By Tony Attwood
There is a sponsored article being advertised on one or two newspaper sites which tells the tale of the richest players who have played in the Premier League. These sponsored pieces are generally not very exciting – the whole point is to get you on the site in order to sell something or get the clicks up, but they can be amusing because of the writers’ desperate desire to be very bland.
Here’s an example on Alexis Sanchez…
“Sanchez signed to Arsenal in 2014 and quickly became one of the club’s star players. He escorted Arsenal to victory numerous time. His transfer to Manchester United in 2018 (swapped for Henrikh Mkhitaryan) took many by surprise. But from the look of his first reason in a Manchester United jersey, you can be sure Sanchez’s star will only continue to rise.”
Well yes, he has scored two goals for Manchester United this season, compared with 24 in the league in his last full season with Arsenal. Maybe that is a rise.
Other players associated with Arsenal in the rich list are Walcott, Fabregas, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Ozil, Lacazette and Clichy. But perhaps it is the piece on Ashley Cole that intrigues the most…
“British defender Ashley Cole is one of the sport’s most beloved players across the globe.”
Would you describe Cole that way? Would anyone apart from someone who was told to “keep it as bland as you possibly can”?
Quite why these guys don’t want to hire writers who know a little about football and how to write is quite beyond me.
Anyway moving on to other news, there is a plan (again) to transform the Champions League so that some games are played at the weekend, it is bigger, and some teams are guaranteed a place. This is in fact pretty much what we have already seen, but it has returned in new guise and as ever the PL clubs are quoted as saying they will “vigorously defend” their League. Which they would do, because the PL is the league with all the money. If the Champions League dominates then the Premier League is the one that will lose out.
And the journalists are getting all worked up too just as they did last time this came up a few months ago.
Apparently since the breakaway plan of earlier this season was set up, Uefa itself been looking at making changes to club football to ensure that it keeps a grip on the game, and that there is no independent breakaway (which in fact is what the Premier League was when it started).
One plan is to have the Champions League based on four groups of eight teams with qualification based on past performances – meaning that the bottom teams could be relegated back to their domestic league.
“The structures of domestic football are determined by leagues and their respective national associations. We will now work with the FA and other leagues to ensure that European football bodies understand the importance of this, and their obligation to maintain the health and sustainability of domestic league football.”
However there are persistent stories that the European Club Association under Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli will meet Uefa in May to discuss the idea.
And one can understand Juve’s desire for change. Juventus win the league in Italy year after year (they are currently 18 points clear at the top this season) and crowds can diminish because of the utter predictability of game. Elsewhere, although Bayern might not win in Germany this year (they are two points behind Dortmund in second place) there is little doubt that they will spend what it takes to regain their place next season, and for the next five after that probably as they have done in the past. Likewise in France no one is going to challenge PSG; they are currently 20 points clear at the top.
So the interests of the Premier League as a whole do not coincide with that of the top teams in other countries. Spain has three top teams – the fourth team in the league is 17 points above the relegation places but 23 points behind the leaders. Hardly a balanced league.
The PL is unique in having six teams who can seriously challenge but even here the sixth team before this weekend’s games are 21 points behind the leaders – but they are 33 points above relegation. There is more strength in the middle.
However if the rest of Europe starts to draw up plans for an enlarged Champs League and the PL says “no” – will that stop it? I suspect that is as likely as Ashley Cole being one of the most beloved players across the globe.
I’ve just discovered another box of copies of the book “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” in our store room, having previously said it was out of print. So both this book and “Making the Arsenal” are now available as printed books, and on Kindle. Please see here for more details.