Connect with us

Arsenal news

UEFA should take ALL the blame for hell of Europa League final in Baku

Published

on


  • London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal must go to Baku for the Europa League final
  • UEFA should have chosen a more hospitable and affordable venue for supporters
  • If Mauricio Pochettino was a player he’d have been castigated for his behaviour 
  • Why does he keep talking about his future — or lack of one — as Tottenham boss?

The identity of the Europa League quarter-finalists was known on Thursday, March 14. By the following evening, UEFA should have been able to announce the venue for the final. Somewhere reachable; somewhere the fans could enjoy. Not Baku. Nowhere remote, or inhospitable. Nowhere prohibitively expensive.

There are 18 countries and 1,725 miles between the points UEFA could choose from. They are lying when they say the woe of Baku and back is not on them.

By the time the round of 16 concluded, UEFA knew the area covered by the quarter-finalists. It ranged from Lisbon in the west to Prague in the east, London in the north to Naples in the south. And at that point, UEFA knew too that the nearest Baku would be to any of the possible finalists was 2,227 miles away.

Chelsea and Arsenal will contest this season's Europa League final at Baku's Olympic Stadium

Chelsea and Arsenal will contest this season’s Europa League final at Baku’s Olympic Stadium

Slavia Prague were then knocked out. Even so, had UEFA already decreed that the final was being held in Vienna, say, 156 miles from the Czech capital, there would be no argument whoever ended up there.

Vienna is approachable. So is most of Germany, Spain, or France – and these are all countries with stadium options. It should not take close to two years to find a venue for a final.

Yet Baku was chosen on September 20, 2017. We already know the venue for the 2020 final: Gdansk in Poland. This month we will discover who hosts in 2021: either Tbilisi in Georgia, or Seville.

And for what? So UEFA can conjure up some branding and a meaningless slogan. ‘Together to Baku,’ is the one for this year. Yet who is together to Baku, considering the limitations of the venue? Together in a car, six hours from Tbilisi maybe. Together via Istanbul. Together watching from the sofa because tickets are so scarce.

The qualifying teams, Arsenal and Chelsea, have been told they will only get 6,000 seats each in a 68,700 capacity stadium, and this is now being blamed on the main airport only being able to handle 15,000 visitors a day. And UEFA found that out now? Of course not.

One of the advantages of a two-year lead time is the compilation of evaluation reports; detailed analyses of venue logistics, including international transportation. Meaning UEFA knew of Baku’s flaws and the unavoidable restrictions on tickets but ignored it.

The venue holds 68,700 fans but Arsenal and Chelsea have been given just 6,000 tickets each

The venue holds 68,700 fans but Arsenal and Chelsea have been given just 6,000 tickets each

The venue holds 68,700 fans but Arsenal and Chelsea have been given just 6,000 tickets each

They probably figured that once the final was taken so far east, the numbers travelling would be significantly down anyway.

The only argument for holding finals in remote locations concern inclusion. Azerbaijan is part of UEFA too. Why shouldn’t it get a little gravy? And that much is true. Yet the final venue should always play sympathetically to the needs of supporters.

This year, Krasnodar and Zenit St Petersburg from Russia were in the Europa League’s last 16. Had either got through, most of eastern Europe could have been considered among the options for a final, even Moscow. And yes, Arsenal and Chelsea to Moscow, would still have been a trek. Yet there would have been more than 6,000 tickets each at the end of it, and flights and entry routes would have been less problematic.

This is a final constructed with the least thought, even for the playing participants, given that it has now been revealed that Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Arsenal might not be able to get a visa, due to Armenia’s war footing with Azerbaijan.

How could UEFA award such a fixture to a city without first establishing that all players would be able to gain access? That alone should have been a red flag in 2017 – or at least sorted out months ago when it was clear that Arsenal’s presence in the final was very possible.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may not be able to get a visa due to Armenia's war footing with Azerbaijan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may not be able to get a visa due to Armenia's war footing with Azerbaijan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may not be able to get a visa due to Armenia’s war footing with Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has lots of lovely oil money and, looking back, this has been on the agenda since UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin took the job. He floated the idea in his first major interview, in 2016 when discussing potential final venues. ‘To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York,’ he said. ‘For the fans it’s no problem.’

At the time, the headlines were about UEFA taking the Champions League final to the American continent – and that will come if the elite clubs get their way, don’t worry – but we all missed Baku as a prior staging post. You’ve got to love that ‘no problem’, too. There speaks a man who hasn’t worried about the cost of watching football in decades.

Ask Arsenal or Chelsea’s fans if Baku is no problem. OK, two years too late, but it might inform the decision over Tbilisi in 2021.

It is a myth that UEFA, or any remotely competent organisation, cannot organise an event in two months. If it goes the distance, baseball’s World Series completes its post-season play-offs two or three days before the finals begin.

In 2012, San Francisco Giants played St Louis Cardinals for the National League pennant on Monday, October 22. Having won, the World Series opened with the Giants facing Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, October 24. Yet the Tigers could just as easily have been playing in St Louis that day.

San Francisco and St Louis are 2,051 miles apart, and while Detroit to St Louis is 532 miles, San Francisco is 2,393 miles away. And yet it gets done. Travel is organised, tickets are sold, branding is designed – and the whole process is completed in 48 hours.

And no, because of the often enormous distances involved, baseball does not have the tradition of away support that exists in football. Yet there are still a few hardy souls who make the trip – and between two days and two years, there is surely middle ground. It’s called March.

Nothing can last for ever — not even City’s stranglehold 

By the time Europe’s richest clubs had finished fashioning financial fair play into a protectionist’s charter, Manchester United, it seemed, were golden. Nothing would challenge their elite status. They had neutered the power of new money; they had insured themselves against the day Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down.

David Gill’s many years of politicking in football’s highest offices had been worth every meeting. Manchester United had football where they wanted it.

And then Ferguson left and the entire edifice crumbled. If Arsenal win the Europa League, United will be the only member of the Premier League’s elite six not in the Champions League next season. They did not qualify in 2014-15 or 2016-17 either. Since losing the Champions League final in 2011, the deepest they have gone into the competition is two quarter-final appearances, five years apart.

So those worrying that Manchester City’s rule is permanent after back-to-back titles and 198 points over two years, can relax. In football – certainly in English football – nothing is for ever.

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany lifted the Premier League trophy again on Sunday

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany lifted the Premier League trophy again on Sunday

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany lifted the Premier League trophy again on Sunday

If Manchester United, a club with every advantage of size, wealth and privilege can be plunged into a relative wilderness, then City’s dominance cannot last, either. Think about it: unless Vincent Kompany scores the greatest goal of his career, they probably don’t win this title.

And then, one day, Pep Guardiola will depart. How do they replace him; indeed, who could replace him? City possess a more sophisticated executive strategy than United, but that doesn’t mean there will not be a Guardiola effect.

Manuel Pellegrini won the title in his first season, but went downhill after. Roberto Mancini ended up in a ruinously fractious relationship with the club, and a single title win. The new money ensures the dominance of super powers like Juventus and Bayern Munich is not such a factor in the English game.

Even if City were to win again next season, they would just be equalling the feats of Huddersfield (1923-26), Arsenal (1932-35), Liverpool (1981-84) and Manchester United (1998-2001 and 2006-09). Only a fourth victory would be unprecedented. As it is, City merely join a list of 11 clubs that have retained the title, on 25 occasions.

And it hasn’t happened for a while – not since Manchester United in 2008-09 – and never by winning a combined 198 points, so there is a lot of projection. Yet City were never this successful until Guardiola arrived.

And if he isn’t for ever, neither are they. 

But City will not dominate English football forever, especially once Pep Guardiola leaves

But City will not dominate English football forever, especially once Pep Guardiola leaves

But City will not dominate English football forever, especially once Pep Guardiola leaves

What’s your point, Poch… or can we guess? 

If Mauricio Pochettino was a Tottenham player he would have been widely castigated for his behaviour at the end of last week, Champions League final or not. Why does he keep talking about his future at Tottenham? More specifically, why does he keep talking about not having one?

In the aftermath of an incredible night in Amsterdam, suddenly it was all about Pochettino’s intentions again. What if Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen had used such a special moment to cast a shadow of doubt across the club? They would have been accused of self-indulgence, of selfishness, of undermining their team-mates.

Pochettino can hardly complain now, if he has to field more questions about his intentions. He can hardly be surprised if his motives are regarded cynically. A sabbatical? At a time when Manchester United might be regretting their latest managerial appointment? Well, isn’t that convenient?

If Daniel Levy makes good his promises of investment, there really isn’t a better club for Pochettino than Tottenham right now – yet frequently his public utterances serve only to challenge that view. What is going on? This seems as strategic as any of his game plans. 

If Mauricio Pochettino was a player he would have been widely castigated for his behaviour

If Mauricio Pochettino was a player he would have been widely castigated for his behaviour

If Mauricio Pochettino was a player he would have been widely castigated for his behaviour

Who were the REAL bigots in Baker’s case?

There are not enough geniuses in broadcasting that we can afford to lose one. What was interesting about Danny Baker’s dismissal, however, is those who leapt to his defence. Everyone who knew him, and had a public platform.

Unable to give the benefit of the doubt: those who have never met him, or had no interest in his work, his interests or his personality.

On social media, many of those sitting in judgement made the connection between Baker’s south London roots, his love of football and his support for Millwall. It stood to reason that he would harbour horrid prejudices because he was a white, working class, Millwall fan. There’s a word for that, you know. 

Broadcasting genius Danny Baker was sacked by the BBC after posting an offensive tweet

Broadcasting genius Danny Baker was sacked by the BBC after posting an offensive tweet

Broadcasting genius Danny Baker was sacked by the BBC after posting an offensive tweet

Surprise! Money breeds success

A Premier League money table has been published. It is made up of three categories: the equal share of £79.4m each, the money accrued from live TV broadcasts and the per place prize money. Of the 20 clubs, eight were in exactly the same position in the league table as the money table, 10 were one place off and two – Newcastle and Watford – swapped places two away.

The table in the Championship, by comparison, is random. Manchester City did not win the league solely because of money – Liverpool actually topped that table – but finance decides who gets in the mix.

At the end of what was quite probably the greatest title race in history, as Manchester City lifted the trophy, a dreadful refrain filled the Amex Stadium. ‘No time for losers,’ sang Freddie Mercury. Really? This, of all seasons? Hasn’t anyone at the Premier League been watching their own competition? How incredibly crass. 

Out of Africa, trio who lit up the season

Many years ago, when Sky’s coverage of the Premier League was in its infancy, a very famous former England footballer was the studio guest. He was asked what he expected to see from a young winger, a talent on the rise, tipped for international honours. ‘Not much, really,’ he replied.

Pressed to explain, he offered the devastating analysis: ‘I don’t fancy the black lads much, when it gets cold.’ Suffice, he made two appearances on television that night: his first, and last.

We appear to have moved on since then. And for those that have not, perhaps the sight of three African players – Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – sharing this season’s Golden Boot with 22 goals each will persuade. It’s not where you’re from that counts; it’s where you’re at.

Mo Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sadio Mane (left to right) shared the Golden Boot

Mo Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sadio Mane (left to right) shared the Golden Boot

Mo Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sadio Mane (left to right) shared the Golden Boot

Who knew Toon had a plan?

Salomon Rondon is still unsure of his Newcastle future, despite scoring 11 goals this season and becoming the first Newcastle striker to win the club’s Player of the Year since Alan Shearer in 2003. Rondon is on loan from West Brom but, at 30, his age profile apparently goes against the club’s policy. Imagine – there’s a policy. Who knew? 

Looking at Brighton’s team sheet, it is surely no surprise the club battled relegation. With the exception of Lewis Dunk, arguably no individual would get into a team in the top half. So Chris Hughton’s sacking is harsh.

Having said this, Brighton are not the first club to reject a pragmatic manager in the hope the switch to a more open style will bring with it excitement and improved results. Sometimes, however, the excitement is of a rather different kind to that imagined. Ask Stoke.

Lewis Dunk is the only Brighton player who would get into a top-10 Premier League team

Lewis Dunk is the only Brighton player who would get into a top-10 Premier League team

Lewis Dunk is the only Brighton player who would get into a top-10 Premier League team



Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Arsenal news

Solskjaer coy on Sanchez's future as Manchester United flop closes in on loan move to Inter

Published

on

By


‘Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks’: Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer coy on Alexis Sanchez’s future as Old Trafford flop closes in on loan move to Inter Milan

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted Alexis Sanchez could leave Manchester United in the coming weeks, with Inter Milan among the clubs showing interest in the forward.

Having failed to get anywhere near his best since joining from Arsenal in January 2018, the United manager appeared to end any talk of the Chilean leaving during Friday’s press conference.

Solskjaer spoke about his belief that Sanchez would come good at United – but three days on the Norwegian opened the door to the Premier League‘s highest-paid player making an exit. 

Manchester United are open to letting forward Alexis Sanchez leave the club

Manchester United are open to letting forward Alexis Sanchez leave the club

Asked about Sanchez’s future after Monday’s 1-1 draw at Wolves, Solskjaer said: “Well, there’s still a couple of weeks left of the transfer window and there is a chance… some clubs have shown interest in Alexis, so we’ll see what happens.

“Can’t update you more than that.”  

Inter Milan expect to have a firm idea of whether a deal to sign Sanchez can be struck to sign over the next two days.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted Sanchez could leave before the transfer deadline

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted Sanchez could leave before the transfer deadline

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted Sanchez could leave before the transfer deadline

Manchester United are open to letting the Chilean leave Old Trafford before the European transfer deadline on September 2.

Sportsmail understands Sanchez wants a move to Italy and Inter are in the process of putting together a financial package.

The forward – who is close to new Inter signing Romelu Lukaku – earns a basic wage of £300,000 a week, with £100,000 worth of image rights on top. Inter would need United to subsidise part of his salary. 

 

 



Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Arsenal news

Transfer news: Premier League trio in hunt for Rennes wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga

Published

on

By


Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham in hunt for 16-year-old Rennes wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga after he starred in win over PSG

  • Eduardo Camavinga helped Rennes beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in Ligue 1 clash 
  • The 16-year-old is being chased by a number of top Premier League clubs
  • Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham all had scouts at Roazhon Park

Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham are hot on the trail of Rennes’ teenage wonder-kid Eduardo Camavinga.

The Premier League trio all had scouts at Roazhon Park to watch the 16 year-old midfielder steal the show and inspire Rennes to a shock 2-1 win over French giants Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday night.

Tottenham were keen to sign Camavinga during his breakthrough campaign last season when he made his first seven senior appearances before being handed three more starts so far this year.

Eduardo Camavinga starred in Rennes' shock victory against Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday

Eduardo Camavinga starred in Rennes’ shock victory against Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday

But his list of admirers, which also includes Barcelona and Real Madrid, is growing and interest is mounting in the Angola-born left footer after he made Europe sit up and take note with his PSG performance.

Camavinga stunned observers with the maturity of his midfield display, despite his tender years and against the much more experienced opponents such as Marco Verratti and Marquinhos.

Camavinga more than held his own, catching the eye with his range of passing – he completed all but one of his 41 passes – dribbling and close control, bravery on the ball and also by setting up Rennes’ winning goal.

The talented 16-year-old has attracted interest from a number of Premier League clubs

The talented 16-year-old has attracted interest from a number of Premier League clubs

The talented 16-year-old has attracted interest from a number of Premier League clubs

EDUARDO CAMAVINGA

Date of birth: 10 November 2002

Place of birth: Miconje, Angola

Position: Midfielder

Youth teams: 

AGL-Drapeu Fougeres

Rennes youth academy

Senior appearances/goals: 

Rennes II – 13/4

Rennes – 10

Did you know?

Camavinga is the first player born after January 1, 2002 to start a game in the top five European leagues

Rennes boss Julien Stephan said: ‘He played a match, indeed, like the whole team – very interesting.

‘We are talking to him. He is someone who is also very well-constructed intellectually, who knows how to question himself, who knows how to ask the right questions.

‘Many of the pros have taken him under their wing, because he is very respectful in the dressing room and very attentive to their advice. He blossomed with us this summer.’ 

Camavinga has primarily been used as a defensive midfielder during his Rennes senior career but his technical and physical attributes have earned him comparisons with Manchester United and France star Paul Pogba.

He is in the process of gaining French nationality, having moved to the country when he was six, and his excited youth coaches believe he has what it takes to one day be even more influential in the national team’s midfield than Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

And in a connection to another of France’s senior stars, Camavinga has the same agent – Moussa Sissoko – as Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele.

Demebele also started his career at Rennes, coming through the ranks before moving to Borussia Dortmund in 2016 and then Barcelona in a deal worth up to £135.5m a year later.



Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Arsenal news

Arsenal news: Club offer Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang jackpot deals

Published

on

By


Arsenal offer Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang huge pay rises if they can get club back into the Champions League

  • Arsenal plan pay rises for Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
  • Strike duo to be offered new deal with incentives for Champions League success
  • The Gunners hope qualification would help pay for the substantial bonuses 

Arsenal are offering lucrative Champions League pay rises to Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as they aim to persuade their strike duo to sign new deals.

After what was viewed as a successful transfer window for the Gunners, officials are turning their focus on renegotiating the contracts of their existing players.

Talks are underway with Lacazette and Aubameyang over contract extensions. Both are already among the club’s highest earners — with Lacazette earning in the region of £140,000 a week and Aubameyang on close to £200,000 a week.

Alexandre Lacazette (bottom) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be offered new contracts

Alexandre Lacazette (bottom) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be offered new contracts

Nevertheless, the pair will both be given substantial pay rises if they commit their futures to the north London club.

Sportsmail understands Arsenal are also willing to include financial clauses that would trigger another pay hike if they can propel the club back into the Champions League. That would be in addition to one-off bonuses they would receive for qualifying for the competition.

Arsenal’s wage bill is already swollen, meaning the Gunners cannot guarantee Lacazette and Aubameyang parity with top earner Mesut Ozil.

Arsenal want to give the pair new deals with heavy incentives for Champions League football

Arsenal want to give the pair new deals with heavy incentives for Champions League football

Arsenal want to give the pair new deals with heavy incentives for Champions League football

Gunners' current financial situation means duo will not be offered wage parity with Mesut Ozil

Gunners' current financial situation means duo will not be offered wage parity with Mesut Ozil

Gunners’ current financial situation means duo will not be offered wage parity with Mesut Ozil

But the increased revenue from playing Champions League football would help Arsenal finance incentivised wage increases.

Lacazette and Aubameyang have proved themselves to be important figures during the Unai Emery regime — scoring 51 goals between them since the start of last season.

But their futures could, of course, come into question if the club cannot persuade them to sign extensions.

Aubameyang has entered the final two years of his contract, which would leave Arsenal with a big decision to make if he does not sign new terms before next summer. 

Head of football relations Raul Sanllehi is keen to ensure pair do not run down their contracts

Head of football relations Raul Sanllehi is keen to ensure pair do not run down their contracts

Head of football relations Raul Sanllehi is keen to ensure pair do not run down their contracts

Lacazette has just under three seasons to run on his deal — but head of football relations Raul Sanllehi has made it clear he does not want players entering the final two years of their contracts.

Speaking last Friday, manager Emery said: ‘Of course, for us, they are very important players and their contracts need to be in the same balance.’

Lacazette has promised more goals, declaring: ‘The Premier League has not yet seen the best Lacazette. It has seen some very good, but not the best. I can score more goals and be more consistent.’



Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com