Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Sevilla success and a sliding doors moment for Arsenal and Monchi

Morning, a quick Saturday round-up for you.

I didn’t see the game, but Sevilla won the Europa League last night, beating Inter 3-2 to win the tournament for the sixth time in fourteen years. They are to the Europa League what we are to the FA Cup. What an incredible record. Afterwards captain Jesus Navas dedicated the win, in part, to former Gunner Jose Antonio Reyes who was killed in a car accident last year, and Antonio Puerta, the 22 year old who died of a heart attacking during a game in 2007.

Manager Julen Lopetegui guided Sevilla to third place in La Liga this season, and has a European trophy under his belt, and it’s interesting to think that the squad that was built there was the work of Monchi. Perhaps it’s become lost in the mists of time, but following his disappointing spell at Roma, he was very close to becoming our Technical Director. So close, in fact, that his arrival was expected by staff, but at the 11th hour of the 11th hour he changed his mind. Apparently, things were so advanced when he informed us of this, we thought he was joking.

I don’t quite know what it was that forced that rethink on his part. It might simply have been the chance to go back to Sevilla, where he spent so many years beforehand as both a player and Sporting Director. The lure of the club you love is hard to resist. We can only speculate if he felt he would have been allowed to do his work the way he wanted – without outside influence from others in the club, or even those who should be outside the club but feel they’re sufficiently inside to go on national radio to give interviews about the way said club operates.

The other aspect, of course, is Unai Emery. Would Monchi’s squad building have meant a longer spell at the helm for the former Sevilla manager? Perhaps. So it’s a sort of sliding doors moment for Arsenal and for Monchi, and one of those decisions which made our club go in a slightly different direction. In the end we went for Edu, who has been very much in the background since his arrival, but as I wrote the other day, the spotlight now shines quite brightly on him following the departure of Raul Sanllehi. Without Emery’s dismal second season, there would be no Mikel Arteta – someone who has become important, trusted, and the kind of figurehead Arsenal need right now.

Maybe too Monchi’s magic only works in Sevilla, but whatever it was that saw him turn us down at the last minute worked out very well for him, it has helped his club to another European trophy, and maybe in time we’ll be talking about how that decision turned out to be positive for both sides.

Elsewhere, there is talk of fans being allowed back into the Emirates in October, with the club looking at the game against Sheffield United as the one which sees the doors open again – in a limited capacity. In an email to members, they say:

“We are continuing to work hard with the Premier League and UK Government on plans to bring fans back to stadiums, initially with reduced capacities.

“We are disappointed that our home fixture against West Ham United on Saturday 19 September will be played behind closed doors, but based on current Government guidelines, we hope to be able to welcome supporters back to Emirates Stadium for the Sheffield United game scheduled for Saturday 3 October.

“We will share full information regarding fan attendance at reduced capacity matches by Wednesday 2 September.”

Obviously if it is safe to do so, then that would be a big positive, but I suppose we have to wait and see what the advice is, what the guidelines say, and how realistic it is in terms of the potential spread of Coronavirus – which has not gone away. There have always been concerns that as we head towards the winter months, with flu season upon us too, that there might be a second wave. Hopefully that’s not the case, but with kids set to go back to school etc, I’d mark that date with an asterisk, but let’s see.

The AST have been vocal about the fact that when the Premier League season starts again there won’t be the same coverage as we had during Project Restart. It means that season ticket holders, members and fans of Arsenal, and other clubs, won’t be able to see their teams play live. In other parts of the world, TV rights mean every game is available, but in the UK and Ireland that’s not the case. I guess it’s a complicated issue, but if it was doable for the post-restart games, it’s surely doable now.

We may, as outlined above, see the return of fans to stadiums, but even if everything goes well, that’s going to be staged so some season ticket holders/members, will miss out. It’s also a possibility that games will return to being played behind closed doors if there’s another spike and more restrictive measures are re-introduced.

I do wonder if this might spark something of a rethink in terms of how broadcasting rights are dealt with. The collective nature of the current set-up is relatively equitable for Premier League clubs, there are differences in earnings, but based on achievement, league position etc, and foreign rights are shared equally. Some of the big clubs have tried to break that up, to demand more because of their status/popularity etc, and it’s bound to happen again.

In six months Covid-19 has already hugely impacted the structures of our society in ways we never really considered possible. How football is broadcast, by who, how much it costs, and all the rest, really is a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but as long as this disruption continues and fans can’t attend games, demand for access will continue. Club specific digital season tickets? We’ll have to wait and see.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. Have a great Saturday, more from me tomorrow.

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