With their European fate all but sealed, Arsenal entered Sunday’s match with Wes Brom with an air of failure ripe in the air.
Crashed out of the FA Cup fairly early on, a humiliating exit to Manchester City in the League Cup and a humbling defeat from former-manager Unai Emery, it’s no real surprise that Arsenal fans want this season over and done with.
This would seem to be the ideal time for Mikel Arteta to start shaking things up a little bit, try some youngsters out and stop giving game time to those on loan. However, while the absence of Folarian Balogun and Miguel Azeez were offset against the continued selection of both Dani Ceballos and Willian, there were still some bright choices in the selection. Bukayo Saka was returned to left-back, Emile Smith Rowe was given an unencumbered look at a central creative role and Gabriel Martinelli was started as the lone-forward.
Arsenal started off fairly slowly. West Brom had the majority of possession and continued to create chances as they continued their fight for Premier League survival.
It therefore came as a hammer blow to the Baggies as Arsenal took the lead throigh a stunning goal from Emile Smith Rowe. A brilliant ball down the line from Willian was met by Bukayo Saka, who’s quick cross into the box was volleyed home in superb fashion by Smith Rowe for his first-ever Premier League goal.
West Brom seemed to accept their fate from there as Nicolas Pépé sprung forth barely six minutes later, cut onto his left-foot in Arjen Robben-like fashion and curled an unstoppable effort into the far corner to double the home-side’s advantage.
Half-time seemed to give West Brom new life however, with Sam Allardyce clearly reminding the players that relegation met anything other than a win that night. A brilliant and mazy run from Matheus Pereira gave West Brom a lifeline and led to some nervy moments from Arsenal, with former-Gunner Kyle Bartley reportedly shouting to his teammates “Come on boys, one goal and they’ll shit themselves!”
Thankfully, Arsenal did no such thing and despite some nervy moments, Arsenal kept control of the game well. West Brom’s fate was sealed when Willian stepped up to curl home his first-ever Arsenal goal from a free-kick in his 37th apperance for the club(!).
It was a decent win for Arsenal all things considered and was probably a good sign for Arsenal’s continued (albeit unlikely) push for a Europa League place next season.
The questions were still there though, why was this performance not replicated a few days ago against Villarreal? Why was it that Dani Ceballos was only able to provide this kind of performance against relegation fodder and why has it taken Willian so long to score a goal?
Questions that will likely never have a definitive answer to them any time soon and questions that most likely stay long dormant into next season as a summer of upheaval beckons.
Arsenal team: 1.) Bernd Leno 21.) Calum Chambers 16.) Rob Holding 6.) Gabriel Magalhães 7.) Bukayo Saka 25.) Mohamed Elneny 8.) Dani Ceballos (Partey 76’) 12.) Willian 32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Tierney 63’) 19.) Nicolas Pépé 35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Lacazette 60’)
Arsenal subs: 13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson 2.) Héctor Bellerín 17.) Cédric Soares 3.) Kieran Tierney 18.) Thomas Partey 11.) Martin Ødegaard 14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 30.) Eddie Nketiah 9.) Alexandre Lacazette
West Bromwich Albion subs: 25.) David Button 45.) Taylor Gardner-Hickman 22.) Lee Peltier 49.) Caleb Taylor 27.) Dara O’Shea 8.) Jake Livermore 11.) Grady Diangana 29.) Karlan Grant 4.) Hal Robson-Kanu
The last chance Arsenal had of achieving European football next season has evaporated after the team slumped to a 0-0 home draw to Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
It was a disappointing tie for Arsenal, who seemed to treat the first-half of football as an exercise in fear. Too scared to get forward and work the shaky Gerónimo Rulli, Arsenal seemed to be offering a sense of what playing the new Resident Evil Village will be like, rather than what a game of football should be like.
In fairness, Arsenal came close on a few occasions, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting the post twice and Emile Smith Rowe’s cute little chip just glancing past the post in the second-half.
Other than that, Arsenal were utterly bereft of ideas. At a time when the team needed their best players to show up, they seemed to recoil. Héctor Bellerín was once again average at best and terrible at worst, Thomas Partey seemed to be on a different planet, Martin Ødegaard seemed totally uninterested and Alexandre Lacazette was completley isolated.
The game management of Mikel Arteta once again seemed to expose the manager’s total lack of game management experience. Bellerín was hooked off with four minutes to go rather than forty-five, Gabriel Martinelli wasn’t started from the get-go and was then brought on too late to have a meaningful impact and the hapless and totally useless Willian was thrown on for reasons probably best kept to himself.
It was a total masterclass in cluelessness. Mikel Arteta and co. have spoken at length about Arsenal needing to be daring in the transfer market this summer, but it begs the question of who would even want to join this mess of an Arsenal side?
The team looks highly unlikely to qualify even for the qualifying rounds of the Europa League, they are likely to be hit with a pretty huge fine from UEFA for their part in the proposed European Super League, which will likely have a further impact on signings and available funds and it also begs the question of who on earth would want to buy these players?
Unless there are some serious changes in the team’s tactics moving forward, Arsenal look dead in the water and their match against Villarreal was just a microcosm of that.
Arsenal team: 1.) Bernd Leno 2.) Héctor Bellerín (Nketiah 91’) 16.) Rob Holding 22.) Pablo Marí 3.) Kieran Tierney (Willian 80’) 18.) Thomas Partey 32.) Emile Smith Rowe 7.) Bukayo Saka 11.) Martin Ødegaard (Martinelli 66’) 19.) Nicolas Pépé 14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Lacazette 80’)
Arsenal subs: 33.) Maty Ryan 53.) Arthur Okonkwo 6.) Gabriel Magalhães 21.) Calum Chambers 17.) Cédric Soares 25.) Mohamed Elneny 12.) Willian 24.) Reiss Nelson 35.) Gabriel Martinelli 9.) Alexandre Lacazette 30.) Eddie Nketiah
Villarreal team: 13.) Gerónimo Rulli 2.) Mario Gaspar 3.) Raúl Albiol (c) 4.) Pau Torres 24.) Alfonso Pedraza (Moreno 91’) 11.) Samuel Chukwueze (Pino ’30 (Moi Gómez 91′)) 19.) Francis Coquelin 5.) Dani Parejo 14.) Manuel Trigueros 7.) Gerard Moreno 17.) Paco Alcácer (Bacca 72′)
Villarreal subs: 1.) Sergio Asenjo 21.) Jaume Costa 6.) Ramiro Funes Mori 20.) Rubén Peña 15.) Pervis Estupiñán 18.) Alberto Moreno 30.) Yeremi Pino 32.) Álex Baena 23.) Moi Gómez 34.) Fer Niño 9.) Carlos Bacca 12.) Dani Raba
Heading into Sunday’s game against Newcastle, it’s clear to see where Mikel Arteta’s priorities are at the moment. After naming a fairly understrengthed side against Fulham, it seems Mikel Arteta has once again placed all his eggs in the Europa League basket.
The team saw a number of key changes to the side, including Maty Ryan once again displacing Bernd Leno.
Arsenal started off well, creating chances and giving Newcastle plenty to be concerned about. Usually, in these instances, Arsenal start well and create plenty and then slump to an early and entirely preventable goal, but this was not the case this time around.
Clever work from David Luiz to find Héctor Bellerín meant that the Spaniard could easily pick out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the middle of the park, only for the Gabon captain to inexplicably miss the chance. It made no difference though as Mohamed Elneny was on hand to smash the ball home from outside the box to mark his first-ever Premier League goal.
It was a well-worked goal that would have likely been even better had the initial chance converted. Arsenal continued to create but never really tested Martin Dúbravka very much, but for a speculative effort from Granit Xhaka, which nevertheless forced the Slovakian goalkeeper into action.
The second-half saw more of the same. Newcastle seemed utterly uninterested and Arsenal never really needed to push out of second gear.
It wasn’t before long that Arsenal added their inevitable second. Good work on the left-hand side from Gabriel Martinelli allowed him to fizz a tantalising ball across the box and this time Aubameyang made no mistake with an acrobatic effort making its way into the back of the net to double Arsenal’s tally and round-off the scoring.
The rest of the game passed without incident, until the dying embers of the match, when Newcastle defender and former teammate of Mohamed Elneny, Fabian Schär needlessly threw himself into a tackle from behind on Gabriel Martinelli, ensuring that Mike Dean didn’t end a game without brandishing a red card.
It was a stupid, needless tackle and seemed to sum up the home side’s performance on the day.
Many have said that it was a stunning performance from Arsenal, but that feels like hyperbole. That’s not to say that Arsenal played badly, because they didn’t, but it did feel like Arsenal never really got out of second-gear and didn’t need to. Newcastle were so lethargic and so uninterested in the match that it was surprising that the even found their way onto the pitch.
In terms of performances, it was a good day for Mohamed Elneny. Though the midfielder is often maligned for his lack of ingenuity or his propensity to play the ball sideways or backwards, the Egyptian was virtually unplayable against Newcastle and his importance to the team was noticeable in the club’s recent Open Mic YouTube video.
It was yet another bravura performance from young Gabriel Martinelli as well. His assist for Aubameyang’s goal was simply stunning and a sign of just how talented Martinelli really is and it seems essential that the Brazilian simply must start against Villarreal on Thursday.
Thursday beckons now for what will be a season-defining game. Is Arsenal’s European fate sealed or are they about to bring off an unprecedented comeback against Europe’s perennial Europa League specialist who will be out for blood at his old stomping ground?
Arsenal team: 33.) Maty Ryan 2.) Héctor Bellerín 23.) David Luiz (Chambers 53’) 6.) Gabriel Magalhães 34.) Granit Xhaka 25.) Mohamed Elneny 8.) Dani Ceballos 12.) Willian 11.) Martin Ødegaard (Partey 85’) 35.) Gabriel Martinelli 14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Pépé 78’)
Arsenal subs: 1.) Bernd Leno 22.) Pablo Marí 21.) Calum Chambers 17.) Cédric Soares 18.) Thomas Partey 32.) Emile Smith Rowe 7.) Bukayo Saka 19.) Nicolas Pépé 30.) Eddie Nketiah
Newcastle United team: 1.) Martin Dúbravka 23.) Jacob Murphy 18.) Federico Fernández (Schär 72’ 🔴) 2.) Ciaran Clark (Gayle 84’) 3.) Paul Dummett 11.) Matt Ritchie 36.) Sean Longstaff 8.) Jonjo Shelvey (c) 24.) Miguel Almirón (Joelinton 73’) 10.) Allan Saint-Maximin 13.) Callum Wilson
Newcastle United subs: 29.) Mark Gillespie 17.) Emil Krafth 5.) Fabian Schär 15.) Jamal Lewis 57.) Elliot Anderson 16.) Jeff Hendrick 4.) Matty Longstaff 9.) Joelinton 12.) Dwight Gayle
The Europa League seems to represent the last possible chance for Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League next season, and barring some miraculous upturn in form in the league, any European competition at all.
The chance to see former manager Unai Emery in the dugout will likely have piqued most people’s interest, but the sideshow was to take a back seat as Arsenal looked to push forward.
In reality, Arsenal couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start if they had tried. The same lackadaisical defending that so often permeated in Emery’s days at the club were once again exposed.
Granit Xhaka, deputising at left-back, had been relatively untested in the position, but Villarreal began to attack with real gusto. Xhaka pointed to teammate Dani Ceballos to pick up Manuel Trigueros, who found himself free in the box, only for Ceballos to totally ignore the instruction and stare in horror as Trigueros fired a stunning effort into the bottom corner.
A nightmare start that could be easily rectified if Arsenal just kept their heads. But then again, this is Arsenal we’re talking about, a team that doesn’t “keep their heads” and roughly 24 minutes later, poor defending from a corner led to Villarreal doubling their advantage. No one picking up the back-post and the same shambolic defending that had been shown up earlier was again exposed as former Real Madrid defender Raúl Albiol turned in an unencumbered effort.
Nicolas Pépé was brought down for a penalty, but VAR turned the decision over after a handball in the build-up.
Half-time could not come soon enough, with Villarreal looking like they were going to score with every single attack.
The second-half saw a drastic improvement in performance from Arsenal, who began to create more chances and began to keep the ball more. Anyone who saw Arsenal under Emery, knew that his Villarreal side were due the same fate.
But before Arsenal could do much more, their situation went from bad to worse as Dani Ceballos, already on a yellow card, was given a second (somewhat harsh) booking and was dismissed from the field of play. Though former Tottenham and Watford midfielder Étienne Capoue met the same fate later in the game, it was of small comfort, especially when Ceballos should have been withdrawn much earlier.
Bukayo Saka burst into the penalty area and was tripped by goalscorer Manuel Trigueros, to hand Arsenal a lifeline. VAR checked the decision and was upheld, and Pépé, Arsenal’s only bright spot on the night calmly dispatched his penalty. Arsenal fans who were dreading a reverse of the Juan Román Riquelme situation from 2006 were spared that particular indignity.
Arsenal had a chance to draw level in the dying embers of the match as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot was blocked by Gerónimo Rulli, though the Gabonese hitman had slipped as he shot, which likely didn’t help matters.
The final whistle would have been welcome for both managers, who will leave the Estadio de la Cerámica feeling their team should have done more.
The performance of Dani Ceballos once again sent Arsenal fans into a frenzy as the Spaniard once again cost Arsenal a European tie. His poor marking, terrible zonal play, inability to make basic passes and his subsequent yellow card pretty much made the minds of Mikel Arteta and Edu up that the Spaniard will not be back at Arsenal next season.
His performance was arguably one of the worst, but the decision to keep him on was yet another baffling one. Arteta has met criticism in recent weeks for leaving his substitutions far too late and his game management was again under scrutiny here. Though Arteta told CBS reporter James Benge that he was “planning to take Dani off“, it was still bafflinf that such a poor performance in the first-half hadn’t brought about his removal earlier still.
Emery, for all his faults, knew when to change things and when the tactics weren’t working and was not averse to making halftime subs (as was also shown on Thursday night).
The performance falls squarely on Arteta. It felt, once again, that the Spaniard was too smart for his own good. Poor selection in the draw at home to Fulham, had very much been his downfall and Thursday was no different.
Seeming to take heart from Pep Guardiola’s constant “revolving false-nine” tactic, Arteta decided to start the game without a recognised forward, meaning that Emile Smith Rowe started through the middle, and Nicolas Pépé, the obvious choice, was shunted out wide.
Yet another baffling tactic was why Arteta refused to pick Gabriel Martinelli. Martin Ødegaard having just come back from injury seemed like a poor suit to Arsenal’s gameplan, who needed a far more frenetic press. Though the Norwegian is no stranger to a high press when needed, having only just come back rom injury, he seemed to be a risk not worth taking.
Arsenal have been granted an impossible lifeline in the tie now, but they will need to perform much better than this if they are to stand a chance of reaching the final and given the blistering form of Manchester United on Thursday night and the likelihood of them reaching the final, Arsenal will not hold up if indeed they reach there.
Arsenal team: 1.) Bernd Leno 21.) Calum Chambers 16.) Rob Holding (c) 22.) Pablo Marí 34.) Granit Xhaka 18.) Thomas Party 8.) Dani Ceballos 🔴 7.) Bukayo Saka (Aubameyang 85’) 11.) Martin Ødegaard (Martinelli 63’) 19.) Nicolas Pépé (Willian 95’) 32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Elneny 95’)
Arsenal subs: 33.) Maty Ryan 53.) Arthut Okonkwo 23.) David Luiz 6.) Gabriel Magalhães 2.) Héctor Bellerín 17.) Cédric Soares 25.) Mohamed Elneny 12.) Willian 24.) Reiss Nelson 14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 35.) Gabriel Martinelli 30.) Eddie Nketiah
Villarreal subs: 1.) Sergio Asenjo 2.) Mario Gaspar 21.) Jaume Costa 6.) Ramiro Funes Mori 15.) Pervis Estupiñán 18.) Alberto Moreno 30.) Yeremi Pino 19.) Francis Coquelin 32.) Álex Baena 23.) Moi Gómez 34.) Fer Niño 9.) Carlos Bacca
Arsenal have ended months of scrutiny by finally tying down talented youngster Folarian Balogun onto a new four-year contract.
While the main talk this week has been around Arsenal’s controversial place in the supposed European Super League, the New York born forward’s contract has been something of an albatross around the Gunners’ necks this season, with increasing pressure being exerted on Mikel Arteta and Edu to get the talented teen signed up to a new deal, with as many as 15 clubs reported to have offered contracts to the player, with Arsenal’s not even being the highest.
We have been extremely impressed with Flo this season. He has continually shown his natural ability in many training sessions with us and we have been equally impressed with his early integration into the first-team squad on matchdays. He has given us glimpses with the performances and of course with his two goals already for the first team. The hard work starts here for Flo and we are all looking forward to supporting and working with him in the years to come.”
Mikel Arteta on Balogun’s new contract.
Balogun was subject to a bid from Sheffield United in the summer, however, Arsenal were reportedly holding out for no lower than £15m, a fee that United were unwilling to pay.
The decision for Balogun to renew his contract with Arsenal is a welcome yet surprising one. Not only are Arsenal currently sat in 10th place in the league table, but Balogun has also found first-team opportunities thin on the ground.
Despite having seemed to hit the ground running with two goals in Arsenal’s group-stage Europa League matches away at both Dundalk and Molde, the striker has yet to feature in the Premier League and has struggled to force his way into the side.
The lack of game time that Balogun has been receiving was initially thought to be a major stumbling block for Balogun and his agents, however, his path to first-team action next season seems a lot clearer with Mikel Arteta providing the forward with further game time guarantees and with Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette likely to be leaving in the summer.
Balogun’s contract status had meant that a number of clubs, both domestically and abroad had been keeping tabs on Balogun and had made several attempts to sign the player. Domestically, Crystal Palace, Everton and Manchester City were all reported to have made contact with the player, while RB Leipzig were keeping close tabs on the player.
However, Bayer Leverkusen looked the most likely to snap Balogun up, with a formal pre-contract offer being tabled by the club.
It has always been Balogun’s intentions to remain at Arsenal, the club he has been at since he was eight-years old and no doubt the continued faith shown in youngsters like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe by manager Mikel Arteta has played a part in Balogun’s decision.
For Arteta’s part, the Spaniard has always been clear in his desire for Balogun to remain at the club and has always been outwardly confident of keeping the player.
While many have pointed to Arteta’s seeming unwillingness to play Balogun in the league, it is not entirely crazy to see why Arteta has not handed Balogun much in the way of game time.
Arsenal’s precarious league position, yo-yoing form and a tendency to switch off in the latter stages of a match has produced an environment in which the manager is unlikely to want to throw a young player into.
There is also the issue that Balogun had not yet signed a new contract either, which further complicated issues. Arteta was unwilling to hand game-time to a player who had not committed his future to the club long-term.
It seems more likely that Balogun will see a larger role in the Arsenal squad next season, but Arsenal and Arsenal fans will be relieved to know that the issue is now dealt with and there is no chance of a repeat of the same situation that saw Serge Gnabry leave for Werder Bremen amidst a shroud of controversy.
In the wake of the demolition of the European Super League, an extremely awkward fan’s forum in which Josh Kroenke managed to fit his foot and a large portion of his lower leg into his mouth, all before a crunch semi-final match against Unai Emery’s Villarreal, Arsenal fans likely just want this season over and done with.
The backdrop of Arsenal’s Premier League tie with Everton on Friday was set against the backdrop of a large-scale fan protest outside the Emirates Stadium, protesting Stan Kroenke’s continued ownership.
However, on the field, Mikel Arteta and his team needed to put the off-field drama to one side and focus on the football.
And, for all intents and purposes, Arsenal did just that. They started their game well with a couple of quick chances created, followed by long spells of possession. It perhaps speaks to how dull the first-half of football was at the Emirates Stadium, that the fan protests and the humorous signs being displayed on Twitter were far more entertaining things to be looking at rather than the football.
Though Arsenal were comfortably in charge in the first half and were perhaps the more likely of the two to score, a much better second-half was needed and Arsenal seemed to respond to that idea.
A more fluid attacking performance seemed to befit Arsenal’s gameplan and soon enough, Arsenal found themselves handed a penalty, which Nicolas Pépé confidently stepped up to take.
However, yet more VAR controversy met Arsenal. Following Dani Ceballos’ opening-goal being disallowed the previous Sunday, yet more VAR controversy followed. Ceballos was fouled in the penalty area and a penalty was given. A quick VAR review deemed that Ceballos was indeed fouled in the box, however, an offside was shown earlier in the build-up, which led to the decision being overruled.
We’re talking mere fractions here, fractions that have come to define Arsenal’s disappointingly poor season. As if the mere infinitesimal molecule of Pépé’s arm being offside in the build-up were hard to swallow, Everton’s first and only goal of the match was even worse.
Granit Xhaka overcommitted himself as Richarlison ran through and his somewhat tame cross was seemingly comfortably dealt with by Bernd Leno, only for the German goalkeeper to slip it through his own legs and arms and into the back of the net.
It was a major blow for Arsenal and the remaining twenty or so minutes were excruciatingly hard to watch.
The final whistle rang out and while the fans outside were protesting an absent and poor owner, had they been inside the stadium, they would no-doubt have booed.
The off-field drama may serve as a suitable shield for Arteta and his men for now, but questions still need to be asked.
It was an unfortunate day at the office for the usually excellent Bernd Leno. Leno was unceremoniously dropped from the starting XI for Maty Ryan last Sunday and the move seems to have robbed Leno of a little confidence as a result. Though this was hopefully a mere blip for the goalkeeper, it was a tremendously catastrophic error.
VAR once again was centre of the controversy and Mikel Arteta made his feelings known after the match.
This has been building up. Enough is enough. Today I have had enough, we’ve had many of them that nobody explains. It affects a lot of people, our job and most importantly our football club.
A furious Mikel Arteta post-match
The injustice of the decision still standing and the FA’s inconsistent application of the system has people furious with how the game is being treated. Clear and obvious errors seem to be scrapped for offsides where the rules are constantly changing. Pépé’s arm was offside, slightly, however, given that Pépé is unable to score with his arm, the decision feels harsh and very out of line with the line that the FA have been putting out every week.
Arteta’s game management once again comes under fire as the Spaniard continues to leave his substitutions until far too late in the game. Attacking changes of Ødegaard and Martinelli were not made until the 74th minute and the usual groan-inducing introduction of flop Willian in the 83rd minute was also too late.
All in all, it was yet another poor showing in the league from Arsenal, who now face a trip to a familiar face in Unai Emery, who will be eager to shoot his former club down.
Arsenal team: 1.) Bernd Leno 21.) Calum Chambers (Willian 83’) 16.) Rob Holding (c) 22.) Pablo Marí 34.) Granit Xhaka 18.) Thomas Partey 8.) Dani Ceballos 7.) Bukayo Saka 32.) Emile Smith Rowe 19.) Nicolas Pépé (Ødegaard 74’) 30.) Eddie Nketiah (Martinelli 74’)
Arsenal subs: 33.) Maty Ryan 6.) Gabriel Magalhães 17.) Cédric Soares 2.) Héctor Bellerín 25.) Mohamed Elneny 12.) Willian 11.) Martin Ødegaard 24.) Reiss Nelson 35.) Gabriel Martinelli
Everton team: 1.) Jordan Pickford 23.) Séamus Coleman 22.) Ben Godfrey 4.) Mason Holgate 12.) Lucas Digne 6.) Allan 21.) André Gomes (Delph 66’) 7.) Richarlison (Mina 89’) 19.) James Rodríguez (Davies 86’) 10.) Gylfi Sigurðsson 9.) Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Everton subs: 33.) Robin Olsen 13.) Yerry Mina 18.) Niels Nkounkou 8.) Fabian Delph 20.) Bernard 26.) Tom Davies 17.) Alex Iwobi 34.) Nathan Broadhead 11.) Joshua King
Just before the news that shocked the football world to its very core, Arsenal were due to strut their ever-increasingly unimpressive stuff at home to Fulham Athletic.
The team that Mikel Arteta named was drastically different than everyone had been expecting, especially after Arsenal’s recent 0-4 win over Slavia Prague. Bernd Leno, Calum Chambers, Pablo Marí, Thomas Partey and Nicolas Pépé were all unceremoniously dropped in favour of some of the more fringe players to give them some game time.
Given Arsenal’s upcoming match against Everton on Friday night and the crunch Europa League semi-final tie with Villarreal the following Thursday, the tactical strategy made sense.
The game started fairly well for Arsenal, with plenty of chances being created. Though Arsenal failed to actually put any in the back of the net, there was plenty that happened to give Arsenal confidence moving forward.
Finally, Arsenal seemed to break the deadlock! An expert cross from the right flank from Héctor Bellerín was met expertly by Dani Ceballos to grab his first-ever Premier League goal, only for the goal to be disappointingly ruled out by VAR. It seemed to be the thinest of margins and Arsenal had every right to enter half-time a little hard done by.
However, Arsenal never really seemed to recover. Fulham found their way back into the game and a somewhat soft penalty courtesy of summer signing Gabriel Magalhães was expertly dispatched by Josh Maja to give Fulham the lead.
Arsenal struggled to create from there. The constant misplacing of passing was a frustratingly prevalent feature of the team’s play and the injury sustained by Alexandre Lacazette did very little to lighten the mood.
Despite their posturing, Arsenal were simply unable to draw level, despite several good chances. Eventually, in the dying embers of the match, Arsenal had a corner.
It’s always comical whenever goalkeepers venture upfield for corners and this was no different as Maty Ryan pushed upfield, however, when his header produced a desperate scramble in the box for a shot to be parried into Eddie Nketiah’s path for the equaliser, no one was laughing then.
The final whistle blew out on a disappointed Scott Parker and no doubt embarrassed Mikel Arteta.
While the post-match press conference featured for some awkward questions about a European Super League that Arteta had very clearly not been briefed about beforehand, the performance seemed to fall at Arteta’s door.
The team selection seemed arrogantly self-assured and seemed to do nothing for the team’s fortunes. Maty Ryan gave a good account of himself once more, but why on earth Bernd Leno was ever dropped from the starting eleven remains to be seen. Another poor performance from Héctor Bellerín did not justify the decision to drop Calum Chambers and Gabriel Magalhães’ penalty incident seemed to leave questions as to whyPablo Marí was dropped as well.
While it can be argued that focus is being reserved for more important matches, this was an equally essential game to win as well! Two points dropped at home to a relegation candidate will not go down well in the cold light of day.
Mohamed Elneny’s performance seemed to be a reversion to type from the Egyptian as well. Capable of stunningly heartful and energetic performances one week and then back to plain and rigid mediocrity for the next six, it’s difficult for Arsenal fans to not lose patience with the midfielder, for whom every pass seems to go sideways or backwards and who was seen constantly demanding the ball from teammates despite his poor positioning.
The substitutions that Arteta introduced were equally disappointing as the Spaniard again left things far too late in the game. Though the subs themselves had a good impact, Arsenal fans were again left stunned that such changes had taken so long to impliment.
Arsenal team: 33.) Maty Ryan 2.) Héctor Bellerín (Pépé 68′) 16.) Rob Holding 6.) Gabriel Magalhães 34.) Granit Xhaka 25.) Mohamed Elneny (Partey 68′) 8.) Dani Ceballos 7.) Bukayo Saka 32.) Emile Smith Rowe 35.) Gabriel Martinelli 9.) Alexandre Lacazette (Nketiah 70′)
Arsenal subs: 1.) Bernd Leno 22.) Pablo Marí 21.) Calum Chambers 17.) Cédric Soares 18.) Thomas Partey 12.) Willian 24.) Reiss Nelson 19.) Nicolas Pépé 30.) Eddie Nketiah
Fulham Athletic team: 1.) Alphonse Areola 34.) Ola Aina 5.) Joachim Andersen (c) 16.) Tosin Adarabiyo 33.) Antonee Robinson 14.) Bobby De Cordova-Reid 29.) André-Frank Zambo Anguissa 18.) Mario Lemina 19.) Ademola Lookman (Reed 69’) 27.) Josh Maja (Loftus-Cheek 77’) 17.) Ivan Cavaleiro (Bryan 84’)
Fulham Athletic subs: 31.) Fabri 3.) Michael Hector 13.) Tim Ream 23.) Joe Bryan 4.) Denis Odoi 15.) Ruben Loftus-Cheek 21.) Harrison Reed 25.) Josh Onomah 9.) Alexander Mitrović
In a dramatic 48 hours in the world of football, the intervention of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the reported sanctions from both FIFA and UEFA have meant that the project has been “suspended”.
Arsenal’s statement was released around 22:55pm, just as the Super League began to crumble around them.
As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League. We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.
While no Arsenal fan is likely to believe the talk of wanting to preserve the future of the club, it is a small comfort to know that Arsenal were the only team to apologise for their actions.
As with the rest of the top six in the Premier League, Arsenal are left with egg on their face as they shamelessly return to the Premier League.
A planned protest against owner Stan Kroenke is planned for Friday night’s match against Everton and will likely continue when Arsenal return for games against Villarreall and West Brom.
As usual, the Arsenal owner was once again, unavailable for comment. The American businessman was thought to be at the very forefront of the idea and his reticence to speak out in favour or in terms of an apology has not gone unnoticed.
Then again, this is somewhat atypical of Kroenke’s management of Arsenal since he became the owner. Kroenke has rarely made any public statements on Arsenal and he has been even more silent now, even the tried and trusted method of wheeling out Josh Kroenke for a little bit of positive PR seems unlikely to undo the damage now.
Héctor Bellerín was the first Arsenal player to speak out against the league, by sharing a quote from former-Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who, in his farewell speech, asked Arsenal its fans to protect the values the club cherishes.
Despite the players slowly beginning to make their feelings known, the damage seems irredeemable for Kroenke now. While the American has never been particularly popular with Arsenal fans before now, his role in the signing of Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey as well as the hands-on approach of Josh Kroenke and the appointment of Tim Lewis to the board of directors, Kroenke seemed to be slowly but surely turning the tide against fan antipathy and was starting to look relatively good in the eyes of Arsenal fans.
What little goodwill these decisions may have built up for Kroenke, seem totally dashed.
Kroenke has never been interested in selling Arsenal before now, despite the hatred from fans, but now it seems his position is untenable.
Whatever fan’s previous feelings over Kroenke and his ownership were before are nothing compared to now. Kroenke’s decision and his involvement with such a project is so diametrically opposed to the values that Arsenal holds dear and the hatred from all corners of the fanbase are so high and so unlikely to dissipate in his lifetime that selling may be the best option now.
The proposed European Super League was perhaps always doomed, but the message from football fans everywhere was sent loud and clear, football is for the players and for the fans and that football without sporting merit and football that seeks to exclude and outprice has no place in the modern game.
Elsewhere, questions are to be asked of the executive team. What will happen now to Edu or Vinai Venkatesham? Edu’s position seems relatively secure, since he likely had minimal influence over the decision and little to no sway in how the club moved forward, however, Venkatesham’s position may not be so secure.
Given that Venkatesham stepped away from the European Club Assosciation (ECA) as part of the proposed Super League, it seems unlikely that Venkatesham will be able to continue in his role without some serious public grovelling.
A fan forum debate is still expected to go ahead later this week, but Venkatesham’s position is looking as untenable as Kroenke’s and with the news that Manchester United’s Ed Woodward has resigned from his post, pressure on Venkatesham may be increased.
Arsenal fans will also be happy to see that the stakes are returning to their match against Villarreal now. Of course, Unai Emery will want blood and will want to prove his doubters wrong in a grudge match against his former club, but the lure of a European final, with the potential to qualify for next season’s Champions League is back on.
With the announcement of a European Super League, many fans have been scrambling to know what became of the Arsenal they fell in love with?
Have Arsenal irreparably burned their bridges with the big competitions and have they ensured that the beginning of the end has started?
The adoption of the project seems to be pretty widely unpopular. While Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have been ranting and raving on Monday Night Football, some of the biggest names in the sport have already spoken out against the idea.
The adoption of an “American model” whereby the biggest and best (i.e. richest) clubs play against each other every single week may appeal to some, but for the average fan, it not only cheapens other tournaments, but also makes attending certain matches near impossible.
Premier League The Premier League is expected to take a vote as to what happens next for the six Premier League teams involved. While it is true that the Premier League rules stipulates that a 75% majority rule is needed to enforce any changes, this may be usurped, given the special nature of the circumstances.
If this were the case, it’s tough to see how Arsenal will remain in the league after this. While the big six have spoken openly about how they wish to remain a part of the Premier League, it seems the Premier League do not share their view.
If the decision to expel Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur does indeed lie with the rest of the Premier League, then it seems unlikely that they will be remaining.
The remaining clubs in the Premier League, already uncomfortable with the monopolies created by clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea as well as the increased revenues for larger clubs in the lucrative TV deals that often leaves the remaining fourteen members of the league out in the cold, waiting for the top six to play.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted fans from attending games, this has meant that the teams have been able to enjoy more money from TV broadcasters as all games are now on TV, though this will likely end when fans return to stadiums.
All in all, it seems as though Arsenal will struggle to convince any of the other clubs that they should be remaining in the league and given that the big six are so often considered to be the troublemakers in the league, it seems as though Arsenal may well have burned a bridge or two there.
Champions League & Europa League While the Champions League does not presently present an issue for Arsenal, their upcoming two-legged tie with Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the Europa League does.
UEFA are expected to gather to decide the fate of the remaining European Super League Clubs in their respective European competitions. UEFA seem to want blood however, with Aleksander Čeferin, President of UEFA particularly angered by the proposals and who already seems to be pushing for elimination from the competition.
In the case of the Champions League, it would likely mean that the trophy is automatically awarded to Paris Saint-Germain as Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid would all be expelled, while a Villarreall vs. Roma final would be the outcome in the Europa League following Arsenal and Manchester United’s expulsion.
UEFA are bound by their own rules and regulations and may struggle to expel the teams or grant them a place in next season’s competition without considerable help from their lawyers.
The current sporting-merit of the competitions should be upheld, though in the case of Arsenal, it seems to be a “at what cost” situation.
If Arsenal are banned from European competitions as of next season, then winning the Europa League holds no real merit for the team aside from being a trophy to win. While the focus of a team like Arsenal should always be to win a trophy, it seems impossible to see how Mikel Arteta would be able to motivate his players to focus on the task in hand.
Part of the reason for winning the Europa League is that it grants an automatic buy-in to the Champions League the following season, something Arsenal would be very interested in. The issue is that Arsenal would now no longer have their place confirmed and it would simply be a trophy for the cabinet that holds no real significance for the team, even as the club’s first-ever major European trophy.
European Club Association (ECA) This is where the damage seems irrevocably done. Arsenal’s Chief Executive Vinai Venkatesham left the ECA on Monday morning, a full forty-three days after being appointed to the role.
Though participation in the European Club Association is not strictly necessary for participation in the Champions League or indeed the Europa League, it is still comforting to know that Arsenal have a seat at the top table and that the club’s views, thoughts and opinions are being heard.
Venkatesham’s decision to step down was in thew wake of Juventus Chairman, Andrea Agnelli’s decision to step down from his position in UEFA, leading Čeferin to state that he was clearly surrounded by snakes in the organisation. This particular act of betrayal seems to have stung Čeferin worse than anything else and will likely close the door on Arsenal returning to the ECA any time soon.
It seems that the only way that Arsenal could ever realistically return to the ECA is if Venkatesham were to either step-down or allow another Arsenal executive to take his place, though UEFA are unlikely to opt for this strategy either, since the power-brokers at Arsenal, such as Stan Kroenke, have already burned the bridge.
Arsenal And so brings about the great question, “where do we go from here?”. The 2020/21 season has been a pretty unmitigated disaster from start to near-finish all season with only the Europa League providing the occasional respite.
As for the next few days, we all know who will be presented before the media to account for this. Stan Kroenke, dubbed “Silent Stan” by the media and his various franchise’s fanbases certainly lives up to his alliterative nickname by never commenting to the press.
It seems unlikely that Venkatesham or Edu will speak to the media, which means the burden falls unfairly onto Mikel Arteta’s shoulders. As Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp discovered to his cost in their 1-1 draw with Leeds United, the players and the manager are the ones who will face the criticism.
The absence of fans from stadiums proves to be a blessing in disguise for many of the power-brokers at Arsenal, as they do not have to face fan antipathy, whereas Arteta and his players will likely have to answer to angry players outside stadiums and to barked questions from the media and verbal lambastings from Gary Neville.
As for the players, the anger felt at an already uninterested board is likely to increase. The FIFA and UEFA sanctions seem hellbent on preventing players to represent their national sides in international competitions and also seems to grate in that they were not informed or consulted prior to announcement.
For players like Kieran Tierney, this would be a particularly huge slap in the face, especially since Scotland have qualified for the European Championships for the first time since 1996 and a major international tournament for the first time since 1998.
Transfers As for transfers, it seems Arsenal may have one or five bridges burned there too.
Teams outside of the ESL are unlikely to want to do business with teams in the ESL, such is the opposition from clubs for the proposal.
The other issue is the money. Since Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez has mentioned how much money the clubs in the league potentially stand to make, it seems as though an ESL tax will be added to any players that Arsenal wish to buy.
It has long been spoken of Arsenal’s interest in signing Tariq Lamptey of Brighton & Hove Albion, for instance, however, given Brighton’s position in the Premier League and Arsenal’s new found wealth, it seems a price-tag that is already rumoured to be as high as £40m, could be doubled in Arsenal’s case to take advantage of the team’s added revenue.
In terms of players joining Arsenal, it seems unlikely that players would want to risk a potential international ban in order to play for a team that has little-to-no chance of winning the competition they helped to set up.
As for players leaving the club, it could be even harder to convince players to remain and equally to sell them. Players like the aforementioned Tierney may wish to jump ship in order to represent their national side, which would force Arsenal’s hand. Meanwhile, selling players deemed surplus to requirements could prove tricky if clubs are unwilling to line the European elite’s pockets further.
Mikel Arteta Mikel Arteta is not due to speak to the press until later this week. Though the furore surrounding the European Super League will have likely dissipated somewhat and will likely be less intense than Jürgen Klopp was forced to face on Monday night, it will still be a very unfair posistion for Arteta to be placed in.
Arteta is seemingly left with two choices. Resign or stick with the club.
Resignation would likely favour Arteta and would probably be a damning blow to Arsenal. Arteta is very highly rated in the game and would likely have very few issues finding a job, though his chances at a high-profile club like Arsenal seem slim. For Arsenal, Arteta’s departure would be a catastrophic blow as Arsenal look to try and establish themselves among the best in the business once more. Arteta is a dynamic and exciting coach who holds much sway with players and losing him would demand a huge cultural reset, which many first-team players may not be interested in.
If he remains, he risks looking either complicit or at least supportive of the idea. This is Arteta’s first job and one he takes very seriously and his love for the club may be mistaken for a desire for a comfy position at the club. Remaining would certainly benefit Arsenal, but have they done enough to merit such loyalty from the Spaniard?
Arteta will have to answer questions over the league and will also be tasked with selling the idea to the players, since Vinai Venkatesham’s more corporate demeanour is unlikely to convince many in the squad. Which leaves he and other managers in a very unfair position. Arteta has also reportedly faced issues over transfers, with the pursuit of Thomas Partey being undertaken at the expense of Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, who Arteta reportedly preferred.
Stan Kroenke Stan Kroenke has never been a universally popular figure at Arsenal. The American businessman’s reluctance to financially support former-manager Arsène Wenger when he needed him most has often been a point that many Arsenal fans have been unable to look past.
While Kroenke has certainly clawed bag some credibility in recent years with his purchasing of Arsenal’s stadium debt and reportedly funding the signing of Thomas Partey from fellow European Super League side Atlético Madrid, this has destroyed what small goodwill he had built up.
Kroenke has reportedly been left stunned by the reaction to the news of a European Super League, which shows his distance from regular football fans.
His desire to set this league up, something he has reportedly been heavily involved in, will likely make him an even more villainous figure around the Emirates Stadium than he already is.
As many have likely already figured out, barring a truly insane offer to purchase the club from the businessman, Kroenke will never sell Arsenal and while he is owner, he will call the shots and if past instances are anything to go by, he will continue to do so, regardless of the fan’s opinion or support.
In conclusion, this is a dark chapter in the Arsenal story, one that flies in the face of everything the club has built and everything they stand for.
The distance between owners and fans has never been more pronounced than it is right now. It seems Arsenal have reached a point of no return with almost all of the people who matter and have forever tarnished their reputation as the club that stands for what’s right and what is in the best interest of the sport.
Gone are the days where Arsène Wenger would call for a rematch because of an unfairly scored goal or the days of playing by the rules set forth to ensure that big clubs no longer take advantage of smaller clubs or donating money to Sutton United after an FA Cup clash.
The club’s handling of redundancies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the announcement of a European Super League seems to show that the Arsenal of old has all but disappeared and been replaced by an empty, soulless organisation that places financial gain over sporting merit and that, above all else is unacceptable.
Arsenal have been announced as one of the 12 forming members of the European Super League, which was announced in a statement on Sunday evening.
A European Super League has been in the offing for a while now, with Europe’s top clubs having been disgruntled with the officiating from the top leagues, FIFA and UEFA for a while now.
The other founding members of the league are:
Arsenal released a statement late on Sunday revealing their part in the organisation of the league. In the statement, Arsenal announced their hope for discussions with the football governing bodies FIFA & UEFA in order to find an agreement.
What is the European Super League? The European Super League is a league that contains the biggest clubs in Europe for a mid-week competition, which is governed by the founding members of the league.
In a statement released by the European Super League, “a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable”.
How will the league work? In addition to the existing fifteen, there will be five other teams who will qualify for the league every season. The games will be played midweek in home and away fixtures, and are expected to replace the existing UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
The league is expected to start in August, with teams playing in groups of ten, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals of the competition, while teams finishing in fourth and fifth will compete for the remaining quarter-final spots.
From there, a two-legged format will follow, which will then lead to a final in May played at a neutral venue.
It is also rumoured that the founding clubs will not be relegated from the league for a minimum of fifteen years.
Will Arsenal still be able to play in the Premier League? While the league’s founders have said that they plan to “…preserve the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the game”, FIFA, UEFA and the official domestic league bodies have said that this will not be the case.
In fact, the blowout from the creation of the league could cause significant ripples throughout football. If such a league were created, Arsenal, along with the other fourteen teams, could see themselves kicked out of the Premier League, the League Cup, the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League, as well as any European Super Cup games and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Another significant issue, is that players playing their football at one of the fifteen clubs in the European Super League, could find themselves banned from playing in any international competitions as well and will be served lifetime bans.
Whether or not these threats are followed through, remains to be seen.
Why is this league being created? The somewhat precarious nature of the founding member’s finances in recent years have forced them into action. Also, the prospect of more money is far too alluring to turn down.
For many of the founding members, there are a number of financial issues. Barcelona and Real Madrid both find themselves in dire straits financially as a result of poor investments and the COVID-19 pandemic, Tottenham Hotspur have only recently begun playing in a new stadium estimated to cost them anywhere between £800m and £1bn and AC Milan are still clearing up the financial mess of their previous ownership.
The aforementioned COVID-19 pandemic has likely accelerated plans for the league as clubs are beginning to see their bottom line grow smaller and smaller with each passing season.
Outside of the usual financial reasons, the European elite’s issues with FIFA and UEFA has long been a point of contention, with the soon-to-be announced Champions League reforms reportedly upsetting many of the Super League’s founding members.
The prospect of controlling a league/knockout-format competition, with more money and the guarantee of no relegation for founding members within the first fifteen years or so is another tempting offer.
Do any clubs oppose the idea? Though there has been no official statement from any of the clubs talking about the idea, it is thought that Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain strongly oppose the idea. Borussia Dortmund also confirmed in a statement today that they too will not be taking part in the Super League.
Though neither club has released a statement or made any comment in the press about the idea, their unwillingness to join is shown by their absence in the founding members list, though they could be in the list of the unnamed three.
Who has spoken about it? The notoriously quiet Stan Kroenke has so far been unavailable for comment on the situation, however, Florentino Pérez, President of Real Madrid believes that the league “…will help football at every level”.
Joel Glazer of Manchester United has echoed Pérez’s statement and has spoken about the impact of wider financial support for the wider footballing pyramid.
Meanwhile, Andrea Agnelli, the Chairman of Juventus released a statement of his own speaking of the league’s importance and has resigned as Chairman of the ECA (European Club Association) and the UEFA Executive Committee.
What are the clubs doing? At the time of this article being published, there are no concrete reports of anything happening beyond the initial statements being made.
It has been reported that Liverpool are the first team to depart from the ECA, which would mean that they could no longer participate in the Champions League or Europa League, though this is still unconfirmed.
What does this mean for Arsenal’s Europa League? For now, Arsenal will continue their Europa League journey until either the competition ends or until Arsenal are knocked out, whichever happens first.
It was thought that Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, the only remaining English teams in European competitions this season, would no longer be permitted to complete their European exploits, however, it has since been announced by UEFA that they will be allowed to compete as normal.
How much would Arsenal make from the European Super League? While no figures have been formally announced, and likely won’t be, it is reported that the founding clubs will recieve around €3.5bn, which will be split among the fifteen clubs upon joining.
Now, it is unknown if this means that this will be €3.5bn each or if this will mean that the money will be divided equally. In this instance, Arsenal would likely be receiving €233,333,333 or £202,117,759.
Who is funding the league? Again, nothing formally has been announced by the league itself, but JP Morgan are the only people that have been mentioned in terms of the league’s finances.
JP Morgan will underwrite the league by debt financing and will then set this against any broadcast revenue in the future.
In fact, JP Morgan confirmed to Reuters this morning that they will be financing the Super League.
How will I be able to watch it? There have been a number of broadcast partner’s names bandied about at the moment, with no fixed answer revealed.
The rights for such a lucrative league will likely mean that companies such as BT Sport or Sky Sports will likely be priced out in the initial stages, however, the league may opt for a unified broadcaster, rather than splitting broadcasting among multiple companies.
It was thought that up and coming sports broadcaster and streaming service DAZN would be partnering with the league, however, DAZN have since distanced themselves from these reports, though an as yet unnamed global tech streaming giant could be announced soon.
What role will Stan Kroenke have in the league? The Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, dubbed “Silent Stan” by fans and press alike, is thought to be at the very heart of the discussions and seems to have been pushing this idea along wioth Liverpool’s John W Henry and Manchester United’s Joel Glazer.
As for Kroenke’s role, it is thought that Kroenke will be given a vice-chairman role along with Henry.
What will happen with Arsenal’s standing in the ECA? With Agnelli’s departure, it is thought that many others will either follow suit or be forcibly removed from their position for their role in the creation of the league.
Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s Chief Executive has, as of this morning, stepped down from his position on the ECA board. The move comes as something of a surprise, given that Venkatesham formally joined the ECA on the 8th of March 2021.
Is there no chance this can be sorted out? For now, the league seems fairly set in stone. The founding members have yet to formally discuss the proposals with FIFA, UEFA or their respective domestic leagues or FAs.
The resulting penalties may be enough to assuage the clubs from going through with the plan and the potential fan backlash.
The potential of losing star players may also affect the team’s decisions as well. Players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being unable to represent their national sides could well mean that the teams are unable to retain their top talent.
What does this mean for the players? The players have not been consulted over this decision. For Arsenal, Vinai Venkatesham will today address the Arsenal players and will field any questions that they have over the European Super League.
However, in a more shocking development, Aleksander Čeferin, the President of UEFA has today announced that any player who partakes in the Super League, will be banned from international competitions.
This would mean that players are therefore unable to play at the upcoming EUROs in the summer, while participation in the FIFA World Cup would likely be similar.
This would be a particularly large blow for players like Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Dani Ceballos, all of whom are expected to compete at the EUROs this summer.
Such an idea has long been in the offing, with discussions dating back as far as the late ’90s, however, things began to really kick off around the mid-2000s.
Twitter users were quick to point to yet another prophetic statement by erstwhile Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who predicted the league’s formation in 2009, who believed that the league would be formed within the next ten years.
Though Wenger’s prophecy was perhaps only two years earlier than the reality, it is not tough to follow the Frenchman’s logic.
The Premier League has long been ahead in terms of financials, with the lucrative TV deals and the sponsorship deals often meaning that England has been well remunerated for the league’s premier talent.
The increasing frustrations with UEFA, who are expected to announce reforms to the Champions League for the start of the 2024/25 season, have finally worked as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
From here, it’s difficult to see what the next move is. The founding clubs seemingly hold all the cards with the league, as billions are expected to be spent on the league and the notion of dictating what does and what does not happen in their own league is a temptation that few are averse to.
On the flip-side, it’s difficult to see how the league can still go ahead. With clubs threatened with worldwide bans for football competitions and players looking at potential bans for international football, it could be very difficult for clubs to still go ahead with the idea.
Therein lies the problem. Can FIFA and UEFA realistically impose these sanctions on the clubs? The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could well be forced to intervene.
The league’s formation has seen widespread condemnation, even Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer both strongly opposing the idea. Football fans seem to be divided on the idea, though the vast majority seem to be against the idea.
The formation of the league seems to be yet another example of the growing divide between football fans and the owners of the clubs. The league’s formation now means that football fans are expected to make long-haul trips in order to support their teams in the flesh, meanwhile other fans will likely have to pay premium bucks for a new streaming platform just to watch it.
It remains to be seen if this is just a power-play from the European elite or if the league is a reality, but one thing is for certain, this will get very bloody, very quickly.