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Morning all. We really are slap bang in the middle of an Interlull now. It’s so quiet and it’s also chocolate Jesus egg weekend so that’s having an effect on things too.

Some interesting stuff in the Guardian this morning about a possible revamp to the Champions League format. It’s not something that’s imminent, but in the future it seems they’re considering a mini super-league system, with ‘big’ clubs entering after a knock-out round or two where the smaller clubs can dispense with each other.

It sounds very much like the beginnings of the long-fabled European Super League in which the top clubs play each other season after season after season, and the article cites the vast gulf between what European and English clubs make from broadcast revenue as a factor in this.

What’s probably more relevant is that the Champions League, to me anyway, is boring. Now, I realise some of that is down to Arsenal being Arsenal. We haven’t been beyond the Round of 16 since 2009-10 when we reached the quarter-finals, eliminated 6-3 on aggregate by, yeah, Barcelona.

We tend to fail the same way every year, although you have to say there was some variety last season when having finished second in our group we were rewarded with an easier than expected tie against Monaco but made a bollix of that too.

Generally speaking though, the competition as a whole feels really jaded and tired. The group stages are dull as dishwater for the most part, and again you have to give us some props this season for making it a little bit interesting by chucking a couple of games against pretty rubbish sides to make the last couple of fixtures do or die.

It’s basically an advertising campaign with some football thrown in to keep people interested. That horrendous, bombastic anthem blasting out before each game to make it sound regal and important. The lyrics to it far removed from the reality, as we see Bate Borisov line up against Bayer Leverkusen.

They are the best teams
They are the best teams
The Main Event

The master
Great teams
The Champions

The Main Event
The Champions

I suppose that scans better than:

They are the best teams
And the second best teams and the third best teams
And depending the coefficient of the nation in question, perhaps the fourth best teams

The master
Is a film by Paul Thomas Anderson
The Champions
And the runners-up
And some team that scraped into third on goal difference

The Gazprom Heineken Sony PepsiCo Champions
As long as you don’t apply the actual dictionary definition of that word to this song

The Prestige of winning the massive energy conglomerate cup
The Champions
And some other teams too who have no chance of winning it
Nor will our referees allow that anyway

etc

It used to be the case that Champions League revenue would set the top four apart from the rest in England. Leaving aside the ‘prestige’ of playing in the tournament itself, that extra income allowed them greater spending power and the ability to attract the best players. That’s no longer the case because of the massive new TV deal the Premier League have signed.

From the article:

Next season, the side relegated bottom from the Premier League will receive £100m, as much as Chelsea received when becoming champions last May. The champions in May 2017 will be rewarded with prize-money of around £150m.

While it’s still a draw to a certain extent, and top players will always want to play in it, it’s no longer as crucial as it was. The ability to offer Champions League wages, despite not being in the Champions League, will see recruitment of what would have been considered top-shelf talent continue throughout the Premier League.

Maybe that’s just an issue for English clubs, but overall it doesn’t take away from the fact that UEFA’s supposedly blue-ribbon tournament is little more now than a showcase for the worst excesses of the modern game. The desperation of broadcasters to try and add some hype to something that’s no longer capturing the imagination of the public because they’re essentially tired of the same old thing every season is quite funny, in fairness, so it’s no wonder they’re thinking about a revamp.

What it boils down to though, is that it’s a competition that isn’t really that competitive. Not quite PSG running away with Ligue 1, or a league in which there’s only ever going to be one winner, but not far off it. There’s the odd outlier here and there, but you can be almost sure those will become fewer because sponsors don’t want the excitement of underdogs, they want to be associated with football’s big brands. Did I say brands? I meant teams, of course.

Anyway, I look forward to the 2018-19 Mega Champions League in which Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and PSG are given byes to the semi-final stage and the rest of the teams compete to be ballboys for those games. Bring it on.

Finally for today, some as yet unconfirmed reports that Jack Wilshere has suffered another injury setback and his chances of playing for us this season are very much in doubt. If true, it would also mean his chances of going to the European Championships this summer are slim too. The club have apparently denied it saying he’s ‘progressing well’, but well is surely relative when a 4-6 week injury picked up in July still sees him sidelined as we head towards the end of March.

Fingers crossed for him, but if you had to bet on this one way or another, you’d be a brave man to put anything on positive news. It’d be great if it was, but I wouldn’t be hopeful.

Right, that’s your lot for today. More from me tomorrow.

About The Author

Fan of Arsenal, Robert Pires and most everything to do with rum and whiskey. Writer, podcaster, ace flintknapper, sluggish centre-half. Smiter of those that ought to be smote.

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