If you imagine a World Cup-free summer, that’s how it would feel now. Which is exactly where we’re at. With the small difference of the players being in training and preparing for friendlies this week. Whether those games will be any good is another matter.
You’ll be regaled with tales of how you can watch these games for free (legally!) but only if you sign up for a 12-month contract and pay £30 per month. Free comes at a cost. Or you can sign up for a previously unheard of Sports TV company player and watch the friendlies at one-third of the offering elsewhere.
Proof football doesn’t always make the best decisions when it comes to broadcasting but then this isn’t football; this is business. Highest bidder or related company; I don’t know and care less. It’s friendlies although the mob behind these summer shenanigans are the ones linked with a ‘European Super League’.
I am sure the likes of the footballing elite will encourage them to make astute commercials deals if the event ever occurred. And it’s hard to think it won’t at some point.
The spectre of the Premier League hung over football for twenty-odd years with the catalyst for change being the emergence of satellite broadcasting in England. The FA belatedly got hold of the clubs but power shifted irrevocably by then.
UEFA is on the cusp of a similar schism with the Gnomes of Nyon not naive enough to believe they solved the problem by bringing the ECA into the fold. Broadening its’ membership was a crude way of diluting power; it didn’t work.
There will be a trigger for the clubs to break and as with the Premier League’s gestation, a technological advance in broadcasting will be the birth of football’s Frankenstein’s monster.
This Ain’t No Revolution…
And then there’s a bit about Arsenal. The Italian press thinks Ivan’s going to land in Milan after quitting Arsenal. With our contract record, it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t have a six-month notice period…
On the transfer front, David Ospina is being linked with a move to Fulham while having decided against signing Joel Campbell, Lazio are interested in Alex Iwobi. Decades ago, Milan signed Luther Blissett with the apocryphal tale that the scouts actually recommended John Barnes.
That there is even speculation over Iwobi is telling. Consistency isn’t his strong point but then he is only 22; in any walk of life, consistency at that age is hard to come by. Inside, there is a considerably talented player whose problem is finding the way in which he surfaces.
Expectations are high; he made a good start to his first-team career but he isn’t helped by the indifferent form we displayed on a regular basis. The senior pros weren’t leading the team, which is why I’m sceptical when Unai Emery trots out the leaders on the pitch routine. We know Arsenal lack them but perhaps the new signings will develop that quality in the XI. Previously, winning mentality was either subsumed into the lethargy or created an outcast. The hope is the new coach stops that happening.
Iwobi endured the World Cup. When you read the esteem with which he is held by Nigerian fans and reports of his previous performances, more was expected. But Nigeria stumbled and never recovered. Again, you can’t blame one person, but being an Arsenal player, attention was more focussed on him.
His contract is up in 2020; this season is the one where he needs to start producing the goods or next summer could be a watershed moment in his career.
It’s A Revelation
I do think he will. Of all the players, he strikes me as the one who will benefit from the high-pressing game we expect and also a clear definition of his role in XI. At his age, guidance is crucial and while an element of free expression is good, too much is detrimental.
Unai Emery wants players to think for themselves with his framework. That’s a new concept in footballing terms for the squad. If Iwobi adapts, I’d expect him to be the ‘revelation’ of the squad. Others can challenge him for the ‘accolade’ although I think Mustafi learning to defend is a step too far.
The first sign of Iwobi’s future will come in the pre-season friendlies. Which you can watch for free in the UK if you don’t mind signing up and paying a connection fee and entering into a twelve-month contract…