Who should be the man to take over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal? Plus, how Liverpool’s fate remains in their own hands and why Jose Mourinho, for once, might have a valid excuse.
What next for the FA Cup?
A lot of the media attention surrounding English football’s main cup competition isn’t even about the games themselves anymore. Instead, media outlets continue to chirp on about the treatment of the competition by big clubs being thoroughly unacceptable, disrespectful, and a sign of all things wrong with the modern game.
But nothing ever changes. Some will argue that the whole point of the FA Cup as a competition is to produce romantic ties such as Sutton v Arsenal, and to bring stories like Lincoln City’s progression to the quarter-finals into light.
Still, there is an underlying agenda which seems to suggest that big clubs still do not take the FA Cup seriously, particularly those with vested European interests and even those in relegation battles.
People are talking about the need to “save” the FA Cup and protect it’s integrity. For some fans, especially the older generation, they feel completely alienated by the competition nowadays. “It just isn’t what it used to be” a phrase frequently uttered by grandparents up and down the country.
How do we “save” the competition. Well, the statistics seem to suggest the the FA Cup just isn’t lucrative enough to big clubs. By lucrative you know exactly what I mean; financial motivation is huge in this day and age, especially when teams need to juggle and prioritise competitions (like Manchester United).
The fact is that the £180,000 received for getting into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup doesn’t even pay a weeks wages of a star player at a top team. So could one solution just be to throw more money into the competition?
On the other hand it could be argued that the money is more than enough. For example, last season Dagenham and Redbridge’s managing director admitted that the £100,000 earned from their trip to Everton in the third round would be enough to bring at least two new players to the club.
In the the 2018/19 season prize money is expected to increase, as the FA negotiated a lucrative £820m international TV rights deal with Pitch International and IMG which will begin that season.
The sad state of the affairs currently is that the FA Cup is viewed as a distraction, a calendar-congester and an energy-sapper. Could this be what is needed to bring the romance back into the competition? Money talks…
Profiling Arsenal’s next manager
Arsene Wenger is never out of the spotlight, but he’s in it more so than ever currently. Many are predicting that his 20-year reign at Arsenal is coming to an end as the club looks like getting knocked out of the Champions League early once again.
The phrase “be careful what you wish for” has been uttered frequently when it comes to Arsenal and the potential departure of Wenger. It is clear to see that a growing section of the Gunners’ support want change one way or another.
Accusations have been made that the players have become too comfortable under Wenger; the likes of Mesut Ozil – who is attracting his own critics – simply not being pushed or pressured enough to perform consistently.
If Arsenal were to make the huge decision and axe Arsene, or if he were to walk away, who would be the right man to take the club forward into a new era?
Arsenal have developed a reputation under Wenger for being a team of finesse and flair. Hard-work is not always the key, it is more about the opponents doing the work chasing the ball around the field while the creative ability takes care of the goals for the Gunners.
Is it time for a change in that? In my opinion, yes. Whoever is the next manager of Arsenal Football Club will face possibly the toughest job in the club’s history. How does one possibly follow on from Arsene Wenger and everything he has brought to the club?
It is important for the next manager to create his own legacy, establish his own style and take the club his way. Managers like Thomas Tuchel and Eddie Howe are exactly the kind of mould that would bring a fresh approach. The key is in the philosophy; although we are yet to see it bear fruit currently, Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at Liverpool is a perfect example of how a new style and approach can galvanise an otherwise stagnant club.
This is exactly what the Arsenal board need to consider, is that the next man will not be another Arsene Wenger. So why not change the script? Someone like Tuchel would be ideal as he would bring back the idea of hard work to earn success, with high-intensity football and pressing off the ball as key as anything.
Arsenal fans would surely love to see their players working hard for every point – not to say they don’t do that already, but the attitude of some players has come under criticism for being too lazy.
Fate still in Liverpool’s hands
While Liverpool may well have blown their title chances this season, it’s important to remember the club’s main focus this season was predominantly to qualify for the Champions League.
It’s the next logical phase needed to help Liverpool progress as a club, attract a higher calibre of player this summer and take Klopp’s masterplan on to the next stage. Anything after that, would be a bonus – and it’s important all at Liverpool don’t lose sight of that.
While Liverpool’s dire form in 2017 has seen them slip down to the table to fifth, and in real danger of being overhauled (perish the thought) of fiercest rivals, Manchester United, the club has a real chance in their next run of games to still make the season a success.
In fact, with matches at home to Arsenal and away to Man City in their next four, the club’s fate this season remains very much in their own hands.
The win over Tottenham last weekend showed that Klopp is still capable of getting Liverpool firing and perhaps their mini-season slump will work somehow in their favour; sharpening their focus for the run-in and secure what would be a dream return to Europe’s top table.
And with faltering Leicester up next, Liverpool’s top four prospects remain very much alive…
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Mourinho excuses for once might just be valid
With the future of the FA Cup very much under the spotlight, the competition’s sponsors will likely be happy with the timely publicity that a Chelsea v Man Utd quarter-final tie will generate.
While neutrals alike also applaud the coming together in the last eight of the two giants, one man has already expressed his frustrations at the pairing, and is already, it seems, getting his excuses in all ready.
“Probably Chelsea can only think about that (the FA Cup) because I think they are champions and they have nothing else to fight for,” Jose Mourinho said in a clinical and brief press conference when asked for his thoughts on the tie.
“The FA Cup is something I believe is important for them. I have to play St Etienne (on Wednesday), I have to play the (League Cup) final, I have to play hopefully another opponent in the Europa League. I have to fight for a top-four position in the Premier League.
“I have so many things to think about.”
While some may feel Mourinho is already getting the excuses in early, it’s worth bearing in mind that the United boss does have a point. With the club chasing cup glory on three fronts – the first of these comes up this Sunday in the EFL Cup final – United could well become a victim of their own cup progress this season.
While glory in the cups is great, Mourinho may ultimately well be forced to go down a road of deciding where his priorities lie. And importantly, where his side can best claim a Champions League return – through Europa League success – now a real possibility – or through the Premier League?
If it’s the former, United look well on course to play easily 65+ games this season, meaning Mourinho may actually have a valid point about opponents Chelsea and their FA Cup quarter-final tie.
Stranger things have happened, but you’d expect a much-changed United side when they face the Blues – with Antonio Conte’s men very much fancied to march on and inch that bit closer to a domestic double in the Italian’s first season.