Saturday, February 4, 2023

Wednesday waffle: Smith Rowe / An ‘All-star game’


Some quick Wednesday waffle. None of which has to do with the fixture list. Well, maybe not much.

Emile Smith Rowe

I saw a report earlier in the week which suggested he might need surgery. That story has yet to be repeated by anyone with any real credibility, so we’ll have to wait and see, but his fitness issues are a bit of a concern.

Here’s the thing: Arsenal gave Smith Rowe the number 10 shirt last season, it’s a big number to take on, and perhaps people have forgotten the fact he scored 11 goals last season (10 in the Premier League). For a player then just 21, that’s an impressive return, so while I completely understand why there are worries about his fitness, I don’t quite get why I see discussions about his ability.

The talent is there and the ability is there. The fitness is not, and obviously that’s a big part of a player’s ability to deliver on those raw ingredients, but we’ve seen young players emerge before who have had some physical difficulties in the early part of their careers but then come through them to establish themselves properly.

The fact that Gabriel Martinelli has had a great start to the season means we’re not pining for Smith Rowe right now, but this is a long season, and we’re going to need him. Let’s hope he can get fit and stay fit soon.

An ‘All-Star Game’.

New Chelsea owner Todd Boehly said he hoped ‘the Premier League takes a little bit of a lesson from American sports’, and suggested the idea of an ‘All-Star game’ between north and south.

“Why don’t we do a tournament with the bottom four sports teams, why isn’t there an All-Star game?

“People are talking about more money for the pyramid, in the MLB All-Star game this year we made 200 million dollars from a Monday and a Tuesday.

“So we’re thinking we could do a North versus South All-Star game for the Premier League, for whatever the pyramid needed quite easily.”

I suppose the first thing to say is that the Premier League as a concept was almost entirely taken from US sports. David Dein, one of the co-founders of the league, has spoken before about how he based much of the idea to break away on his experiences in America, at NFL and the like. The bright lights, the razzmatazz, improving in-stadium facilities like food and drink, and even in terms of the TV coverage. Where do people think ‘Monday night football’ comes from?

Back then, given the state of football in England, the culture around it, crumbling stadiums, and all the rest, this was ‘relatively’ easy to do. The Premier League broke away, signed a deal with Sky, and changed the way football was covered. Since then we’ve seen cheerleaders, half-time ‘entertainment’ (even at Arsenal!), and so many more ‘innovations’ which were lifted directly from US sports. Not always to ensure the fan experience was as good as it could be, but to maximise the revenue that could be extracted from them, squeezing every last penny out of supporters.

Here we are in 2022, and the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. Clubs owned by billionaires, some of whom have absolutely no idea about the game but who see football as a business opportunity; clubs owned by oligarchs and nation states for reasons we all know and understand, but which continue to be glossed over; and a league which is now head and shoulders above all others financially, in essence creating its own ‘Super League’, at least when it comes to the transfer market.

I love the idea that Boehly is pretending to be concerned about the football pyramid as a justification for all an ‘All-Star game’. These people must think we’re stupid. You can be quite sure if something like this went ahead, it would be a hyped up, pay-per-view event, a marketing tool, and the money it generated would end up primarily in the pockets of those responsible for the idea with very little trickling down.

Mostly though, as a concept it shows how little he understands of football. The idea that players from Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City, Newcastle etc would come together to play a team made up from the London clubs, for example, is just absurd. Players can put aside rivalries for internationals (even that’s not always true), but for something like this? No chance, but then is being floated by a man who, rumours say, suggested Thomas Tuchel play a 4-4-3 formation before he sacked him.

Not to mention he’s talking about adding more games to an already mental fixture list (there we go!). A tournament for the bottom four to determine relegation (we already have play-offs for promotion); an ‘All-Star game’; where do they go? With pre-season tournaments and internationals, players are essentially doing it non-stop as it is. Are they allowed any rest, or do we just play them till they drop? Answers on a postcard.

Here’s the thing: I think we should be open to any good ideas that improve the sport and, pardon the phrase, the ‘product’ that is the Premier League – but this is not that. This is another idea that’s all about money, and nothing else. Then again, I suppose you could say that fits entirely into what the Premier League is and has become, so who knows?

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. Have a good one.

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