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?! 🙂