Football’s changed; gone are the days of lower league players making the grade on a regular basis, but in those days, English sides conquered the world with a predominance of Welsh, Irish and hell yes, even Scottish players. Back then if someone mentioned a third division player, you’d probably heard about him, but now all you get is “He’s got 86 pace on FIFA”, which means nothing in the context of the real world.
That said, managers and players alike use Football Manager to scout opponents so when Arsène instructed the scouts to go and look at the lower echelons of the football pyramid, they all played a game and reported back to Wenger accordingly. It’s not like the days when George Graham signed Perry Groves from Colchester, is it? Mind you, as much as he is the butt of a joke or twenty, he went straight into the first team and I wouldn’t question his work rate at all.
Graham had some success with Bould and Dixon signed from the Second Division (as was)
Arsenal capture of Cohen Brammal was exciting in that sense, a left field signing quite literally. A throwback. We don’t sign many players from the lower divisions and certainly not many from non-league clubs. And there’s a world of difference between signing a player and them making the grade.
That’s not to say he won’t do so, just highlighting the differences which exist. Like many – most – young players, it’s a gamble signing unrelated and callow youth. Brammal’s story – made redundant then sign for Arsenal the next day – sounds like the next instalment of the risible Goal films but it’s not, it’s just a young man living the dream.
Getting signed by Arsenal as a youth player is relatively easy. Making the first team is a different story. Gedion Zelalem is another promising youngster set to move to the Bundesliga and break hearts in much the same way Serge Gnabry did last summer. Borussia Dortmund are more in heat than a Japanese macaque monkey when it comes to the German-born, the US and Ethiopian eligible international.
While it isn’t certain, Zelalem is expected to leave the Emirates this summer when his contract runs out, if not before. Another in the academy production line, another to fail to breach the first team. My suspicion is that Jeff is the next one although, at the time of writing, I can’t remember when his deal runs out.
FIFA, a shining beacon in defence of football
The good of football won through when the FIFA council voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams. The clubs were up in arms, blustering about how they were against it. Not that they knew why, they ranted, since they hadn’t read the proposals in detail.
A bloated tournament will, the ghosts of Fleet Street told us, promote mediocrity. The England squad saw the positives, relishing the prospect of their holidays beginning earlier than usual in a tournament summer.
Mediocrity has limits. The suits admitted to being unperturbed by reports that Nicola Sturgeon was ready to hold a referendum on whether Scotland should withdraw from FIFA; “They never qualify for the finals so why should we care,” they sniffed.
Despite ridiculing the draw for the inclusion of more ‘lesser’ nations, there won’t be any more matches in Gianni’s election winner as the 32-team segment of the tournament becomes knockout rounds.
If only he could have had a good idea like this when he was head henchman at UEFA, The Champions League could do with a facelift, tummy tuck and bum lift, and Gianni’s model might be the answer. Do away with seeding while you’re at it.
It will be interesting to see if it all goes ahead. The clubs are upset as it means they lose players earlier in the summer, making the seasons shorter. Maybe reducing the number of top flight clubs is the answer in England and Spain’s case? Turkeys and Christmas.
Or maybe it should be turkeys and Thanksgiving? The current proposal is that Canada, the USA and Mexico co-host the 2026 finals. If Donald Trump has his way, it will take a hell of a free kick to get around that wall.