouncing of Borussia Dortmund. The Ayew brothers, the scorer 21, his sibling only 20, give this Marseille team a lively menace in attack. They must now be favourites to win a group in which Dortmund were expected to be dominant.
And Arsenal? Second place would doubtless suit them and, given the relative good fortune they’ve had in their two opening games – a shaky draw in Dortmund, a flattering win over Olympiakos, perhaps fortune will favour them. Vermaelen’s return could make a substantial difference.