So we move onto the City Ground. The EFL Cup, not to be confused with the equally pointless EFL Trophy, takes centre stage this week as Arsenal travel to Nottingham Forest for tomorrow’s tie. Can’t wait.
Fourth place in the Premier League is better than the opening day defeat to Liverpool suggested it would be at this stage but the real test comes next weekend against Chelsea. For most of the players, it will bring a week’s training before Saturday’s game but from some possibly including Granit Xhaka and Lucas Perez, it offers the opportunity to show a bit more of their repertoire as they seek to stake a claim for a first team starting line-up place.
The gap between the Premier League élite and the rest is likely to grow in coming years. Financially, the top flight clubs will do very well thank you very much, even if they get just a season in the sun. Villa, Newcastle and Norwich all missed out on the inflated parachute payments which Sunderland, Stoke and one other seem hellbent on receiving from the end of this season.
As clubs look at that, Barcelona dropped into FIFA House for a chat with Gianni, just to make sure he wasn’t going to do something stupid like, I don’t know, spend time cleaning up the corruption which is rife in football. They wanted to make sure he knew that his job was to make them – the clubs – more money and they had an idea.
To be fair, it’s not a bad one either. Get rid of the current World Club Cup or whatever it’s called and make it a summer tournament. Every other year so that it bisects European Championships and World Cups. I suspect Gianni was told to bring the South Americans into line as well because their 2019 and 2023 tournaments are a fly in the Catalan ointment.
Barcelona want a 32-team tournament – eight from Europe and South America, 16 from the rest – which would be a far better use of the football calendar than the Confederations Cup primarily is. Presumably, the eight European clubs would be Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG and four others – at a guess a couple of English and Italian teams.
The driver behind it is money – isn’t it always – and the Premier League is getting richer whilst the rest of Europe is getting richer but not quite as fast. That’s not fair, they boo-hooed into Gianni’s expensive leopard skin rug; we want more money and we want it now.
Now is the perfect time from a footballing perspective to make those changes. In a couple of seasons time, we will start to see the impact of a winter World Cup as the calendar is set to incorporate the ludicrous decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. It will, apparently, affect three seasons – 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 – the middle of which is by curious coincidence the end of a Champions League cycle.
At which point, it can become a feeder competition for the new Club World Cup. The odds on the Champions League becoming a league or another group stage, instead of a knockout stage have shortened considerably. Four groups of four with the top of each going into the semi-finals whilst the runners-up join them in the global tournament? Works for me in the space of a couple of hundred words so it can’t be that hard to resolve.
Of course, that assumes UEFA will play ball. I’m sure enough palms will be greased to make it happen but nothing so vulgar as cash changing hands, simply an increased stipend so that it’s all above-board.
Not that Arsenal would likely participate, at least during the foreseeable future such is our woeful Champions League record of late.
Whether it happens or not is another matter but it’s a pleasant distraction from the talk of a Super League or whatever.