Philosophical Friday – What losing to Olympiakos did to me!

Henry dog 008

So that was a kick in the ballsocks. Not yet a Greek tragedy, but we will need a small miracle to get out of this group alive now. It makes the Bayern double, first home and then away, a ‘three to four pointer’. Maybe this is a good thing; maybe we just have to show to ourselves and the rest of Europe what we are worth, what we are capable of. And if we cannot win at least one of those two matches, why should we be in the competition much longer anyway?

I actually don’t care much about the Champions League. It should be a tournament for league winners and any other high finishers should play in the Europa League; but that honourable principle went a long time ago. It is now a competition for the very rich football clubs, and it is all about making sure that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. The competition is set up in such a way that the risk of dropping income is as low as possible for the rich clubs. And with these high additional CL incomes, the rich clubs can buy the cream of their national competitors thus strengthening themselves and weakening their local CL gravy train competitors in one go. The romantic days of Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, or even historically really big European clubs like Liverpool or Ajax winning the ‘cup with the big ears’ are long, long gone. Top European football has become predictable and boring, especially the group matches. It does not take a genius to predict the winners and runners up of each group; it is also pretty certain that one of Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid will win the CL for the next five to ten years, with maybe one of Italy’s, France or England’s top clubs winning it, based on a lot of luck, once in a blue moon. It just sucks.

It should be said that Arsenal have established themselves as one of the rich clubs, which is a great achievement of the BoD and our loyal manager Arsene Wenger. We are not at the very, very top of wealth and power, but we are definitely one of the clubs that have made it through to the European sub-top. So who am I, or we, to complain: we are one of those teams who could claim a CL title against the odds, whereas many, many other clubs will not even come close. I guess it is the romantic in me; I like to think that any club could at one point get it all right: the BoD’s focus and capability, the manager, the player purchases, the style and strength of their football, the passion and the success they crave for – and all of this combined with a healthy, and very necessary, dollop of undiluted luck. Shouldn’t this be the very principle, the essence, of the beautiful game?

It’s gone in the CL but it is not much better in the PL either. There is a top four of clubs who will normally finish in the PL top four. Now and again, another team might finish in the CL entrance places, but they will not sustain it, unless, of course, they find themselves a very rich money-burning in-their-pockets, mega-rich owner. How did we get in to this situation? How did we manage to let our beloved game become so predictable and so fundamentally unfair: where is the sportsmanship?

I reckon Arsenal have done everything the honourable way. We increased our income fairly, developed our own players as well as spend money on quality when we could afford it and are financially sound. This makes us compete and gives us a chance to win our own league, or maybe even the CL in the future, yet it will not make us capable of dominating the league for many years, financially outmuscling all our competitors. And that is how it should be: because what is life without romance, hey?! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

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18 Responses to Philosophical Friday – What losing to Olympiakos did to me!

  1. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hi TA, thanks for posting something new, Dennis knows we needed it…

    I kind of agree and disagree. Yes, over the long slog of the season (and from season to season) things are awfully predictable. Match to match, as we saw on Tuesday night, it’s a different story… The PL is probably even less predictable. Who would’ve fancied West Ham taking full points at Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City already this season, for example?

    Over time, however, the money is a crushing hammer. Worse than predictable (season-long) outcomes is that the top teams hoover up the talent so that many fine players only get cameos now and again and otherwise persist in shadow squads. It’s the nature of competing on multiple fronts, I guess, but bad results (like Tuesday night’s) serve to tighten rotations even more.

    In my opinion, things need to change and more regular competition amongst the biggest clubs needs to happen. How we get there, esp. with the major bodies, including UEFA, clearly rife with corruption, seems anybody’s guess. Over here, in the US sports leagues, there’s an awareness that competition, or relatively level financial playing fields are important for keeping fans interested. At some point, to me at least, it seems inevitable that the European football organizers and the clubs themselves will catch on.

    Not yet, however…

  2. TotalArsenal says:

    thanks 17ho, let’s hope the American model becomes ours rather sooner than later. 🙂

    Good point about West Ham, and every season we have a team like them in the league. But come January and they might lose two or three players and the threat is eliminated again. Blackburn was the last ‘surprise’ in the PL; the competition is desperate for another miracle. It has been far too long.

  3. allezkev says:

    Total, as long as the TV companies call the tune, I cannot see any change in either the EPL or the CL…

    TV has done a fantastic job, in re-packaging, what is, the old First Division…
    Jazzing it up, sprinkling a Bergkamp here, a Zola there, a Cantona, a Vieira etc etc.

    And then flogging if all over the World…

    Compared to many European Leagues, the Premier League is still competitive…

    In Germany there is Bayern, and that’s it.

    In Spain there is the Old Firmista of Barca/Real.

    Italy is a bit more competitive, but Juve/Milan usually dominate.

    In France it’s PSG/Marseilles.

    And so on…

    Since Blackburn won the EPL there’s been Arsenal, Chelsea, United, City and if changes fairly regularly among those four.
    Well not to our advantage recently, but that’s for another post…

  4. ab says:

    Evening TA! I agree with the sentiment, a lot of the romance has long gone. Sadly I doubt we will see it return, largely due to a range of money factors. The over-paid, vain and egotistical ‘superstars’ that are created from pretty average sportsmen has robbed football of much of its character and charm. The money also drives a professionalism that stifles variation and flair – in the same way that cars all look pretty much the same these days, teams set up and players perform in very similar styles/fashions. I can see US style regulation levelling things out a bit in terms of team competition, one day, but the other factors would be well neigh impossible to bring back.

    But its not all doom. I have a huge fondness for the team of the late 80ies and early 90ies, built largely of local lads who played a defensive game. In no way can it be described as beautiful, high tempo art, but it was damn effective in its time. What the money has brought us includes superb pitches and the opportunity to bring in the finest talent from across the world which (although they sometimes disappoint and frustrate) on their day play the kind of flowing football that is a matter of beauty and which would have been scarcely possible in earlier times.

    The money that has robbed us of so much, has also brought us the heights of Wenger’s early teams which will probably go down as the finest period in Arsenal’s history to date; we can’t have one without the other sadly.

  5. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Allezkev 🙂

    Good points, but….. Bayern’s dominance is a recent thing, at least in modern times, with a variety of winners in the last ten years. The same goes for France where Montpellier was able to triumph one year recently. And the only reason we had more winners in England compared to Spain is because of very heavy oil money investment.

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi AB 🙂

    That is also a fair point: because of the big TV money we have seen and see some great talents in the PL. if they could be spread out fairer among the clubs, so there is a more equal base for fair competition, it would all be a lot better.

  7. Pony Eye says:

    TA,
    The PL is super exciting. It is filled up with leagues within the League.
    Group A = 5 teams competing for the PL title.
    Group B = Group A + 3 more teams, competing for 4th place trophy.
    Group C = The 3 of Group B + 4 more teams, competing for Europa.
    Group D = Bottom 8 teams competing viciously against the drop.

    Whatever your group, hearts pounding!!!

  8. Gerry says:

    Very philosophical TA. I like it. May be during the Interlull I ‘ll give you my idea of how to re-invent the wheel … well more modestly, thoughts on how football could change. But for now, I think this is nice distraction … except it reminds us of the reality of where we are?

    The ‘where we are’ is largely a negative built on a foundation of high expectation. That is a recipe for endless disappointment? We are bemoaning the fact that we may not get out of this group stage of the ‘elite’ Champions League competition, whilst many of our fellow EPL clubs will look back on any season, perhaps only highlighted by an out of the blue win, but fully deserved, against one of the top clubs, or just avoiding relgation. Not even getting close to an FA Cup win, and some may not have achieved that in their entire history … Meanwhile Arsenal, the current winners of the ‘Cup for the last two seasons, and an early exit from the CL could help achieve an historic treble ……

    So while that sinks in, let me turn to the finances that have changed the game so much. AB has pointed out the benefits that big money has brought to the game. Kev points to the increase, worldwide, in people being able to see some fabulous match’s being played up close, but not very personal.

    The romance that you speak of TA is largely lost because of that last line. The vast majority of fans of the clubs who appear on the tv screen only see an interpretation of the game. A secondhand view, not always distorted, but the narrative that goes along with the actual play is played out to suit interested parties who have little interest in the game itself. They feed a news hungry media who seek to get divisions of opinion, as that sells much more than a rational, analytical view of what has gone on?

    Meanwhile Arsenal Football Club are seemingly caught in a twilight zone of perpetual sunrise. Each dawn promises so much, but it never reaches noon. The laws of physics tell us that is where it achieves its maximum power, the ultimate of glorious, brilliant light. Instead, we get a thunderous cloud that blocks our view, and we quickly sink back into the darkening shadows, not satisfied with however magnificent the sunset might be? Not a thought for those that don’t even get one of those …

    Okay! Enough of this philosophical nonsense.

    Back to reality. Do we as fans who support the club with an emotional commitment have to dance to the tune of the ‘plastic fans’ who just want instant gratification, constant success, and if they don’t get it, they will flash the power that their own fat wallets can get them in the day to day world, and go for change, change, and more change ….
    Or do we stick by the players, the manager, the club, and take defeats because in a sporting world where there are two competitors, only one can win? Move to the next game with renewed hope?

    I don’t mean in a sterile way. Yes, there is place for anger and frustration, whether that be at individuals that are correctly identified as not having a good game. When I am watching a game on TV, I purr at the pass, the finish, but use any appropriate expletive to each and every individual error that our players make …but at the final whistle, I accept the result, More anger, frustration and general disappointed outpourings are not going to change anything. Move on. It is pure self deluding arrogance on our part to think we can point out something that the manager and the players don’t already know. It is not ‘Playstation’ stuff going on out there. It is life. Professional people doing their jobs in front of a giant audience. No, they will not get it right every time. Yes, mistakes will be repeated. And Yes, that does warrant a sensible debate by fans who have a right to expect that lessons will be learnt. But when that is done and dusted ….
    The next game is a fresh start.

    Manchester United on Sunday is that next game!

    Keep the faith …

  9. TotalArsenal says:

    Pone eye 🙂

    The problem is that we have this every season, with little or no movement.

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    Very philosophical response, Geery. 😀

    A good read.

  11. Pony Eye says:

    TA,

    Am a gunner
    I dream of the 1st position
    Am terrified of the 5th
    That is swinging between heaven and hell
    Incredible vastness it is
    And gunner all the way
    What else, TA?

  12. TotalArsenal says:

    I love to travel, Pony Eye. Fifth would just be a destination. A good night sleep and off we go again. Fairness for all is a good travel companion; you might want to try it! 🙂

  13. Pony Eye says:

    5th or 6th or 7th … that would be hell,TA. I wouldn’t sleep easy but I wouldn’t curse either because am still pointing in the direction of heaven. Another journey always about to begin.

  14. Pony Eye says:

    Fairness. Isn’t there fairness? Is fairness equality? That would be most boring. Maybe it’s better defined as equal opportunity. One oil sheikh might just pop into the scene tomorrow and Crystal Palace becomes the new PL monster.

  15. allezkev says:

    Ok, Total I accept your points, but with the influx of oil money into Ligue Un, I reckon that the Montpellier success could well be that leagues ‘Blackburn’…

    It makes me wonder how different things would have been in England if the oil money hadn’t flowed into Stamford Bridge and Eastlands?

    Would Liverpool have broken their long wait for a Premier Lge title?

    How many more would AW have won?

    Would Tottenham have been a regular top four finisher?
    And Everton?

    Don’t get me wrong, l like the Bundesliga, Borrussia Dortmund were one of the most exciting and dangerous teams that I’d seen at Ashburton Grove in recent years.

    But Bayern seem to have moved to another level and are like a black hole, sucking up any emerging top talent in Der Fatherland…

    Wolfsburg look interesting though…

  16. allezkev says:

    Gerry, winning an FA Cup treble?
    I’d take that, mate.

    Winning the FA Cup, these past two years, is now constantly disregarded by the Media, those same fair- minded people who castigated Wenger for being trophy less since 2005.

  17. Prince says:

    Hit the nail on the head, Totes.. the romance has gone and its become a stale marriage.. when I crave passion, I put on some old Bergkamp dvds..if not for that im scared that my pilot light would have flickered out like a candle in the wind…
    Money has sucked out the soul…. hope you and your tribe are doing fine

  18. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey fellas, Good discussion here. Nice (well written) post, Gerry and not a bad philosophy for watching the game and our club…

    My take is that we’d all be a LOT happier if we could just stay in the moment and enjoy the football rather than getting caught up in all the narratives. To my eye there’s still a LOT of passion (hence the extreme reactions to every result), but maybe we just have to channel that into the actual football and then let it go. Personally, I love that the game is continuous action (even the time wasting…) with only the half-time break and then done in 90 minutes (and before noon where I live, most of the time, at least) On the other hand, whatcha gonna do between matches?… Gotta talk about something… 😀

    I don’t really mind watching the crazy money influx play out but it’s pretty vulgar at the top so, lower down it does take a more subtle eye. Sure, in the North American Leagues teams have chances to float to the top but those leagues have their own issues too and I don’t mind the unfettered, Wild West atmosphere I sense at the highest level of Club football. All the money flowing into the game indeed does work to separate fans from their clubs but that’s the nature of the game as it goes from being a spectacle experienced live and in the stadiums to one which the majority watch on TV. All that money *should* however, lead to better players playing better football and thus more competitive matches. I actually think we’re starting to see slightly less hoarding of the best players by the big money clubs. Certainly at Arsenal we’re down to bare bones (at the moment) which is maybe why we’re struggling in (what are supposed to be) these easier CL matches as they come thick and fast amongst all the others..

    We’ve got a match tomorrow, in fact, and, as such, I’d like to announce…

    New Post, new post…

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