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Blog by: Onenildown Twooneup

Is 13 Unlucky for you Daniel?

Arsenal social media is full of panic as we approach the deadline day and ahead of that, the North London derby, with Arsenal proudly boasting two new free transfers and our rivals the 4th biggest net spenders currently in Europe.

Yesterday, the spending continued when they broke their transfer record for the 3rd time this window.

I thought we could have a bit of fun today on the eve of the first North London Derby of 2012/13.

The media wet their collective knickers with excitement at the plethora of stellar incomings at the Lane this summer. At the same time, they are laughing into their collective pint glasses at the lack of activity at the Emirates.

Well, whilst we fans sit and collectively worry at what exactly Wenger and the Arsenal have planned for the next few days, let’s look back at the last 12 false dawns since ENIC arrived in Seven Sisters and super businessman Daniel Levy took the helm of the good ship Totteringham.

Simple facts suggest that this heavy outspending of Arsenal and the mass arrival of big names, who went on to under-deliver, is not a new North London trend!


Premiership False Dawn Number 1 2001/2

Arrivals included Dean Richards (RIP), Casey Keller, Christian Ziege and Goran Bunjevcevic (Who?).

Net Spend £8 million – 50 points, position 9th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Kolo, Gio and Sol (From a feeder club).

Net Spend £10 million – 87 points , Champions


Premiership False Dawn Number 2 – 2002/3

Arrivals included Robbie Keane, Helder Postiga and Jamie Redknapp.

Net Spend £13 million – 50 points, position 10th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Pascal Cygan and Gilberto.

Net Spend £6 million – 87 points, Runners Up


Premiership False Dawn Number 3 – 2003/4

Arrivals included Defoe, Paul Robinson, Michael Brown, Freddie Kanoute and Bobby Zamora.

Net Spend £14million – 45 points, position 14th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Lehmann, Reyes, Clichy ad Fabregas.

Net Spend £10 million – 90 points, Champions and Invincible


Premiership False Dawn Number 4 – 2004/5

Arrivals included Michael Dawson, Andy Reid, Pedro Mendes, and Michael Carrick.

Net Spend £11.5 million – 52 points, position 9th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Eboue, Flamini (1st time) and Almunia.

Net Spend £1.6 million – 83 points, Runners Up


Premiership False Dawn Number 5 – 2005/6

Arrivals included Berbatov, Jenas, Murphy, Davids, Huddlestone, Cerny, Lennon, Ghaly and more.

Net Spend £17.5million – 65 points, position 5th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Rosicky, Walcott, Adebayor, Hleb and Diaby.

Net Spend £10 million – 67 points, position 4th


Premiership False Dawn Number 6 – 2006/7

Arrivals included Bent, Bale, Chimbomba, Zokora, Mido, Malbranque and more.

Net Spend £23.8 million – 60 points, position 5th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Eduardo, Song, Gallas and Denilson.

Net Spend of MINUS £34 million – 68 points, position 4th


Premiership False Dawn Number 7 – 2007/8

Arrivals included Modric, Hutton, Woodgate, Boateng and Giovani.

Net Spend £17.5million – 46 points, position 11th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Ramsey, Nasri, Sagna and Diarra.

Net Spend £13 million – 83 points,  position 3th


Premiership False Dawn Number 8 – 2008/9

Arrivals included Gomes, Keane again, Chimbomba again, Pavlyuchenko, Bentley, and Defoe again!

Net Spend £19.4 million – 51 points, position 8th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Arshavin and Silvestre.

Net Spend of MINUS £3.5 million – 72 points, position 4th


Premiership False Dawn Number 9 – 2009/10

Arrivals included Bassong, Crouch, Krancjar, and Kaboul again.

Net Spend of Minus £1million –70 points, position 4th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Vermaelen and Sol Campbell again.

Net Spend of MINUS £31 million – 75 points, position 3rd


Premiership False Dawn Number 10 – 2010/11

Arrivals included Van de Vaart, Gallas, and Pienaar.

Net Spend of £17.5 million –62 points, position 5th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Koscielney, Chamakh and Squillaci.

Net Spend of £6.8 million – 68 points, position 4rd


Premiership False Dawn Number 11 – 2011/12

Arrivals included Parker and Friedel.

Net Spend of MINUS £27 million – 69 points, position 4th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Mertesacker, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and Jenkinson.

Net Spend of MINUS £17 million – 70 points, position 3rd


Premiership False Dawn Number 12 – 2012/13

Arrivals included Vertonghen, Adebayor, Dembele, Dempsey, Sigurdsson, Lorris and Holtby.

Net Spend of Minus £1.3 million –72 points, position 5th

Arsenal

Arrivals included Giroud, Cazorla, Poldolski and Monreal.

Net Spend of £8.6million – 73 points, position 4th


So Gunners, I think we can say with some certainty based on the above evidence, we have been here before. Daniel ‘Wheeler dealer’ Levy and his numerous changing managers have so far presided over a grand total of 12 false dawns, so let’s wait a tad longer once more for St Totteringham’s Day 2014.

Our squad is thin, but it is battle-hardened for this league and is demonstrating a collective spirit not seen since 2008 in my view.

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Blog by: Anirudh
Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea - UEFA Super Cup

BAYERN MUNICH

Manuel Neuer – 6

Could not get near Torres’ eighth minute strike but helped create Bayern’s equaliser with quick throw out of defence. Culpable for allowing Hazard’s shot to go under him but then saved Lukaku’s penalty.

Rafinha – 5

Selected at right-back largely due to Bayern’s midfield injuries as Lahm pushed forward. Was turned by Hazard for Chelsea’s goal and offered limited support going forward to Robben.

Jerome Boateng – 6

A spectator for long periods but did then struggle whenever Chelsea poured forward on the counter-attack. Had particular difficulty picking up Hazard’s runs inside.

Dante – 6

Strong and imposing in the air but less convincing when Chelsea attacked quickly on the floor. Guilty of dropping too deep and providing Torres with too much space for his goal but scored his penalty.

David Alaba – 5

Generally provides one of Bayern’s main attacking options but was neutralised by the pace of Schurrle. Was beaten by him both for the goal and an excellent second-half chance for Chelsea.

Philipp Lahm – 8

Began in an unfamiliar holding midfield role. Went close with a first-half volley that was saved by Cech and improved after moving to full-back. Excellent penalty.

Arjen Robben – 6

Caused early problems for Cole with his pace and incisive passing. Bayern should really have scored when he brilliantly split the defence during the first-half for Muller.

Thomas Muller – 6

Was a persistent threat behind Mandzukic. Dissected Chelsea’s defence in the first-half for Ribery and had an excellent chance of his own that was blocked by Cahill.

Toni Kroos – 7

Asked to play a slightly deeper role than usual in the absence of both Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez but was disciplined in ensuring that Bayern were so dominant in possession and scored his penalty.

Franck Ribery – 8

Named European Player of the Year on Thursday night and was always Bayern’s main threat. Had five clear chances during the first-half but less wasteful at the start of the second-half to finish powerfully past Cech and also score in the shoot-out.

Mario Mandzukic – 6

Offered only an occasional threat himself but still so important for the way he links Bayern’s play. Frequently also dropped into wide positions and was denied by a series of Cech saves in extra time

SUBS

Javi Martinez (for Rafinha, 56 minutes) – 8

Provided Bayern with added balance and drive. Forced wonderful extra-time save from Cech before scoring dramatic equaliser.

Mario Gotze (for Thomas Muller, 71 minutes) – 5

Bayern’s star summer signing from Borussia Dortmund but was largely frustrated by Chelsea’s rearguard action.

Xherdan Shaqiri (for Arjen Robben, 95 minutes) – 7

Provided an injection of energy and quality. Was also calm and precise with his penalty Chelsea.

CHELSEA

Petr Cech – 9

Made a wonderful fingertip save from Ribery during the first-half and then produced a string of magnificent saves in extra time but was unable to stop any of Bayern’s five penalties.

Branislav Ivanovic – 6

Struggled defensively with the movement of Ribery, especially as Madzukic also regularly drifted to the right. Hit the bar with a powerful header from a second-half corner.

David Luiz – 7

Selected ahead of John Terry for the added defensive mobility that he provides. Made a series of important blocks and forced an excellent second-half save from Neuer. Also emphatic with his penalty.

Gary Cahill – 8

Continued his hugely impressive start to the season. Made a brilliant first-half intervention to deny Muller and was also largely responsible for negating the threat of Mandzukic for long periods.

Ashley Cole – 6

Had an especially difficult first-half against Robben but did improve and increasingly contain his former team-mate. Unable to get forward and offer any real attacking threat but scored his penalty.

Ramires – 5

Struggled to make any impact in possession but did work tirelessly in front of Chelsea four defenders to break up Bayern’s attacks before being sent off for a second yellow card.

Frank Lampard – 6

Also struggled to impose himself in central midfield as Chelsea spent most of the match chasing the ball and trying to restrict Bayern. Did break forward occasionally and was emphatic with his penalty.

Andre Schurrle – 7

Preferred to Juan Mata for his pace and vindicated that selection totally. Provided the cross for Torres’s goal and caused continuous problems down the left for Alaba as Chelsea played on the counter-attack.

Oscar – 8

Asked to play behind Torres but was most impressive for his workrate and willingness to track back. Wasted an excellent second-half chance, however, after dwelling excessively on the ball.

Fernando Torres – 7

Took just eight minutes to respond to the signing of Samuel Eto’o with a brilliant finish past Neuer. Worked hard and always dangerous but did struggle to link the play as Chelsea repeatedly lost possession.

SUBS

John-Obi Mikel (for Andre Schurrle, 87 minutes) – 5

Brought on following the dismissal of Ramires but was unable to relieve the pressure.

Romelu Lukaku (for Fernando Torres, 97 minutes) – 5

Blog by: Ani
Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea - UEFA Super Cup

Bayern Munich exacted their revenge on Chelsea for their 2012 Champions League finals defeat with a tense victory on penalties in the UEFA Super Cup in Prague.

In a repeat of their dramatic final in Munich 15 months ago, the two sides needed spot kicks to separate them but it wasn’t to be for the 10-man Blues on this occasion, despite leading twice, including in extra-time.

Substitute Romelu Lukaku was the only man to miss as his final penalty of the night in Prague was saved by Manuel Neuer.

Chelsea took an early lead through Fernando Torres before Franck Ribery equalised in the second half.

But despite seeing Ramires sent off just before the end of the 90 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s side went in front again in the opening stages of extra time with an Eden Hazard strike.

The Blues looked to have held on for a 2-1 victory but were pegged back at the death through Javi Martinez.

The European champions made the more positive start in the opening stages and Franck Ribery had a chance to test Petr Cech after seven minutes, but dragged his shot well wide of the Czech’s goal.

It was Mourinho’s side who drew first blood through none other than Torres – giving the perfect riposte to being omitted from the Spain squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers – who rifled home a superb finish a minute later.

Hazard made a powerful run through the midfield, feeding a wide pass to Andre Schurrle and the German’s pinpoint cross was met with a fearsome shot from Torres, leaving Neuer with little chance.

In a style not dissimilar to Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, Bayern enjoyed the bulk of possession but Chelsea, with the pace of Hazard and Oscar, always looked a threat on the break and nearly caught the Bundesliga champions out a second time, but Torres’ effort dipped over the crossbar.

A neat Bayern move drew a fine save from Cech, as Ribery angled a low shot towards the bottom corner, but Guardiola’s side continued to press in search of an equaliser.

But it was again Torres – exuding a much more confident figure up front – who had a chance to extend the Blues’ lead, after the Spaniard collected a Schurrle cross before firing a sharp shot on the turn over Neuer’s goal.

For all Bayern’s first-half possession, they were often limited to long-range efforts or half-chances by the hard working Chelsea defence, although Gary Cahill was called upon to make an impressive block to send Thomas Muller’s shot into the side-netting.

The match continued with the same pace after half-time – and it took just two minutes for Bayern to find the equaliser.

Ribery – who looked dangerous throughout – skipped inside Ramires before unleashing a thunderbolt to beat Cech from 20 yards, but the goalkeeper will feel as if he could have done better at his near post.

For all Bayern’s attacking threat, they were nearly masters of their own downfall when Schurrle stole the ball from Dante in the left-back position and squared to an unmarked Oscar, but Neuer was alert to save the Brazilian’s shot with his feet, before Frank Lampard fired narrowly over from distance.

But the chance seemed to spark Chelsea into life and, after a superbly timed tackle from Ashley Cole to deny Muller a shooting opportunity, the Blues pushed forward and had efforts from Hazard and Oscar as they took a stronger hold of the game.

Branislav Ivanovic, whose header sealed the Europa League title in May, rattled the crossbar as he towered above the Bayern defence from a corner.

David Luiz nearly won the game for Mourinho’s side, but Neuer’s outstretched hand kept the ball out at point-blank range.

Chelsea were reduced to 10 when Ramires was shown a red card, after referee Jonas Eriksson deemed his challenge on Mario Gotze worthy of a second yellow with five minutes remaining.

But Hazard put the Blues back in front within minutes of extra time getting underway, as he danced his way around the Bayern back-line before unleashing a shot which beat Neuer all too easily.

Cech was forced to make two saves in quick succession from Mario Mandzukic and Martinez in the second half of extra time, before Cahill again made a timely challenge in his own six-yard box to deny Shaqiri.

And the Chelsea stopper was again called into action as he beat away a Ribery free-kick, but just when it looked as though the Blues had done enough, Martinez found a way through with the last kick of extra time to take another European final between the two sides to penalties.

It was all-square until the final kick, despite Ashley Cole seeing his effort going in off the inside of the post and Cech getting a hand to Xherdan Shaqiri’s spot kick, but youngster Lukaku saw his effort comfortably saved by Neuer to hand the trophy to Guardiola’s Bayern.

Blog by: Ayush
UEFA Champions League Play-Off Draw

The world’s richest club competition, the UEFA Champions League, is back, with the group stage draws set to happen in a couple of days’ time. German club Bayern Munich won the trophy last season, and will be one of the favourites again to reclaim the crown, but will be challenged by other big clubs all around Europe.

However, a question that sometimes goes unanswered is how the 32 teams participating in the UEFA Champions League chosen. Which are the teams that participate in the playoffs before the group stages?

With the UEFA Champions League draw to take place on Thursday, click the next few pages to get a lowdown on how the competition works:

UEFA Country coefficient

Why does the English Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga have four teams playing in the UEFA Champions League, when the Serie A has only three?

That is all decided by UEFA’s country coefficient, which is calculated by the performances of the country’s club sides in European competitions. Each country is given points each season based on how clubs from the country perform in the Champions League and Europa League, and their points tally over a phase of 5 years are added to give their total score.

Since the English and Spanish teams have done well in the last half a decade, they rank high in this coefficient table, and are allowed four teams in the UEFA Champions League, and three in the UEFA Europa League.

With the decline of AC Milan and Inter Milan, the Serie A have not been very consistent in Europe in recent years. That is why they fall behind. On the other hand, due to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s success last term, the Germans have a high number for the 2012-13 season.

To see how the points are calculated, you can check the UEFA website.

Direct qualifiers

Again, a country’s coefficient decides how many direct qualifiers they get from its league.

The teams who occupy the top three league places in the countries ranked 1 to 3 in UEFA competition gain automatic entry into the group stages for the following season’s Champions League competition.

The first and second placed teams in the countries ranked 4 to 6 also gain automatic entry, while the champions in the countries ranked 7 to 12 enter the group stages directly.

The Champions League holders automatically qualify as well.

Here are the 22 teams that have qualified directly this season:

The other 10 teams are chosen via three stages of qualifiers, divided into the Champions Route and the League Route.

The Champions Route is played by the champions of the countries ranked 14 to 53 in the UEFA country coefficient. 5 teams get selected to the Champions League group stages.

The League Route is played by the teams who are not automatic qualifiers from each of the countries. 5 teams get selected from here to the Champions League group stages.

UEFA Club coefficient

Just like the country coefficient, clubs also have a coefficient that help them in the seedings. This coefficient is calculated based on their performances in the last 5 years. Therefore, despite Bayern Munich’s Champions League victory last season, Barcelona are ahead of the Bundesliga club.

It is because of this that Manchester City will be behind Arsenal in the seedings, even though they qualified directly and Arsenal have had to go through qualifiers. Arsenal, because of their good performances in the Champions League in recent seasons, will go straight into Pot 1.

Inter Milan’s ranking is expected to drop this year as they will not be participating in the Champions League. Therefore, they might fall out of the first pot by next season.

Champions League matchdays

The Champions League will have 6 matchdays for the group stages, and two-legged knockout rounds for the round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals. The final will be a one-off match in a neutral venue, with the location of this season’s final the Estadio da Luz.

Group stage draw: August 29, 2013.

Group stage matchday 1: September 17-18, 2013.
Group stage matchday 2: October 1-2, 2013.
Group stage matchday 3: October 22-23, 2013.
Group stage matchday 4: November 5-6, 2013.
Group stage matchday 5: November 26-27, 2013.
Group stage matchday 6: December 10-11, 2013.

Round of 16 draw: December 13, 2013.

Quarterfinal draw: March 21, 2014.

Semifinal and final draw: April 11, 2014.

Blog by: Digant

FBL-ENG-PR-CRYSTAL PALACE-TOTTENHAM

Roberto Soldado scored twice as Tottenham beat Dinamo Tbilisi 5-0 in Georgia. (Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur all but booked their place in the Europa League group stage as they demolished a poor Dinamo Tbilisi to take a 5-0 lead to White Hart Lane for the second leg. Roberto Soldado scored a second half brace as he continued his impressive start.

Goals from Andros Townsend and Paulinho had given Tottenham a two goal lead at half-time. Soldado’s brace sandwiched Danny Rose’s wonderful goal, struck from the edge of the Dinamo box.

Swansea put five past Petrolul Ploiesti as they won 5-1 at home as. The Swans got off to a bright start as a Wayne Routledge brace and a Michu goal put them three goals up inside 25 minutes.

Ploiesti goalkeeper Peterson Pecanhan then scored an own goal as he put Wilfried Bony’s shot into his own goal. Alejandro Pozuelo then chipped in with a goal to make it 5-0 before Gheorge Grozav grabbed a consolation late on for the Romanian side.

Sevilla scored three second half goals and Marko Marin, on loan from Chelsea, grabbed a brace as they beat Slask Wroclaw 4-1 at home. Slask had Dudu sent off in the 55th minute when the score was 1-1 and Sevilla scored twice in the last five minutes and made themselves overwhelming favourites to advance to the group stage.

Fiorentina will take a 2-1 lead over Grasshoppers to Florence next week as an early Juan Guillermo Cuadrado goal and a Stephane Grichting own goal in the 46th minute gave them a two goal lead. Grasshoppers pulled one back through Anatole N’Gamukol two give them hope of upsetting Fiorentina next week.

Liberec won 3-1 away at Udinese to put them well on course to pull off a surprise win. Two second half goals allowed the Czech side to take control of the tie ahead of the second leg next week.

The rest of the results are as follows:

Aktobe 2-3 Dynamo Kyiv

Jablonec 1-2 Real Betis

Karabakh Azersun 0-2 Eintracht Frankfurt

Kuban Krasnodar 1-0 Feyenoord

Atromitos 1-3 AZ Alkmaar

Maccabi Haifa 2-0 Astra Ploiesti

Minsk 0-2 Standard Liege

Esbjerg 4-3 St Etienne

Molde 0-2 Rubin Kazan

Nomme Kalju 1-3 Dnipro

SV Salzburg 5-0 Zalgiris Vilnius

St Gallen 1-1 Spartak Moscow

Kukesi 0-2 Trabzonspor

Apollon Limassol 2-0 Nice

Elfsborg 1-1 Nordsjaelland

FH Hafnarfjordur 0-2 Genk

Pandurii Targu 0-1 Braga

Tromso 2-1 Besiktas

Chornomorets Odessa 1-0 Skenderbeu

Partizan Belgrade 1-0 Thun

Rijeka 2-1 VfB Stuttgart

Vojvodina 1-1 Sheriff Tiraspol

Zulte-Waregem 1-1 Apoel Nicosia

Rapid Vienna 1-0 Dila Gorii

Tottenham Hotspur v Espanyol - Pre Season Friendly

Roberto Soldado

The transfer window is often riled for being the arena of greedy players and greedier agents, with parent clubs often receiving the shorter end of the stick.

But say what you will about the window, it’s often what gets football fans going past the the terribly morbid and sleep-inducing close season. And as the case in modern football is, a club’s performance in the transfer window will either make or break its season.

Every season, a team is required to ‘refresh’ its squad to keep up with the others, and it is a vicious circle, to be fair. But till such time as each and every team on the planet decides to exercise a season of transfer celibacy, their performance within the market will determine their season off it.

Case in point: Manchester City. The 2011/2012 was initially characterised by a flurry of transfer activity, with the likes of Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero being drafted in. The season was wrapped up with Aguero running shirtless celebrating his last minute winner against Queens Park Rangers, which ensured the Premier League ribbon would for the first time be shorn with sky blue ribbons.

The scene at the end of last season was much different, with Manchester United winning the title with an 11-point lead and five games to spare, owing to the goalscoring exploits of their marquee signing, Robin Van Persie. This window, of all the clubs competing for the top-four of the EPL last season, Tottenham Hotspur have shone the most brightly.

Make no mistake, City have conducted some excellent business, and are in an enviable position, having signed some of the most sought-after players in the world. And yet, it is Villas-Boas’ Tottenham who have silently carried out the best business in the league, and arguably some of the best work of the whole window by far.

Their first signing was Confederations Cup Bronze Ball-winner, Paulinho, signed from Corinthians for £17m. A bargain, taking his age and ability into consideration. That was just the lifting of the floodgates though, as Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, and Etienne Capoue the newest players to be added to the Spurs roster.

Of all these Premier League newcomers, Soldado is arguably the most well-known, and sure to be the most important of the lot. Signed from Valencia CF for a club record £26m, Soldado is probably Spain’s best striker – the woes of David Villa and Fernando Torres being well documented – and made a positive impression at the Confederations Cup. Couple that with his prolific goal-scoring record for Valencia – 80 goals in 146 appearances – and what Tottenham have is one of the world’s most reliable strikers to head their front-line, and to provide a much needed alternative to the oft misfiring Adebayor and Defoe.

Villas-Boas has now bolstered the squad enough to deal with the rigours of a thirty-eight game League season, and also provided Tottenham with a buffer in the event Bale leaves for greener pastures.

The entire Gareth Bale saga has provided Villas-Boas and Sporting Director Franco Baldini with plenty of migraines as well, but Chairman Daniel Levy is known for his innate ability to play transfer hardball and squeeze every last penny out of the suitor club’s pockets.

Levy and Baldini are under no obligation to sell Gareth Bale, with the Welshman having signed a new four-year contract last July. Whether Bale stays or leaves, Tottenham are set to win heavily, with Levy adamant he will not sell the player for any amount less than £100m, which would eclipse the world record amount Real Madrid themselves paid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.

If Bale stays, then Spurs have held on to their most prized asset for at least another entire season, and will be quietly confident of being able to qualify for the hallowed Champions League. If that hypothesis does prove true, then Bale can be convinced to extend his career at White Hart Lane and challenge for silverware, while plying his trade in first class European competition.

However, if the flying Welshman were to be flying elsewhere, the club would have the best part of £100m to spend in the transfer market, which would then mean that a Bale replacement could very well be found, and more.

Tottenham have for long been known as supremely prudent, and consequently successful in wheeling/dealing in the market, buying players for (close to) nothing, developing them into world-class players, and then moving them on at their peaks or later for gut-wrenchingly high prices.

The 2013/14 season has begun in similar fashion for Tottenham, with Chadli, Capoue, and Paulinho being relatively unknown and under-valued entities, who are sure to prosper at the club in the near future. Roberto Soldado has been the eye-catching signing, and is an assured goal-scorer who will thrive on the service from players like Lennon, Dembele, Paulinho, Sigurddson, Holtby and the rest who are of several notches higher quality than the crop at his previous club Valencia.

He made his unofficial Tottenham debut against Sevilla yesterday, and though the game only ended 1-1, Soldado scored his team’s only goal from the penalty spot. Paulinho and Chadli made their debuts too, and showed extremely positive signs for the upcoming season, with Chadli’s pace causing reminiscences of Bale. The season has begun with plenty of positives for the club already.

Now to infinity and beyond, riding on Bale’s pace or not.

Faisal Chishti

Benfica

Europa League Final - SL Benfica v Chelsea FC

Artur (5/10): Lack of decision-making and bad positioning ruined Artur’s game.

Luisao (5/10): His lack of pace was exposed as Torres was seen moving past him a couple of times.

Ezequiel Garay (6/10): Looked good in possession but didn’t look as comfortable in defence as his team would have wanted.

L. Melgarejo (6/10): The Paraguayan played with full conviction at the back.

Toto Salvio (6/10): Gave his team some good chances but not that great in front of the goal.

Nicolas Gaitan (6/10): The Chelsea defenders couldn’t do much to stop him but he didn’t shoot at goal enough.

Rodrigo (6/10): The Brazilian wasn’t up to the mark and was replaced in the second half.

Nemanja Matic (7/10): The Serb put forward an impressive performance and linked up well with Gaitan and Salvio.

Andre Almeida (6/10): Almeida linked up well with the midfielders in the first hour, but didn’t trouble Chelsea defensively.

Enzo Perez (7/10): It was Perez’s pace and brilliant runs that left Chelsea on the back foot in midfield.

O Cardozo (7/10): Linked up well with the midfielders and took the chance to score from the spot well.

Substitutes:

Lima (5/10): Lima replaced Rodrigo in the second-half with 25 minutes left on the clock but failed to make much of an impact.

Ola John (6/10): He came on for Melgarejo in the 66th minute and showed some signs nice touches with the ball.

Jardel Nivaldo Vieira (6/10): The Brazilian replaced Garay and looked good at the back. However, he was slightly guilty for Ivanovic’s header.

Chelsea

SL Benfica v Chelsea FC - UEFA Europa League Final

Petr Cech (8/10): The Blues’ keeper was his usual solid self throughout the 90 minutes.

Ashley Cole (6/10): He looked good in defence but struggled a little when compared to other defenders.

Branislav Ivanovic (9/10): Ivanovic was at his best in the heart of the Chelsea defence and it was his brilliant header that led to Chelsea’s win.

David Luiz (6/10): The Brazilian had a quiet night against his former side and needlessly gave the ball away many times.

Gary Cahill (7/10): Didn’t look confident enough in the first-half but improved as the game went on. Made a crucial tackle in the dying minutes of the game.

Cesar Azpilicueta (6/10): The Spaniard looked good throughout but made some bad tackles, and conceded the handball which caused the penalty.

Ramires (5/10): He didn’t play up to his mark in midfield and was caught offside far too many times.

Juan Mata (7/10): Mata was good as always in the heart of Chelsea midfield and always looked to create chances for his side.

Fernando Torres (7/10): Torres scored the opening goal for Chelsea, which was also his sixth goal in his last six Europa league games.

Oscar (6/10): The Brazilian forward failed to showcase his abilities but showed some flashes of brilliance.

Frank Lampard (7/10): Lampard was unlucky to hit the post from 30 yards, and he handled possession sensibly whenever he had the ball.