By Tony Attwood
You don’t need me to tell you that football is out of control. It has been obvious for years, but now some fans are finding ways to express their anger.
The Daily Mail’s headline “Ipswich Town forced to suspend training after supporters start a FIRE at club’s training ground during protests against under-pressure boss Paul Lambert” shows just how bad this has got.
But their second piece: “Barcelona fans set off fireworks in front of PSG hotel to try and stop Mauricio Pochettino’s side from sleeping ahead of their Champions League encounter” reminds us that although things have got more extreme, football has been left to drift for decades.
I can remember that Barcelona incident happened to Arsenal in Turkey many years ago, but of course nothing was done because, well, nothing is ever done. And we can see why when that Ipswich Town story isn’t even the lead football story in the Mail. Instead it is “CHRIS SUTTON: Liverpool look fragile”.
A sense of proportion is not there. Liverpool might be a much bigger club than Ipswich but I would say that in a sane world arson is a bigger story than than how a team is performing.
Of course the social media death threats are there as well, but no one is considering the point that if such matters never made the news, they would be unlikely to happen so often. Of course if Facebook and Twitter did something about them, they would be unlikely to happen so often either.
But let’s move on and somehow try and think of football rather than the world around it, and even though there’s a couple of days before the game, let’s contemplate Benfica, our Thursday opponents.
In the past 11 years Benfica have been Benfica, as they have been for years, having won the league six times and come second in the league five times and picked up eight domestic cups. And they have twice been runners up in the Europa League.
Which makes the Portuguese league at the moment look a bit odd…
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Ten points off the top is not their normal position. And the recent results have not been showing much of an upturn with two wins and four draws in the last six, Benfica having scored five and conceded four. Which suggests we can be expecting a lot of defending on their part.
Only twice this year have they scored more than one goal in a game – a 2-0 win over Tondela on 8 January and a win by the same score against Famalicão on 8 February.
One hint as to what has been going wrong is that in 2019/20 they took in €240 from selling players, spending €64 million in return, which might well have paid off some of their debts but not helped them up the league. For this season they have spent more than they received but not by that much.
Of course buying players isn’t the automatic way to rise up the league, but selling much of your team all at one go is often a way to slip down the league – and the biggest departure was Rúben Dias to Manchester City.
I think what has unsettled the team even further is the fact that in the season before that (2018/19) the same happened again with €73.28m worth of players leaving the club and €27.21m being spent. Good economics, but maybe that is the cause of the slippage.
In the Champions League qualifying stages they lost to PAOK 2-1 and so dropped into the Europa, where in the qualifying group they came second…
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