Bayern Munich have sealed the Bundesliga title with seven games to go after another commanding season, dropping just four points. It’s the quickest title to have been claimed in Europe and they are still on course for the DFB Pokal and are the favourites to retain their title as the Champions of Europe. With this in mind, is this the strongest team Europe has ever seen or are their other teams who can claim that they too have had their moments of domination.
They are no longer a stern power in Ligue 1 but Lyon were the undisputed favourites not so long ago. From 2002 to 2008, Lyon recorded seven successive league titles. Admittedly the first few titles were closely contested but in 2006 the club captured the title with a 15 point margin and the following season increased that to 17. Much of their success through the noughties was due to the array of stars they had at their disposal. Karim Benzema, Florent Malouda, Michael Essien, Jeremy Toulalan and Juninho combined during these years, making ‘The Boys’ the only real power in France. Their winning streak came to an end in 2009 when Bordeaux claimed their first title in 10 years. Now Olympic Lyonnais are fifth, hoping to challenge for a Champions League spot whilst Paris St Germain look to retain their title.
A lot has been said about the Gunners’ lack of trophies over the past nine years but the North Londoners are the only team in England to have gone a whole season unbeaten. In 2003, Chelsea were taken over by Roman Abramovich and bolstered their squad with an £100 million investment. Manchester United had just lost David Beckham to Real Madrid but brought in some firepower of their own in the form of the Dutch striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy. Arsenal only made one addition, bringing in Jens Lehmann in goal as they kept their squad very much the same. In the cup competitions, Arsenal struggled, getting knocked out in the quarter finals of the Champions League and the semi-finals of the FA Cup. However, in the league, Wenger’s men would go on to be known as the ‘Invincibles’. After 38 games, Arsenal recorded 26 wins and 12 draws picking up a total of 90 points which was the joint highest league total, as they took the title by 11 points. Unlike now, Arsenal got stronger as the season wore on, with players such as Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira leading Arsene’s armada to victory.
Since Pep Guardiola’s revolution at the Nou Camp, Barcelona have become the biggest power in world football. The Spaniard took over the Catalan club in 2008 after coaching the B team for a year. After flogging off the dead wood, in particularly Deco, Ronaldinho and Eto’o, Pep went on to bring in some fresh young talent which included the likes of Dani Alves and Pique at the start as he built from the back. Later he would go on to add Mascherano, Adriano and Sanchez in the following season as he created a team that suddenly became unstoppable. During his spell there, he won three La Liga’s, two Copa Del Rey’s, two Champions League’s, one UEFA Super cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2011. It’s the most impressive managerial stint seen in the modern game and this made Pep the hottest property on the managerial market. The tactics he enforced made Barcelona incredibly hard to beat. Plenty of possession and the exerting pressure off the ball combined with plenty of stamina made the Spanish giants unbearable to play against and some of this style still remains with the team now.
Pep has been at the Allianz for just over a year and has already won a league title and looks on course to complete the treble for the second consecutive year for Bayern. His style of play has taken shape in Germany and under his leadership, the team has yet to lose in the league. At the back, the team have Manuel Neuer between the sticks a long with Dante and Boateng in front. In front of them there is a vast selection of German options including Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Muller and Gotze. There most influential players are situated on the wings with Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery controlling the flanks – the best partnership of wingers in the world, arguably ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. They have already started planning for the future with Robert Lewandowski making his arrival from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
It’s hard to determine which team would be considered the most dangerous of sides. Some clubs can control their league standings for years but aren’t spectacular where as some have the most outstanding season but are unable to maintain this following on to this. Bayern look to have this like Barcelona have but the German side were already in control before Pep’s arrival after winning the treble with Jupp Heynckes. Germany and Spain’s youth system has allowed both Munich and Barca to establish a firm grounding which will allow them to stay at the top for years to come and with both clubs continuing to collect great amounts of revenue, there’s no telling when this will end.
Post by Richard Waterhouse