It’s just a fact of life. Even the “best” laid plans don’t always go accordingly.
Yesterday, was the reckoning day for such plans. One I feel bad for and one… well, I couldn’t give two shits about its failure at this point.
It would be impossible to talk about yesterday’s Arsenal news without mentioning Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Congratulating him, but being honest about the fact that it will have been far from the first start for England that he has been dreaming of since he was a little kid — and it had nothing to do with him at all.
Athletes spend their lives working toward these moments, toward these milestones, toward the next goal, the next step, the next skill. You make your way through the youth ranks, you try to excel, catch the eyes of coaches, work your way into the first team, play for the first team, get your hands on silverware, and for many, impress enough to be selected for the national team. What an honor.
Selected for the national team and eventually given your first start. It’s a Nations League game, but you don’t care. You’re here to impress, show what you can do, and get selected again. You’re telling yourself to soak it in, enjoy the moment, but you hardly have time to enjoy the moment because your center back partner has an absolute NIGHTMARE and gets himself a yellow card in the 5th minute, and a second in the 31st, which means you have to make way in the 36th.
Harry. Fucking. Maguire. I mean what a terrible performance. Terrible doesn’t even scratch the surface. What was his player rating? Is it possible to start a match and not play enough minutes to qualify for rating? At 30 minutes he qualifies, but my god. That is embarrassing. And the fact that it’s cost Maitland-Niles his opportunity to start an international match is truly a shame.
It’s sad. It’s upsetting. And I really hope that Ainsley gets another chance to be named a starter because that would be a tough memory to carry with you. Your first time being named in the starting lineup and you have to get yanked within 36th minutes. I have never been a Harry Maguire fan, so toss the fodder onto the fire.
Congratulations Ainsley. I hope you get another chance, I hope you got to tell Harry Maguire to fuck off, but if you didn’t, I’m here to do it for you. Fuck off Maguire.
The second plan that fell to bits last night was Project Big Picture. I know this is not a topic I have covered yet — maybe you have heard it going around — but I will briefly cover it.
Recently we heard of plans that were drafted by Liverpool, backed by Manchester United, that proposed a major shake up to many aspects of not only the Premier League, but a trickle down effect to the leagues below as well. It’s clear that many of those trickle downs were used as a tool to gain a wider array of support, and that the timing of this is far from unintentional.
Over the recent years, I believe the Premier League has began to see the playing field start to level. At least, much more level than it has been in a long, long time. Much of this had to do with the amount of TV revenue and prize money that Premier League teams were getting up and down the table. Suddenly the likes of Southampton, Leicester, Watford, and Wolverhampton are putting together competitive squads.
The top of the table didn’t feel quite as set in stone has it once had. There was more parity in the league, which in part helped make it as valuable of a league as it is today. But if you’re the owner of a “big six” club, you don’t really want parity. You want your team to be the best. You want your club to have more money. You want your team to have less competition to place higher. And you want more power and say over what happens in the league. Enter Liverpool and Manchester United.
Out came a proposal with many points, including:
- Premier League reduced to 18 clubs
- No EFL Cup or Community Shield
- Special status for nine longest serving clubs – ‘Big Six’, Everton, West Ham, Southampton
- Only six of the nine longest-serving clubs need to vote for major change
- £250m immediate compensation for EFL
- Figure also represents coronavirus financial bail-out
- Club who finishes 16th in Premier League to replace sixth-placed Championship club in EFL play-offs
- Premier League to commit 25 per cent of future revenue to EFL
A great article from The Athletic covered the ‘winners and losers’ of some of these major aspects. I highly recommend it, if you are someone that subscribes.
I won’t dive into all the details here, but will say this. There are some aspects to the plan that are really great for everyone. There are aspects that help the EFL, aspects that help grassroots and the women’s game, funds for infrastructure projects that would allow clubs to maintain and improve their stadiums for viewers, Premier League away ticket price caps, and a few points with good aspects and bad aspects.
The problem is that it is bundled up into a devilishly, nasty plan that reeks of being a money and power grab, at the most opportune time, by dangling a golden carrot in front of the clubs that are wallowing in desperation during this pandemic, and in need up financial support.
But isn’t that truly the most evil part of this all? The recognition of the situation as a major club, the exploitation of opportunity, the attempt of tempting clubs to sign in blood to solve today’s problems, knowing it’s likely to lead to many more problems down the line?
As the Premier League becomes more and more of a money league than it already is right now, those with the most money are trying to call the shots. They can withstand the blows, overcome the troubles, and now are seeking to capitalize on it by offering respite with one hand, while sealing many fates with the other.
Today, the Premier League “unanimously’ rejected Project Big Picture. It was well known that the Premier League itself did not like the idea of Project Big Picture, and to take it one step further, they have agreed to financing a bailout for League One and League Two clubs that are bleeding dry without matchday revenues. This was one of the main aspects driving support for the plan from leagues below the Premier League. Simply put, many lower league teams saw the financial gain they got in the short term with Project Big Picture and didn’t bat an eye at the changes it would cause at the Premier League level because that isn’t a level they will be at in the near future, or ever.
It’s a step in the right direction. Helping those leagues through interest-free loans and putting to rest this plan from large Premier League clubs to power grab their way to controlling the league’s future… for now.
As The Athletic stressed in their piece, this was the 18th iteration of this plan, despite being the first proposed, which suggests it is viewed by Liverpool and Manchester United as simply a starting point to the conversations. A shot across the bow, a foreshadowing of what’s to come, a first step on a long journey toward getting what they want. It sets the tone of their expectations and has shown what they are willing to put together. It’s easy to imagine that round 2 is simply a slight alteration to include a few of the concerns of others, to push it in the right direction. An attempt at easing fears and appeasing on minor aspects, capped off by a willingness to go round after round after round.
There are good benefits. Maybe that’s the worst part of it all. Just taking those good parts and ditching the rest doesn’t feel like an option in these negotiations. It feels as though those good parts are only obtainable in conjunction with the rest. Spin your web Beelzebub and ensnare your prey one at a time. It will be on the other clubs, and the league itself, to corral and contain this issue for the betterment of the league.
Step 1 completed.
Thats what I got for you today. Arsenal are back training with the team. Looks like Mustafi is making videos of himself scaring and pranking teammates, so that bodes well for Manchester City at the weekend, I suppose. Arsenal are still waiting for an update on Kieran Tierney’s isolation period, but we will hopefully get further updates between today and tomorrow.
Enjoy the day!