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1 hour ago, Atomiswave said:

Its really out of this world, 2 American owners meeting and deciding the fate, contacts a dodgy former executive and shit gets into motion......WTF man. Maryin Samuel is right, this will will be the end of the underdogs among other things.

Yanks have sniffed out a mega earner, and want to control the game, then throw crumbs at the rest. I hope this is thrown out like for the criminal enterprise it actually is.

Cant believe some dumb fucks want to go along with this Liverpool/Man Utd bollox.

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39 minutes ago, Fulham Broadway said:

Yanks have sniffed out a mega earner, and want to control the game, then throw crumbs at the rest. I hope this is thrown out like for the criminal enterprise it actually is.

Cant believe some dumb fucks want to go along with this Liverpool/Man Utd bollox.

You said it man, proper bullshit of a move here. If this goes through you can kiss epl goodbye, its fucked as it is already. Who the fuck are you to propose such a thing?

They think they’re being slick with what their doing, but anyone with a brain can see that this is all just a big underhanded scheme where the so called “big 6” get richer, meanwhile the grass roots football teams get screwed over.

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16 minutes ago, Atomiswave said:

You said it man, proper bullshit of a move here. If this goes through you can kiss epl goodbye, its fucked as it is already. Who the fuck are you to propose such a thing?

They think they’re being slick with what their doing, but anyone with a brain can see that this is all just a big underhanded scheme where the so called “big 6” get richer, meanwhile the grass roots football teams get screwed over.

Next thing they'll control the media rights, then they'll fuck with the rules, dividing the game into 'quarters' -fucking touch downs or some such bullshit :DTV  adverts every 10 minutes (If anyones ever watched US sports on TV . its determined by advertising). 

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26 minutes ago, Fulham Broadway said:

Next thing they'll control the media rights, then they'll fuck with the rules, dividing the game into 'quarters' -fucking touch downs or some such bullshit :DTV  adverts every 10 minutes (If anyones ever watched US sports on TV . its determined by advertising). 

Hey you never know, such a thing is easily possible, potential is there sadly. The nerve of these roaches to plan such a move should receive a backlash imo, this will only make people hate them 2 even more....fucking bums.

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36 minutes ago, Atomiswave said:

Hey you never know, such a thing is easily possible, potential is there sadly. The nerve of these roaches to plan such a move should receive a backlash imo, this will only make people hate them 2 even more....fucking bums.

The way I see it, it's all about the big clubs making more money. The owners, in particular the Glazers only care about money and not football.
Don't scrap cups, the big clubs might not care but the other clubs do, especially if lower league clubs get drawn against a big team, its good for their fans and finances.

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2 hours ago, Fulham Broadway said:

The way I see it, it's all about the big clubs making more money. The owners, in particular the Glazers only care about money and not football.
Don't scrap cups, the big clubs might not care but the other clubs do, especially if lower league clubs get drawn against a big team, its good for their fans and finances.

How very dare you, them american owners are poor as fuck, they are living on the streets, wtf how much money do you need you greedy cunts. Billions aint enough anymore.

1 hour ago, Tomo said:

There isn't a hope in hell these changes happen.

Well the idea has been taken seriously, that in it self is a disgrace.

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40 minutes ago, Atomiswave said:

Well the idea has been taken seriously, that in it self is a disgrace.

To make changes to the PL you need agreement from atleast 14 clubs (it's why the neutral venue idea for project restart died a quick death). Simply won't happen.

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9 minutes ago, Tomo said:

To make changes to the PL you need agreement from atleast 14 clubs (it's why the neutral venue idea for project restart died a quick death). Simply won't happen.

Lets hope so man

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4 hours ago, Tomo said:

There isn't a hope in hell these changes happen.

Admire your optimism, and all fan groups of the Big Six have firmly rejected the idea  -but EFL clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two said there was almost unanimous support for the proposals during individual league meetings on Tuesday. (Today).


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4 hours ago, Fernando said:

Any one care to explain this new plan for the EFL? 

Seems a bit weird, but according to guardian the lower clubs are accepting because they need the money.

Thats true they are in dire need of collapsing. There is plenty of cash to prop up Championship, League 1 and 2 clubs, but the big 6 have scented an opportunity for a power grab. Heres the 'proposals'

The Premier League cut from 20 to 18 clubs, with the Championship, League One and League Two each retaining 24 teams.

The bottom two teams in the Premier League relegated automatically with the 16th-placed team joining the Championship play-offs.

The League Cup and Community Shield abolished.

Parachute payments scrapped.

A £250m rescue fund made immediately available to the EFL and 25% of all future TV deals.

£100m paid to the FA to make up for lost revenue.

Nine clubs given 'special voting rights' on certain issues, based on their extended runs in the Premier League.

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6 hours ago, Fulham Broadway said:

Thats true they are in dire need of collapsing. There is plenty of cash to prop up Championship, League 1 and 2 clubs, but the big 6 have scented an opportunity for a power grab. Heres the 'proposals'

The Premier League cut from 20 to 18 clubs, with the Championship, League One and League Two each retaining 24 teams.

The bottom two teams in the Premier League relegated automatically with the 16th-placed team joining the Championship play-offs.

The League Cup and Community Shield abolished.

Parachute payments scrapped.

A £250m rescue fund made immediately available to the EFL and 25% of all future TV deals.

£100m paid to the FA to make up for lost revenue.

Nine clubs given 'special voting rights' on certain issues, based on their extended runs in the Premier League.

It’s incredibly favourable for the bit 6 and would make English teams more competitive in Europe while remaining healthy domestic competition 

but it basically recreates aristocracy in footy , a two classes system

PL is so attractive bc all teams are strong anything can happen. The new rules would not eradicate that but certainly set a trend to a more la Liga way . 

cutting the league to 18 teams and removing the tin pot cups has my full support tho

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1 hour ago, Magic Lamps said:

It’s incredibly favourable for the bit 6 and would make English teams more competitive in Europe while remaining healthy domestic competition 

but it basically recreates aristocracy in footy , a two classes system

PL is so attractive bc all teams are strong anything can happen. The new rules would not eradicate that but certainly set a trend to a more la Liga way . 

cutting the league to 18 teams and removing the tin pot cups has my full support tho

Yes I see your point - though the Community Shield to me is a great curtain raiser to the season, and all the money goes to charity. The League Cup is so important to all 92  clubs, as Lampard said, and is a massive source of revenue to lower league clubs. Basically the current proposal is an unashamed power grab by those clubs with the most money, taking advantage of the Covid situation in that so many clubs are struggling, and laughs in the face of democracy.

One solution I would advocate would be  a 10% transfer tax, with money going to EFL clubs that need it the most.

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Thoughts whirling like so many dervishes in his considerable head

Best Dervish Dance GIFs | Gfycat



So nightmarish has Harry Maguire’s start to the current season been, that some media commentators are of a mind he could do with a break from football. Of course it could also be argued that his most recent break from football has almost certainly contributed to the Manchester United and England centre-back’s current slump in form and after all that unpleasantness in Mykonos another holiday is the last thing he needs.

Fiver readers of a certain age will remember that having been found guilty of assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery by the Greek beaks back in August, Harry immediately appealed and had his conviction quashed pending a retrial some time next year. Perhaps for the best, it was not an avenue open to him after falling foul of football’s legal system against Denmark and as he trudged off the pitch he had the air about him of a man who needed some quiet time alone with the thoughts whirling like so many dervishes in his big Slab Head.

Due to face Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday, Steve Bruce, his players and the fans of Newcastle will almost certainly agree with Gareth Southgate’s post-match view that the best place for Maguire at the moment “is on the pitch”, but the England manager’s staunch defence of a player whose form has plummeted lemming-like off a cliff in recent months is increasingly being used to beat him in the wake of England’s latest defeat.

Even before Wednesday’s game started, “Southgate out” was trending on social media disgrace Twitter, his managerial heroics in only losing three matches out of seven at the last World Cup were apparently a fading memory in the minds of some. The kind of fairweather England fans who’d like to see him replaced by Arséne Wenger, Richard Osman, Ian McEwan or any other authors currently doing the rounds hawking new books.

While a couple of ropy performances, negative tactics and an apparent reluctance to pick somebody who played well for 76 minutes in a friendly against the Wales B team are hardly sackable offences, there remains a nagging concern that Southgate might not be the right man for the job and his opportunity for glory came and went at the 2018 World Cup. It was not the first famously glorious opportunity he passed up while representing England and a consensus is growing that it won’t be the last.

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Ollie Watkins: the rise of ‘the machine’



In Ollie Watkins’ first training session at Aston Villa those around him immediately recognised a player ready for the step up to the Premier League.

His hard, unselfish running was not lost on the defenders who came up against pace and power of a different kind. Captain Jack Grealish was licking his lips with anticipation after watching Watkins’ early movement both in and out of possession, while on the sidelines manager Dean Smith and his long-term assistant, Richard O’Kelly, could see a different beast to the one they previously had at Brentford.

“He looked like a more mature and confident player right from the start,” Smith tells The Athletic. “He scored 26 goals last season and he believed he should have scored 36 as well which just shows he is not one who is going to rest on his laurels.”

Watkins, who sang Luther Vandross’s Never Too Much as his initiation song, backed up those early impressions in training by getting off to a flying start at Villa. After scoring in a pre-season friendly against Manchester United and then following it up with a goal on his debut against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup, his perfect hat-trick in the 7-2 win over Liverpool in the last Premier League outing took his early tally to five goals in six games in all competitions.

Little over three weeks after that first training session, there was Watkins, standing under the Villa Park lights clutching onto the match ball for dear life. The chief executive Christian Purslow, the man who negotiated the record-breaking deal to bring him to the club for £28 million rising to a possible £33 million, was wrapping his arms around the striker as a global media scrum gathered.

His first words in reply to one question about his hat-trick was that he “should have had five goals rather than three”. There was nothing cocky or arrogant about his tone. He is down to earth. This was an in-form Premier League striker living in the moment.

It wasn’t always like this, though.

Ripping into the usually rock-solid defensive pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez and announcing himself on the global stage was the product of years of hard work.

That he recognises his previous times of struggle, and still has a never-ending desire to improve, will also keep him grounded.

In Watkins’ late teenage years at Exeter City, his game was in such a state that he still hadn’t nailed down a position of preference or strength. He could play down the middle or out wide, but wasn’t making any great gains. Those close to him speak about a defining period that helped shape his future, and also cement an early steeliness in his mindset.

Aged 18, he ditched the comfort of under-21 football at Exeter for a loan spell at Weston-super-Mare AFC, six divisions deep in the league pyramid.

Ryan Northmore, his manager at Weston, told The Times: “When I had him, he had real superpowers, but he was too predictable to play against.”

Yet that loan spell, where he scored ten goals in 24 games, was the making of him. He returned to Exeter with a purpose and was rough and ready.  Not only had he shown courage to go and mix it with battled-hardened men, he also had the bumps and bruises to prove that he was up for the fight and worthy of consideration for the first-team.

After scraping onto a pre-season tour to Scotland in 2015 as the 24th man and the final pick, he didn’t look back.

Kevin Nicholson, his under-18 coach at Exeter tells The Athletic: “The potential was always there for Ollie. However, he needed support, guidance and good coaching from the people at the club at that time to help him on his way to fulfilling that potential. His technical and physical attributes were impressive from day one of working with him but he needed help to improve his general game understanding at that time.

“Credit should go to Paul Tisdale (manager) and Steve Perryman (director of football) for the work they did with Ollie at Exeter once he became a young professional with the first team.”

Tisdale worked tirelessly with Watkins, initially asking him to hustle more when playing in a wide position rather than simply waiting for the ball to come to him.


A slight tweak to his position at the back end of 2015 paid dividends. During his time at centre-forward he scored 25 goals in 74 games, earning him a move to Brentford.

It was here, in the Championship, where he took his game to a new level. None of it was left to chance, though, as one former staff member explained: “Ollie always wanted to know the areas where he could improve. He was a constant learner; always searching for ways he could better himself.”

Nicholson echoes such thoughts from his earlier years, adding: “Through the ups and downs, he never stopped believing in himself and his ability. He was prepared to work hard and he demanded honesty and feedback. He wanted to know what he was doing well and how he could build on it.”

Under Smith and O’Kelly in his first season at Brentford, Watkins scored ten league goals and missed just one game. He chalked up another ten strikes in the following season but the majority of the goals came from cutting in from the flank or playing as a supporting striker.

Pre-season training would often make for interesting viewing when Watkins was involved as he consistently topped the charts for speed, stamina, high-intensity sprints and a stack of other metrics.

Brentford’s programme editor, Chris Deacon, tells The Athletic: “Ollie transformed himself into a physical specimen. We’d call him a machine because it looked like he would set himself into third gear and then cruise along at the front while everyone else was blowing.”

It’s his blend of technical and physical attributes that have helped him settle into the Premier League with ease, but the 24-year-old’s sky-high confidence stems back to the start of last season.

It was when Brentford’s recognised No 9 Neal Maupay left for Brighton & Hove Albion that summer that those around Watkins sensed a coming of age. He took on the responsibility of becoming Brentford’s main source of goals and his hard work was rewarded with 26 strikes in return.


Coaching staff remember the early stages of that campaign where he asked for individual sessions to work on his movement and finishing to help him adjust to the change.

Watkins also dedicated time to improving his heading and the rewards could be seen in his performance for Villa against Fulham earlier this season where he dominated the defence.

It will come as a surprise to many that, among Premier League forwards, only Oli McBurnie (22) Andy Carroll (22) Dominic Calvert-Lewin (17) and Chris Wood (16) have won more headers then Watkins (15) this season. Maybe more telling is that, of those strikers, recognised for their aerial dominance, only Carroll (22 won, 10 lost) has a better win-to-lose ratio in headed duels.

Unwittingly, Watkins finds himself once again in a comparison contest with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic, the man who beat him to the top goalscorer award by a single goal last season, as both players have won and lost 15 headers a piece so far for their respective clubs and are seen as among the best in that particular category.

But such individuals battles are of little relevance to Watkins as one source said: ”He had no interest in what Mitrovic was doing last season,  it was more about how he could get the better of the defender he came up against.”

It’s that attention to detail before a match day that is maybe giving him an edge.

He studies forthcoming opponents religiously before games and knows exactly the type of defenders he is coming up against. Pre-match analysis is, of course, common across every professional league in the country, but Watkins’ preparation is as detailed and thorough as you can get.

If a defender has slipped up in the past, or made a mistake that could be repeated, Watkins will try to expose that weakness himself. The way he hassles defenders and stretches the backline with his clever and unselfish runs into the channels that create space for his team-mates also helps.

He will also know exactly how the opponents like to play, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, as he asks for additional clips from analysts to aid his preparation.

It was clear that Watkins had done his homework on Liverpool. Immediately after the win he told Sky Sports how the team as a collective targeted their opponent’s high line. Deep down, he’d have also planned ways to unsettle Van Dijk and Gomez, although he remained respectful and humble enough to keep it private.

On top of his on-field qualities, there’s a likeable lad who receives glowing references from every club he has been at.

At Exeter his legacy lives on as they still show videos of their academy graduate to young players before training. A £4 million windfall from the deal that took him to Villa has also been well received.

Along with his goals, Brentford miss his cheeky smile, as well as his honesty and generosity as he always helped with charity events. The boy who parked himself in a modest apartment on the River Thames and shirked the lavish lifestyle of London after moving up from Devon will always be welcomed back with open arms.

There was never a change in his behaviour either as five clubs battled for his signature this summer. Watkins never let his standards drop. He was consistently friendly and engaging around the training ground right up until the day he cleared his locker to head up to Birmingham and complete his late-night move.

But it’s at Villa where he is progressing now and there’s a belief that the record-signing is very much the real deal.

Watkins’ consistency in front of goal is special. It’s over 18 months since he went longer than three games without scoring a league goal and Smith confidently revealed his thoughts about the man he has now signed twice.

“I have no doubts he will score goals for us this season and be a very much loved Aston Villa centre-forward,” he said.

The players feel the same too, and have noticed how he demands more from them in a measured but encouraging way.

He sets high standards and wants those around him to match up, but that’s nothing new; it has been the case since day one.

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How is Arteta different to Guardiola?



Since Mikel Arteta took charge at Arsenal, the comparisons with Pep Guardiola have been as constant as they have been inevitable. For some, they remain master and apprentice, guru and devotee.

However, Arteta is already showing himself to be more than a mere clone. Guardiola helped open the door to a coaching career, but the younger man is now finding his own path.

Drawing parallels is understandable: there are undoubtedly similarities in the two men. For starters, they are both sharp thinkers — and sharp dressers. They share an intensity, a magnetic charisma that makes them natural leaders. They are products of the Barcelona system and their teams share certain key tactical points: they both attack in five channels, and frequently defend in five channels too. Arteta has recently made use of a back three and Guardiola deployed a similar system in his early days at Manchester City. He has returned to it several times since, most recently for the Champions League tie against Lyon.

But if there is a clue as to how the two men differ, it can be seen in the role Arteta assumed while working alongside Guardiola at City. With Guardiola looking after the big picture, Arteta was charged principally with working with individual players: improving Raheem Sterling’s movement, Fabian Delph’s positioning or Leroy Sane’s end product.

And so it was: Guardiola the ideologue; Arteta the problem-solver. Guardiola’s brilliance speaks for itself, but his rapid ascension through the coaching ranks meant he never served as an assistant. He has always had to consider the next game, the grand plan, the vision. Arteta has enjoyed the freedom and opportunity to focus on the tiniest details. It’s there that he excelled. “People always ask me about training under Pep, but the things I’ve learnt from Mikel Arteta…” Sane once marvelled.

Asked about his then-assistant in September 2019, Guardiola told the Telegraph that Arteta “has an incredible work ethic, and he has a special talent to analyse what happens, and to find the solutions”. And find solutions is precisely what he has done in his short time at Arsenal.

It should be no great surprise that there are differences between Arteta and Guardiola, given the considerable discrepancies in their respective playing careers. Although Arteta followed Guardiola through Barcelona’s La Masia academy system, he never broke into the first team. Despite being promoted to train with the first-team squad at 16, the pathway to senior football was blocked. “Pep was 29 and captain,” Arteta said in Lu Martin and Pol Ballus’ book, Pep’s City. “Then there was Xavi queuing up behind him. Imagine! I knew that if I wanted to get any game time, I’d be better off developing my career elsewhere.”


Arteta was only 18 when he joined Paris Saint-Germain on loan. When he impressed during a UEFA Cup tie against Rangers, the Scottish club began negotiations to sign the young midfielder. Arteta spent two seasons in Glasgow, winning the Scottish Premier League title and the Scottish League Cup. After a brief spell with Real Sociedad, he returned to Britain, spending six seasons with Everton and a further five with Arsenal.

It left him with a deep appreciation for British football — at one point, Arteta was even prepared to “half go to war” to fight a FIFA rule that prevented him from accepting an approach from Fabio Capello to represent for England at international level. “I’d say Pep definitely has a healthy respect for English football,” says one Arsenal staff member. “But Arteta really loves it. It’s where he spent most of his playing career. It’s part of who he is.”

When Guardiola first brought his vision of football to the Premier League, he had the feel of a missionary attempting an unwelcome conversion process. He had, of course, gained experience outside of Spain as a manager in Bayern Munich with Germany, but the nature of the physicality is different in that league. “In Germany the players run with the ball much more, there’s a lot of racing up and down the pitch with and without the ball,” explains City fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura. “Here in England, there’s more physical contact.”

Arteta knows that from first-hand experience. Perhaps that has played into his choice of defensive midfielders. In the summer of 2018, when Manchester City were seeking a new holding midfield player, their primary targets were Jorginho and Frenkie de Jong. The aim was to acquire someone even more adept on the ball than Fernandinho, to further emphasise City’s strength in possession. Over the course of the next 12 months, those top targets joined Chelsea and Barcelona respectively. Ultimately, City and Guardiola went for Rodri — a player who is better at resisting the press than instigating it. Guardiola’s focus was resolutely on what his team would be capable of in possession.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s new midfielder, Thomas Partey, is a more natural defender — stronger in the air and the tackle. In Rodri’s final season at Atletico Madrid, he was averaging 56.7 passes per game with a pass completion rate of 91.1 per cent. In 2019-20’s Atletico side, Partey averaged 46.8 passes per game with a success rate of 83.4 per cent. Although Arteta maintained an interest in Chelsea’s Jorginho, Partey was his first choice to play at the base of Arsenal’s midfield as much because of what he does off the ball as on it. There is a stylistic difference between these two players that illustrates Arteta and Guardiola’s diverging attitudes to the physical nature of the Premier League.

Guardiola does not take kindly to the suggestion he lacks pragmatism. In December 2016, he insisted during a press conference that he is “so pragmatic”, in the sense that while the common definition of the term involves giving the opposition the ball, sitting deep and inviting pressure, his idea of playing it safe is to have the ball and keep it as far away from your goal as possible, which certainly makes sense.

So it’s a question of semantics, but it’s fair to say that Arteta’s approach at Arsenal so far has been more in keeping with the traditional English definition of pragmatism. That’s in part down to resource: it’s easier to play the football you aspire to when the owners give you such extraordinary support. It is perhaps not so much about pragmatism as about flexibility; from day one at City, there has been a dogmatic adherence to Guardiola’s footballing ideals, with only a handful of occasions where they have not dominated possession.

For his part, Arteta has been clear in the past about his preferred way to play. In his final season as a player, Arsenal’s website asked him how a Mikel Arteta team might line up. “My philosophy will be clear,” Arteta said. “I want the football to be expressive, entertaining. I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us.”

It’s difficult to argue that Arteta’s old vision has been realised at the Emirates Stadium. Understandably so: Arteta inherited a team in 10th position. Most of the Spaniard’s landmark victories have come when his team has set up in a relatively deep block, playing on the counter-attack. At the back end of last season, Arteta’s Arsenal beat Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in quick succession, all while never having more than 40 per cent possession.

Guardiola has never taken charge of a team languishing in mid-table. The problems Arteta has faced — and the pragmatism required to work through them — would be new to him.

As Arteta put it in September before the match against Liverpool at Anfield: “Sometimes it’s what you want to do as a coach, and sometimes it’s what you are allowed to do with the levels of players and performance that top teams can do against you.”

“Mikel knows the ultimate plan for this team, he knows where he wants to end up,” suggests an Arsenal staff member familiar with the Spaniard’s plans. “That doesn’t mean you walk in on day one and immediately make that happen. If you look at what was inherited, there were a lot of things Arsenal weren’t doing right — basics. A sign of a good coach is someone who can separate what they want from what the team needs.”

Arteta has nevertheless sought to instil some fundamentals. In fact, one difference between the way the two teams play is that Arteta’s Arsenal seem even more wedded to playing out from the back than Guardiola’s City. It’s early days in the 2020-21 Premier League season, but Arsenal currently have 32 per cent of their possession inside their own defensive third. City have just 17 per cent — and the numbers bear out over the previous campaign too.

There are multiple reasons for this. The main one is that Arteta is still in the process of implementing playing out from the back — by enforcing it, he is attempting to make it second nature for his players. He is creating habits.

Guardiola’s City are not always as consistent in applying this short-passing strategy. In their title-winning campaigns of 2017-18 and 2018-19, City occasionally took advantage of the fact players cannot be offside at goal kicks by deliberately positioning their front three behind the opposition defence. With Ederson’s superb long passing, and astonishing 80-yard range, he was frequently able to find them. The tactic served various purposes, enabling City to stretch the play, bypass the opposition press and sometimes even create scoring chances. Arsenal fans will have painful memories of Claudio Bravo employing the tactic to release Sergio Aguero in the 2018 League Cup final.

The divergence in strategy is also explained by the fact that the two teams are at different points in their development. City’s evolution provides evidence that if you become good enough at playing out from the back, teams will stop pressing you, granting you more possession higher up the pitch. After Leicester City’s recent win at the Etihad, Brendan Rodgers admitted he had asked his side to concede ground “We are normally a high-pressing team but against a team of this quality, we wanted to deny them space,” he said. “We knew we had the players to break out and exploit the spaces.” It may seem counter-intuitive, but the time Arteta is spending developing Arsenal’s ability to play out from goal kicks may ultimately help grant them more territory.

This weekend, Arteta’s Arsenal will travel to the Etihad to face Guardiola’s Manchester City. Arteta’s pragmatic approach will surely be in evidence again. These are two sides at different stages in their different evolution, with very different expectations — and with two different men on the sidelines.

Guardiola and Arteta’s experience and records are incomparable, so perhaps it’s time to ease off the comparisons. With the work he’s doing at Arsenal, the younger coach is swiftly establishing his own identity. Arteta is steadily emerging from the shadow of his mentor.

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The Telegraph

Friday October 16 2020

Football Nerd

Will we finally see goals in a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park?


By Daniel Zeqiri


Goals in Merseyside derbies at Goodison Park have been rarer than rocking horse manure in the past few seasons, but Saturday's meeting has a different feel.

Everton have the safety net of 12 points from their opening four games, which should permit a bold approach against the champions, and Liverpool conceded seven in their last game at Aston Villa.

The past three meetings at Goodison Park have finished goalless. Since the 2010-11 season, the fixture has produced an average of just 1.7 goals per game.

The highest-scoring Premier League derby in that period has been games between Arsenal and Tottenham at the Emirates, with an average of 3.8 goals per game, matches at Spurs' home averaging 2.8. 

Will the dam finally burst at Goodison Park on Saturday? I make the case for goals here.

Want more sport in your inbox? Sign up to receive our weekly Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal newsletters

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The Big Six



In the eyes of those present, it was the ultimate “them and us” episode — the moment the illusion of solidarity across the Premier League was shattered once and for all.

It was a Premier League shareholders meeting in November 2016 and, while media coverage beforehand had focused on the safe-standing debate, by far the biggest issue at stake that day was the need to find a new broadcast partner in China.

Among several proposals on the table, the most popular was from pay-per-view company PPTV, who were offering £523 million for the right to stream every Premier League match in China over the three-year period from 2019-20. After the pros and cons were debated at length, an executive from one of the bigger clubs ventured they were going to have to go away and think about it. No, said the league’s executive chairman Richard Scudmore; this had to be decided here and now.

And so, as they broke off for coffee and biscuits, a remarkable scene unfolded. There, in full view of their counterparts from the other 14 clubs, the executives from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur formed their own huddle in a corner of the room and proceeded to debate among themselves, in hushed tones, before reaching a consensus that they then took back to the table when the full meeting resumed.

“It was just so brazen,” says an executive from one of the other 14 clubs. “A few things had emerged before that about them having their own meetings. There had been a growing sense of a divide between the biggest clubs and the rest of us. But that really seemed to cement it in everyone’s minds.”

The 20 clubs ended up agreeing to accept the PPTV deal — a decision they ended up regretting when the Chinese broadcaster withheld last season’s main payment, leading to a bitter split last month. But nobody could have foreseen that. What was abundantly clear was that the “Big Six” meant business.

“They weren’t even trying to be discreet about it anymore,” says another executive. “There were the six of them and the 14 of us and that was how it was going to be from now on.”

There have been occasions over recent years when the Premier League’s gang of six have flexed their muscles and their smaller competitors, further down the food chain, have been left cowering in their wake.

A case in the point was the change to the distribution of overseas broadcast revenue in 2018. Previously it was split 20 ways, but, as of last season, the distribution model changed to reflect league performance — a widening of the divide, with more income for those who, by virtue of Champions League or Europa League qualification, soaring commercial profile and packed stadiums (with packed hospitality suites), needed it least.

It all comes back to an attitude that was summed up in 2011 by Ian Ayre, who at the time was Liverpool’s managing director. “If you’re a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton,” he said. “But if you’re in Kuala Lumpur, there isn’t anybody subscribing to Astro or ESPN to watch Bolton — or if they are, it’s a very small number. The large majority are subscribing to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. So is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all 20 clubs?”

The other 14 clubs argued against that one, but seven years later, the elite finally got their way. It coincided with another of those sporadic threats to cut the Premier League down to size — moving from 20 clubs to 18 in order to accommodate a long-planned expansion of the Champions League — and eventually enough of them, led by Everton, Leicester City and West Ham United, ended up falling into line for a two-thirds majority to be reached.

This week has brought a very different experience for the six. The so-called “Project Big Picture” caused so much ill feeling among the rest of the league that even the two architects, Liverpool and Manchester United, agreed that it would not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League. Steve Parish, the Crystal Palace chairman, called for solidarity and Martin Semmens, Denise Barrett-Baxendale and Karren Brady, chief executives of Southampton, Everton and West Ham respectively, criticised the plan and above all the secretive way it had been cooked up.


“Project Big Picture” is dead, in that form at least, but the bigger clubs will not be deterred in pushing for more. “They always want more,” one executive from outside the elite says. “A greater share of the revenue and a greater say in what happens.”

To an extent, it has always been thus. That is how the Premier League came about in the first place, a breakaway led not by a “Big Six” but by a “Big Five” from the men in charge of Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, persuading the other top-flight clubs to split from the Football League in order to secure their own television rights deals.

The balance of power in English football has been fairly fluid over the years, as seen by the way Everton have faded from the powerful position they held in the 1980s, Tottenham have come and gone and come again and Chelsea and Manchester City, enriched and transformed by wealthy owners, have forced their way onto the top table.

In theory at least, that group could continue to evolve; hypothetically, Everton could make it seven, or one of the six might run into hard times and slip away into relative obscurity, as Everton did in the 1990s. Fortunes rise and fortunes fall. That is the way it has always been in team sport; even Manchester United were relegated in 1974, six years after winning the European Cup.

The concern shared by many, though, is that, with the divide between the richest clubs and the rest getting wider and wider (and this applies even more in many other leagues across Europe), the now-established order is becoming locked in. This “Big Six” threaten to become unassailable in a way the “Big Five” of the 1980s never was. And to judge by some of the proposals in “Project Big Picture”, where the Premier League’s existing one-club-one-vote would have been replaced by a structure whereby power is concentrated among the nine longest-serving clubs (with six votes required), that is the whole point of the exercise.

What is driving all of this? “A lot of people would use the word ‘greed’,” says one executive at another club. “I don’t like that word, so I would prefer to use a different word: certainty. They want guarantees that their income is going to go up and up and up. They want to be the clubs getting the UEFA money every year and taking the biggest share of TV money from the Premier League. And here we come to a certain irony because the Premier League success story is based on unpredictability and competitiveness and it feels very much like some of those clubs are trying to make it more predictable and less competitive. They want it to become a two-tier competition — even more than it already is.”

The six regard themselves and, to varying degrees, each other as global franchises with a global outlook at ownership and European ambitions on the pitch. There is a feeling that the other 14 hold the six back, which one executive points out is deeply hypocritical because it is the financial gulf within the Premier League — a product of elitism in the “super club” era — that has caused many of the 14 to temper their ambitions and focus on consolidation rather than trying to threaten the elite.

There was tension during those regular Zoom conference calls during lockdown, when the bigger clubs felt some of the smaller ones were putting obstacles in the way of “Project Restart” because they feared relegation. The bigger clubs felt the concerns being raised about COVID-19 protocols were parochial, ignoring the bigger picture of a league that desperately needed to honour its broadcast commitments and the competition as a whole. On a more personal level, Liverpool and United were among those who would have been unduly penalised had attempts to null-and-void the season been successful. Yet at the same time, it has long been felt that the elite clubs’ lack of interest in the parochial — in life beyond the “Big Six” and, in particular, beyond the top 20 — is the greatest threat to English football as we know it.

Over the past 10 seasons, those six clubs account for 54 out of 60 top-six finishes in the Premier League. Only once (Leicester City, spectacularly, in 2016) has a club from outside the “Big Six” finished in the four Champions League places. Arsenal and Manchester United have gone through darker, more turbulent periods than they could have imagined, but they have never finished lower than eighth and seventh respectively. Leicester and Everton can boast two top-six finishes over the decade and Newcastle United and Southampton one apiece. And now, faced with burgeoning ambition at Everton, Leicester, Wolverhampton Wanderers and perhaps Aston Villa and a resurgent Leeds United, the six seem more focused than ever on shoring up their dominant position.


There is a feeling among the other clubs that “Project Big Picture” was a cynical move to exploit the desperation felt across the EFL due to the loss of revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Some feel the “Big Six” have sought to capitalise on Scudamore’s departure in 2018. His successor, Richard Masters, spent a year as interim chief executive while a club-led nominations committee offered the job to Susanna Dinnage and David Pemsel, both of whom resigned before taking office. Masters has tried to exert his authority since taking charge in the most trying circumstances, but that post-Scudamore interim period did little to curb some of the excesses of the elite clubs.

A source at one of the “Big Six” clubs puts it in more diplomatic terms. “The view is that the Premier League is such a great product because those six are the clubs that have the best players, we drive the interest and we are the real draw,” he says. “It’s a question of whether we are capturing enough value relative to contribution when it comes to domestic and international TV rights. It’s no more complicated than that.”

It is complicated, though, because the Premier League success story has been founded on the idea of collective approach among the 20 clubs. And it is certainly complicated when it comes to some of the relationships involved.

The fierce rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool dates back decades, on the pitch and on the terraces. But even through the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, relations at boardroom level were almost always cordial.

Over recent years, with the Glazer family and Fenway Sports Group (FSG) finding they have more in common than a background in American sport with Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Boston Red Sox respectively, there has been a climate of renewed collaboration, particularly when it comes to strategic issues in English and European football.

It all adds up to the Americanisation of the English football business. There are Russian owners and owners from all over the Middle East and Far East, particularly China, but American investors got their hands on what are arguably the crown jewels of the Premier League: the Glazers with Manchester United in 2005, FSG with Liverpool in 2010 (after three years under the calamitous ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett) and Stan Kroenke, owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, taking over at Arsenal in 2011.

If Abramovich bought Chelsea in the hope of establishing himself as a respectable figure in the western world (as well as having a bit of fun) and Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City as a soft-power tool for Abu Dhabi, then there is no doubt that the American takeovers at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have been about maximising revenue and building the asset up and up. In the short and medium term, that meant selling the brand, driving up commercial revenue year after year. The long term? Those ideas about creating new tournaments and taking Premier League games abroad have not gone away. Neither have fantasies about selling their own television rights abroad, away from the Premier League’s collective approach.

A source close to Liverpool’s ownership group FSG explains: “You must remember that in the States, these guys, who also own the Boston Red Sox, hold the majority stake in a cable channel — New England Sports Network. This generates a tremendous amount of cash for those games that are not sold centrally through MLB. They are carried on their own network and this is a consistent and hugely lucrative revenue stream.”

John W Henry, Liverpool’s principal owner, sought advice from and exchanged ideas with United’s Joel Glazer almost from the moment FSG bought the Merseyside club a decade ago. Indeed, the terms of Project Big Picture are on their 18th version since talks began in 2017 and it is true that there were initially plans to unveil the proposal in April before the pandemic threatened to curtail last season altogether. One source close to FSG is keen to point out that the Glazer-Henry axis “isn’t a super-close relationship” but adds that what brought it closer was their shared enthusiasm for Financial Fair Play (FFP) as they pushed for tighter, UEFA-style regulation in the Premier League.

“That’s how it blossomed,” the source continues. “Look at some of the collective angst over Manchester City shirking the rules. That’s when the Liverpool, United and Arsenal guys — and eventually Bruce Buck (the Chelsea chairman) — started spending more time together and they all got closer and it eventually reached the point with these latest proposals, which, ironically, Manchester City were invited to.”


They recognise that irony at Manchester City, where they remember the executives in charge of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham writing to Scudamore in 2013 — on Arsenal letter-headed paper, no less — to urge him to “curb the inflationary spending which is putting so much pressure on clubs across the entire league”. They certainly remember a group of nine clubs, which also included Burnley, Leicester, Newcastle and Wolves, writing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to express their misgivings about Manchester City’s breaches of UEFA’s FFP regulations.

Like Chelsea in the seasons that followed Abramovich’s 2003 takeover, City, under Sheikh Mansour, spent years facing up to the establishment with an attitude of, “If you can’t join them, beat them”. Eventually, by dint of on-pitch success and a rising global profile, they forced their way into those cosy little gatherings — or at least most of them, anyway.

In October 2017, Avram and Joel Glazer, United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, then-Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis and Henry were all photographed at dinner at Locanda Verde restaurant in Tribeca, New York. It is get-togethers like these that have fuelled the notion of a two-tier division within the Big Six: between the three ultimate establishment clubs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, which all American owned and very much business-oriented, and the rest. Tottenham may ultimately force their way into that sub-group, but Chelsea and City are nothing like so well integrated.

At executive level, there are WhatsApp groups and Zoom calls between the six clubs and, it is widely presumed, between Arsenal, Liverpool and United as a trio. At ownership level, those three clubs connect through Stan Kroenke, Henry and Glazer. One source laughs when asked whether Abramovich has made an appearance in any of those Zoom meetings. Chelsea have Buck, the American lawyer who used to go shooting with Scudamore. Buck is “clubbable”, to borrow a word popular in those circles, in a way that some of his counterparts are not. Buck took a leading role in the Premier League’s audit and remuneration committee and he was the man who presented the idea of a £5 million whip round for Scudamore at a shareholders’ meeting when the executive was due to depart his role in November 2018.

Ferran Soriano, the Manchester City chief executive, attracts intrigue. Among the other five clubs, he is casually referred to as “the terrorist” of the group — not a disparaging label, they insist, but one that reflects some perceived rogue, outspoken tendencies when it comes to Premier League politics. Soriano is a great advocate of allowing the leading clubs to set up B teams to exist within the established English league structure, as in his native Spain, though the club’s support for that proposal predated his arrival.


Others, though, describe Soriano as a highly-skilled diplomatic and political operator, as he would surely have to be in order to run the City Football Group so smoothly and managing Pep Guardiola deftly while also satisfying his masters in Abu Dhabi. City are regarded as “slightly detached” from the other five.

One source makes an analogy from The Great Gatsby, saying that City are acutely aware that they would be seen as “West Egg” (i.e. new money) rather than “East Egg”. Soriano, therefore, chooses his battles and his moments carefully; his club certainly distanced themselves from the drawing up of “Project Big Picture”, but they liked many of the ideas within. They pride themselves on an innovative outlook and a willingness to look beyond English football’s traditional outlook. To some of the clubs outside the elite, this is terrifying. Among those within, it attracts curiosity and suspicion in almost equal measure.

Chelsea have been through that process, as the nouveau-riche club. If we are talking about old money vs new money, we can go back to 2003 when they were bought by Abramovich, who, according to the Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein at the time, “has parked his Russian tanks on the lawn and is firing £50 notes at us”.

There was deep suspicion from Chelsea towards the established elite — and vice-versa, particularly once they lured Peter Kenyon from Manchester United to take over as chief executive. One former United boardroom executive recalls the “intense shock” at Old Trafford. He says: “There was no player they could have signed that would have made a statement so big as it was to lure Peter away from us.” Chelsea were perceived as rogue upstarts but they played up to the mantle. Kenyon first upset the Football Association by attempting to lure England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, as he had previously attempted to do at Old Trafford, and sources recall Jose Mourinho partially being appointed due to his “anti-establishment” rhetoric.

While Chelsea were aggressive in what they considered the love and war of the transfer market, pursuing Rio Ferdinand from United and Ashley Cole from Arsenal, the club started to work the football political spectrum more carefully. Buck, Abramovich’s long-serving lawyer, became a diplomatic presence, establishing influence on Premier League committees and he immediately organised a meeting with the Glazers after their takeover of United in 2005. Fearful United’s American owners may have aspirations to break away from the collective Premier League agreements over the distribution of television money, Buck wanted to reassert Chelsea’s commitment to the shared model.

As Chelsea were rising up, the last thing they needed was for United to pull away. David Barnard, the Chelsea club secretary, would later take a place on the FA’s International Committee. Kenyon, meanwhile, had forged strong relationships with UEFA while at United and had particularly strong links with clubs such as AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray and Barcelona. By the time Chelsea had reached a Champions League final in 2008, they felt empowered at the Premier League table but remained under threat in the European circle.

The Chelsea hierarchy felt that FFP was initially an attempt to curb the financial excesses of the Abramovich regime. By the time it came to fruition, at UEFA in 2011 and in the Premier League two years later, Abramovich was trying to move towards a more sustainable approach and, with Chelsea becoming more “East Egg” in outlook, the more obvious targets of any clampdown were City and, at a European level, Paris Saint-Germain.

A Chelsea source insists to this day that FFP “started as a plan to thwart Chelsea”. But there was a sense of paranoia about the primacy of United, Liverpool and Arsenal in the corridors of power at the Premier League and UEFA. “Chelsea felt marginal decisions went against them,” says one source close to the Big Six clubs. “Mourinho was convinced that Arsenal benefited from more home games than away games after Champions League midweeks. He used to make noises about David Dein’s involvement. He claimed Manchester United benefited from their close relationship with Sir Dave Richards (the former Premier League chairman). There was an imperative to join that club and be closer to those decisions.”

There was particular angst at Chelsea over the Mikel John Obi case, when they were ordered to pay Manchester United £12 million to compensate them for the Nigerian midfielder’s breach of the contract he had signed at Old Trafford. “Chelsea as a club felt hard done by over that,” a former Premier League club executive says. “I remember very clearly our perception at the time was that the Premier League was in United’s pocket. If you fast-forward to 2008 or 2009, it didn’t really feel like that anymore.”

Maybe it was a Mourinho thing. (And perhaps it says something about a spirit of collaboration, as well as his reputation, that there were figures at United and Tottenham who consulted the Chelsea hierarchy when it came to appointing him and getting tips on how to stay on his good side.) The former Chelsea manager has taken conspiracy theories with him to United, surely the most establishment club of all, and now to Tottenham, where, after recent refereeing decisions, he proclaimed that “I don’t feel Tottenham is respected according to what the club is. No respect”.

And yet, perhaps for the first time since Irving Scholar and Alan Sugar made them a serious player among the “Big Five” who led the Premier League breakaway in the early 1990s, Tottenham are commonly viewed as one of the elite once more. They were conspicuous by their absence from a “Big Five” meeting with the American businessman Stephen Ross at the Dorchester Hotel, London, in early 2016, when a proposed expansion to the International Champions Cup (ICC) was under discussion, but eight months later Daniel Levy, their executive chairman, was very much among the six who formed their own separate huddle to talk about the Chinese television rights deal.


Some put Tottenham’s elevated status down to American admiration — among owners and potential commercial partners alike — for their stadium and infrastructure as well as the consistency shown in becoming regular Champions League participants in recent years. Others are more inclined to put it down to Levy’s persistence and a feeling that “you would much rather have Daniel on your side than against you”.

Levy is an unusual among the big beasts of the Premier League in that, as well as being the club representative who speaks up at shareholder meetings, he negotiates transfers and much else. He has been part of this scene for just under two decades and, through his belligerent approach in the transfer market, has made enemies at just about every club at some stage. But he also commands a level of respect that others do not. It used to be Kenyon and then David Gill, his successor at United, who was the lead voice in the Premier League meetings. These days Levy’s voice is among the most persuasive, something the rest of the “Big Six” have slowly come to embrace.

So what next? “They’ll go away and work on another proposal,” says one source. “At any one time, there are various projects being worked on and various consultancies working on different proposals for how things should look in 10 or 20 years’ time. And you can be certain that, whatever comes next, whether it’s about Champions League expansion or changes to the Premier League, it’s going to be about getting more money and more influence for the biggest clubs.”

That same source raises a few interesting questions, though. “They seem to be working on the basis that there are these markets available and there are pots of money. But what if those pots of money don’t exist? They’re spending all this time and energy trying to chase something at the end of the rainbow. But what if the pot of gold is what is already right in front of them? We’ve got a Premier League that has grown and grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Do they need to go chasing more? Might it not be counter-productive to jeopardise the Premier League’s unique selling point, its competitiveness, by increasing the divide between themselves and the rest? Might that actually do them more harm than good in the long term?”

Other proposals have been made or will be made: one led by the Conservative MP Damian Collins with the backing of the Football Supporters’ Federation, which has long pushed for a fan-driven approach to reform of English football governance; another led by a group including former FA chairman David Bernstein, the former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville and Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

What is certain is that the “Big Six” will continue to push for more money, more power and more space in the calendar to play in other competitions, whether that means an expanded Champions League, an expanded Club World Cup or, quite feasibly, an extension of the International Champions Cup pre-season format run by Ross and his Relevent Sports business partner Charlie Stillitano, who has just about every leading Premier League club executive (and some of the managers, such as Mourinho and previously Sir Alex Ferguson) on speed dial.

The proposals in “Project Big Picture” included the suggestion of a gap in the schedule every five years for a major summer tournament. It also included a proposed abolition of the Community Shield. This would create the space for a bigger international pre-season tournament involving all the world’s leading clubs. One mantra among the biggest clubs, from Madrid to Munich, from Manchester to Milan, is a desire for more matches between the very biggest clubs. “This,” as one source puts it, “is where all major clubs align.” An expanded ICC tournament, potentially with UEFA’s backing and far more prize money, remains a genuine possibility and initial presentations were made to Europe’s elite clubs and the continent’s governing body earlier in the year. The competition organisers are confident of striking a deal but have also warned Europe’s top clubs that the funding will only continue to reign in if the competition is taken more seriously, featuring first-team players, a group stage, a knockout, a final and a trophy presentation. In short, it cannot be seen as a pre-season jolly. The ICC organisers see potential, particularly as there are also doubts over FIFA’s ability to fund a proposed Club World Cup.

The “Big Six” were willing to offer immediate financial assistance to EFL clubs, which have been hit so hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, in exchange for greater control of governance of English football in general and of the Premier League in particular. There are elements of their proposals that are certain to be watered down, or softened, but their priorities — more money, more power, more certainty of future revenue streams — have not changed one bit.

If there is one crucial thing the “Big Six” are perceived to lack, it is an ability to win friends and influence people among the other 14 clubs. The post-Gill regime at United, led by Woodward, is considered too aloof — or simply too preoccupied with wooing commercial partners or, more starkly at times, firefighting — to cultivate beneficial relationships among the lower Premier League clubs. When the bigger clubs have got their way, it has frequently been by scare tactics, warning what will happen to the Premier League if the biggest clubs decide to go all-in with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and the rest and commit to the “Super League” concept that rears its ugly head every time the UEFA broadcast rights cycle comes up for renewal.


There was a time when all 20 Premier League club owners were on speaking terms, whether cordial or not. These days, with more diverse, far-flung ownership regimes, it is no longer such a priority to wine and dine the opposition directors on match days.

There is, also, a feeling that the Premier League centrally has lost an element of control over its elite clubs since the departure of former CEO Scudamore, who exited in November 2018. He made a significant concession during his last hard-fought round of television rights, granting a greater proportion of international television rights to the leading clubs, and some suspect he saw the landscape changing.

One source explains: “Scudamore was extremely astute, working his relationship with clubs, maintaining visibility at games in boardrooms. He had a touch and feel for where debate was heading. He might hunt with Buck but he’d be at a boardroom at Norwich or Reading on a Tuesday night, so everyone felt valued. You could see him at two games at different stadiums on the same Saturday. Scudamore ran a tight ship because he had the autonomy and respect of stakeholders after securing huge television deals. None of this is a criticism of the new CEO Masters, who inherited a unique set of circumstances, which nobody could have predicted. The big issue here is a changing broadcasting landscape. Scudamore was an amazing success in the Premier League with everything he did and he saw what was coming. He jumped at the right time. The famous New York meeting a few years caused huge shockwaves and Richard made the concession in the last rights’ deal. You could not get a bigger signal of where it was going. American owners are used to closed shops and less risk than they associate with European football.”

As relationships splinter, another executive suggests the men leading the biggest clubs are nothing like as “clubbable” as you might expect. Peter Moore, who recently left his position as Liverpool chief executive, was certainly not a mover or shaker in Premier League circles. Woodward is seen as more charismatic in some regards than Gill, but less persuasive. Arsenal have never adequately replaced Dein, who was so adept at the political side of things as well as well being a shrewd, well-connected football operator, but in terms of political influence nor have they replaced Gazidis, who is now at Milan. Vinai Venkatesham is still learning the ropes. For now, Arsenal, in a state of transition, are hanging onto the coat-tails of others, rather than being the driving force they were in Dein’s years.

“There have been a lot of changes at those clubs and there aren’t so many close relationships at boardroom level anymore,” one executive says. “Instead you end up with these awkward alliances between clubs who are rivals on the pitch but have roughly the same vision off it. They spend so much time talking to each other away from the rest of that you get the feeling it’s become a bit of an echo chamber. They want more money and they want more votes. Well how are they going to get that if they just go off in secret and come up with a plan that excludes the rest of us? It doesn’t work. This week has demonstrated that.”

And yet almost every significant development in the European football industry over the past two or three decades has served to widen the chasm in financial resources and outlook between the haves and the have-nots — or in the case of the Premier League, the haves and the have-lots. And still they want more. More money, more power, more certainty. They will always want more. That is the one thing they have in common.

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