Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughA Treble Treble Could Be Trouble - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough A Treble Treble Could Be Trouble - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

A Treble Treble Could Be Trouble

 In football, just like any other walk of life, certain things go in and out of fashion. Bands, clothes, artists, styles all rise and fall as trends dictate. Some are mourned when they pass, others like the mullet are so earth-shatteringly awful they remain reviled to this day. Even worse, some manage to cling to life way after they should have died. There is no excuse for the mullet. Chris Waddle has so much to answer for.

  Even football tactics are vulnerable to becoming unfashionable. The World Cup saw the peak of the 4-2-3-1 pioneered by the likes of Rafa Benitez as Spain, Germany, Holland and others all made use of the formation. Yet less than a year later and 4-3-3 seems to have re-emerged as the default tactic of teams.

  One of the more disturbing trends in football has been the increased chances that winning the Champions League results in a treble. Six teams have now achieved the feat; Ajax, Barcelona, Celtic, Inter Milan, Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven. Celtic were the first to manage the feat way back in 1967 when the Lisbon Lions beat Inter Milan. In fact that Celtic side also won the Scottish League Cup, so technically they completed the quadruple but that’s by the by.

  Given that the European cup was started in 1956 and there have been six trebles completed since then, we could assume that the feat is so rare that it comes around just under once every decade. That every ten years or so, on average we should see a team that is so dominant that it manages to juggle the demands of domestic superiority, increased number of matches and lots of travelling without missing a beat. Yet since 1999 we’ve seen three teams manage to pull off a treble. Manchester United’s seat of the pants ride in ’99, Barcelona’s Golden Boys in 2009 and Mourinho’s Grande Inter the very next year. Even more disconcerting is that, while there is still a long way to go, there is the distinct possibility that the final this year will be between two teams both gunning for trebles. Last year both Bayern Munich and Inter Milan needed European glory for the treble, ensuring that the final would produce a treble either way and this year could see a repeat of that with both Manchester United and Barcelona still with a shot at another one.

  The problem is that what was once the preserve of the truly fantastic is now becoming devalued because it’s becoming the norm. The increasing regularity of the treble is a significant sign of how the elite are pulling away from the rest of football. When Clive Tyldesley shouted that Manchester United had entered The Promised Land in 1999 it was thought that Sir Alex Ferguson had managed something that would never be seen again in the lives of most United fans. Yet twelve years later he is only 12 games away from that exact feat. Pep Guardiola is going even further in mocking the specialness of the treble. Barcelona are almost certain for the La Liga title and therefore are only four games away from a second treble in three years, albeit three of those games are against arch rivals Real Madrid.

  It must be said that although it is almost impossible that nobody will ever repeat the feat of the Lisbon Lions by having every member of the team come from within a 30 mile radius of the city, both Manchester United and Barcelona’s treble-winning sides were built around an astonishing number of players who came through the respective youth systems of the club. The Fergie Fledglings of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Neville brothers were utterly integral to the side, ditto the La Masia graduates in 2009 such as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. And while they didn’t have a real core of youth players, Inter Milan’s spending that year was fuelled by the incredibly profitable sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona. Of course each of the sides spent large amounts of money, but none of the trebles were the direct result of cash alone. They were brought about by tactical, technical and market savvy on the part of Ferguson, Guadiola and Mourinho.

  Of course the increased number of trebles is a direct consequence of the fact that football is far more squad oriented than before. The days of Aston Villa winning the league with only 12 players are gone forever. Even Manchester United used relatively few players in the final months of the 1999 campaign. The ability of teams to change their entire starting XI from one game to the next and not drop points is huge in terms of challenging on multiple fronts.

  It’s not really going to change to football world if trebles become more common but the idea of something that was only available to the exceptionally brilliant teams who also enjoyed a fair slice of luck becoming devalued is rather sad. Winning the treble should be a crowning achievement of a phenomenal team rather than de rigueur.

  None of this is to suggest that Manchester United or Barcelona will not deserve their glory if they manage to complete a spectacular second treble. Indeed, the exact opposite is the intention. Neither side will get the recognition they deserve if it comes off because they are merely doing what has become normal. 

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