Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Ballon(s) D’Or, Pepe, Wenger at FIFA

Morning all.

Let’s start with Arsenal Women who made progress in their Champions League qualifying with a 3-0 win over Linkoping last night. It’s quite a convoluted process, via the Guardian’s report: Beating Linkoping set up a tie against Paris FC on Saturday. Should Arsenal progress, they will head into the second round of qualifying, a two-legged playoff to be played in October, to earn a spot in the increasingly lucrative group stage.

So, still plenty to do, but off to a good start thanks to goals from Caitlin Foord, Lina Hurtig and Stina Blackstenius. Tim has reaction from Katie McCabe over on Arseblog News, starting with the fact she has been nominated for the Ballon D’Or, the first time an Irish woman has been in the running for that award. Congrats to her.

She is joined by colleagues Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka who have been shortlisted for the men’s award, while Aaron Ramsdale has been nominated for the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper in the world. You can see the full Ballon D’Or shortlist here. I presume it will go to Lionel Messi after the World Cup and all that, but I don’t think it will be the last time our boys get nominated. Saka, in particular, is someone who should feature in this conversation for years to come.

Although the transfer windows around most of Europe are closed, there are still a couple open which is why Nicolas Pepe, having been linked with Besiktas for a few days, is now a reported target for Trabzonspor. The Turkish window remains active until September 15th, and in order to save yourselves some time, simply say out loud ‘It is being reported that [TURKISH CLUB] are interested in signing Nicolas Pepe …’ until such time as it closes, nothing happens and he is left in limbo.

I really hope he gets a move though. At this point there’s not much left to say about how it didn’t work for him at Arsenal, or just how bad the deal turned out to be. Wrong player, wrong club, wrong time, wrong price. It happens, but very rarely does a player’s stock fall this far, where it looks like there’s no interest in him whatsoever. Perhaps some of it is a hangover of his Arsenal contract, where any club that does have potential interest can’t pay anything like the salary he’s on with us, and that final 12 months of wages he’s entitled to are a stumbling block of some kind.

Premier League clubs have to submit their 25 man squad list by September 13th. With Jurrien Timber’s injury, we have a 23 man squad – excepting Cedric and Pepe. There is room on paper, but is there room in reality? If these players are simply not in the plans, would we be better off without them, or do you give yourself another couple to choose from just in case knowing, of course, that you can rejig the squad in January? I guess we’ll see in time.

Finally for today, Miguel Delaney interviews Arsene Wenger about his work with FIFA, his plan for football, ‘striker schools’, and lots more. As usual the former Arsenal boss has some interesting thoughts, not least on the development of the game and its influence on playing styles. He talks about the quality of [football] education, and trying to improve that across the globe.

It’s a worthy ideal, no question – but for me there’s an elephant in the room, and that is the impact of the schedule on the game. There is basically no downtime for players any more, and FIFA’s role in that is obvious. Wenger going into bat for a World Cup every two years was disappointing, and the fact he’s working for an organisation that is considered by any football fan I know to be steeped in corruption and self-interest doesn’t really help.

The schedule = money. Players generate money for clubs and the likes of FIFA and UEFA. Money then becomes the primary driver of decision making, whether it’s about who plays who and where, or policy. From top to bottom the game is now 100% about how much can be made, and not how good it can be. I’m sure Arsene Wenger has some noble ideas about what football can do for society, and I hope he can get to implement some of them, but I feel like we’ve crossed the Rubicon with this one.

That’s it for now. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast, and more here. Until then.

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