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All Things Footie | Friday, October 4 | Jordan

Continental Drift

Seeing as I've said very little on the subject of English clubs in Europe this season I'll have my say. With the exception of Newcastle it's been a good trio of games so far for English clubs and the gradual shift in power away from Italy and Spain is becoming more and more noticeable. Liverpool won't be happy with their comprehensive defeat in Valencia or the draw with Basle but at a club where cynicism is an alien concept, the 5-0 drubbing of Spartak Moscow (however poor they were) will just about make up for it.

However reluctantly, I have to disagree with Sir Bobby Robson, who doesn't believe his Newcastle side have been overawed by the competition. With the exception of the Feyenoord game (which they still lost) Newcstle have looked in a different league to their other opposition — and not in the positive sense. Juventus toyed with them for 90 minutes at the Delle-Alpi on tuesday with Alessandro Del Piero in particularly sparkling form. I remember his visit to Higbury last season in a game Arsenal won comfortably 3-1, ‘Pinturicchio’ was still my man of the match.

Arsenal seem to have banished their away day demons. For so long dissapointing on the road in Europe, the 4-0 victory over Dutch Champions PSV was the perfect way for this remarkable team to achieve their first European away win in 15 months. Few would argue that one of the main factors in Arsenal's improvement is Arsène Wenger's shrewd aquisition of World Cup winner Gilberto Silva. The Brazillian has offered Arsenal a completely new dimension helping Vieira cover defensive duties and getting up and down the pitch with almost boundless energy.

He may not be making such an impact on the Premiership but Ruud Van Nistelrooy must love European football. 14 from 14 is his current United record and you really can't argue with that. I do look at the Champions League sometimes and think that for all the hype, a Saturday afternnon in Middlesbrough is a much harder task for a team than a Wednesday night in Cyprus.

Chelsea fans may argue with that though; Haipol Tel Aviv, St Gallen and now Viking Stavanger. Too many players looked like they couldn't be bothered, and what goes through Jesper Gronkjaer's head at times I do not know. At one point he was in the 18 yard box, through on goal with (I think) Hasselbaink waiting — on his own — for the centre, instead he tried to take on a player down the outside and runs it out for a goal kick.

As seems to happen each year since their foray into the Champions League, Leeds scraped through against a team no one's heard of and surely everyone (bar Norwich fans) will be cheering on Ipswich in the next round. If a Nationwide club can reach the quarter finals of the UEFA cup it would be incredible. I'm not sure whether it would say more about Ipswich or the state of Europe's struggling club competition though.

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