Hopes that FFP might be effectively implemented were given the footballing equivalent of a wet fish being slapped across the face with FIFA readmitting Barcelona to the transfer circus. Despite holding a ticket that clearly stated, “Strictly No Readmittance“, the Catalan club managed to finagle their way back with a well-timed appeal which left world football’s governing body with insufficient time to play out the legal process to its fullest extent. Of course it is not FFP but highlights the lengths to which clubs can go to secure their best interests. The summer was shaping to be interesting with Barcelona seemingly stuck with Pinto in goal and unable to replace departing players properly. Now that avenue is open to them once more.
UEFAs attempts to punish clubs will be met with similar stalling tactics and exhausting of the legal avenues; it’s one of the reasons that the compromise of fines was introduced. It averts the prospect of a legal coach and horses being driven through the financial regulations by lawyers more streetwise than those employed by UEFA, underlining that serious breaches will still not be met with the bans from the Champions League that were hoped for when the notion of FFP first surfaced. What was always a remote prospect at best, seems even more distant now.
In an era when cash is so plentiful, the concept of fines in football seems pointless. The sums involved are pitiful by comparison to the money’s earned through transgressions. FFP, for example; the sin of overspending, of operating a loss-making club, brings a greater reward than UEFA’s punishment will be. It is a problem of their own making; the concept of the Champions League was to generate more moneys for the clubs to the extent that it induces non-compliance with the rules. As Jerome Champagne observes, that is perhaps the least of the financial problems the restructuring of European club competitions caused.
The Premier League in days gone by, were ready to fine clubs who fielded weakened sides in their competitions. I think it was Blackpool who prioritised matches, presumably on the basis of achieving more points, and found themselves on the wrong end of a £25k fine. The sum was derisory given what they could have earned by staying up, it was a gamble worth taking. Bear in mind, this happened in the season when the 25-man squad system was introduced into the Premier League. Using the fullest extent of his squad, Ian Holloway was fined for not fielding his strongest XI. Compare that with statements this week from Chelsea about the side they intend to field at Anfield, knowing they have a better chance of winning their Champions League semi-final than the Premier League title. Will the Premier League fine the club? £25k or presumably inflation has bitten and it’s now something like £30k. What is that compared to the money the club will make from reaching the Champions League final? Surely the deduction of three points is a more ‘creditable’ punishment, one which make clubs think about transgressions?
Of course Arsenal benefit from a points deduction, most likely they would finish third. I wish Arsène had to think about fielding a weakened side because of Champions League commitments next week. [There now follows the blogging equivalent of a wistful sigh and pregnant pause whilst staring in the distance, lost in a moment's reverie]
Qualifying for the Champions League is now Arsenal’s duty, according to Yaya Sanogo, treating the fourth place trophy as if it is a right. No doubt he will be carted off to the headmaster’s office for claiming such things; Arsenal have no right to expect any silverware or so I am regularly informed. Talk of the youngster inevitably turns to the necessity for adding depth and given ’tis the time of year for season tickets to be renewed, we will see plenty of targets being interested in joining Arsenal. If that’s a touch too cynical for you, oh well, you’ll get over it. Perennial target Karim Benzema added a couple of million to his and Luis Suarez’s price tag by giving Real Madrid and slender first leg advantage in the Champions League. [Cue another blogging equivalent of a wistful sigh and pregnant pause whilst staring in the distance, lost in a moment's reverie] The comparison of Benzema and Sanogo, well, don’t make it, there is a painful gap. And no fault of that is the player, Arsenal need the depth that experience brings and the alternative style / options the Real Madrid striker brings as opposed to the rawness Sanogo brings, the potential. It doesn’t have to be Benzema of course; any experienced, international striker will do, successfully trivialising the transfer strategy and policy of the club in the course of a dozen or so words. No more than the club did last summer, some wag will no doubt observe…
There are stories abounding about Bacary Sagna being close to signing a new deal whilst other outlets claim Arsenal are in for Luke Shaw to replace the French right back. The observant among you will have already noted that Shaw is a left back so unless Arsène is planning to retrain the Southampton defender on the other side of the pitch and the other foot, it’s a bit of a non-starter. Unless Nacho Monreal is off and Shaw is replacing him. That still leaves the problem of right back but let’s not worry about details. Depending on who you ask, the club will be busy this summer with everyone flocking off to Brazil to seal deals whilst taking in a festival of football or they will sitting up half the night watching matches and catching up with the latest YouTube videos of their targets. Whether the club or doesn’t, there isn’t any point in fretting whether or not United will spend £250m repairing the damage Moyes / Ferguson wrought last season and this, whether this will impact on Arsenal. Of course it will; it’s up to Arsenal to do what is best for the club and the squad. Sanogo’s observations about a top four finish echo those of senior squad members since the end of the last campaign; it’s up to the manager and directors to ensure that the investment is made for the club to move into a position of title challengers.