Should Arsenal be judged on how they have reacted during the Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the world and affected jobs and businesses the likes we haven’t seen since perhaps the second world war. But football clubs especially in the Premier League have still spent hundreds of millions on players over the last transfer window and it has become clear that even with no fans in attendance TV money certainly talks.

Good luck to the clubs and the structure of the Premier League, because a lot of hard work and promotion has gone into the product to make watching football in England’s top tier the most popular in the world. And this article is not about attacking one club in the Premier League but only because certain stories have surfaced that simply seem a little mind boggling.

The owners at Arsenal for example have made some questionable decisions that in a sensitive time have made very little sense. The first of which was letting 55 admin staff leave. Yes it’s true that the staff were not really needed anymore because of the virus meaning that there was less work available. But these were loyal staff and one wonders if the owners of the club really made the best choice, if not for them the right one?

It had been reported that the 55 staff laid off were going to save Arsenal just over £1m, that’s a lot of money, but in Premier League terms it feels more like a drop in the ocean. Countered only days after Willian joined the club on a free from Chelsea but was then given a reported £10m signing on fee. That’s one employee receiving 10 times the amount of 55 laid off staff and their years salary.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta came out and said that he understood the clubs decision. But did he really? Was this really what Arteta was thinking? He’s just been given the managers job and hardly wants to come across as controversial but of course was asked the question which would have put him in a position.

Just recently Arsenal made the decision to let their mascot leave the club, a mascot that had spent many seasons at Arsenal and only on a small wage not that much more than the minimum. Again the decision in black and white made sense. Mascot’s are not needed at empty grounds. But Arsenal can afford the mascots wages until hopefully the pandemic blows over within the next 6-12 months and Arsenal can afford their admins wages and try to give them different roles within the club.

But of course football is a business and money seemingly can’t be lost unless it is lost on a player or a manager. Arsenal isn’t a badly run club but maybe they have made some questionable decisions and of course like everyone else have been caught out by the virus. But if you’re spending £45m on one player, the recent purchase of Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid one does have to wonder why loyal staff couldn’t have somehow been kept on for a small fraction of that price?

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How Andrea Radrizzani brought a new era to Leeds United

In May of this year Andrea Radrizzani was celebrating being in charge of Leeds United for 3 years, and what a time it has been for the club and the Italian owner.

There have been highs and lows but compared to the past 14 years that preceded him coming in the last 36 months have mostly been bliss for the club and the fans. Winning the Championship and gaining promotion back to the Premier League, the first time in 16 years is obviously the highlight, but after a few possible naive mistakes all the cards are starting to fit for Radrizzani and the club.

Those mistakes were infuriating the fans when the club sold Ronaldo Vieira who looked like the most promising player that the club had on their books for some time. Then there was the controversial change of badge. Not many owners can mess with a clubs traditional badge and get away with it. And his plan fell short when over 77,000 fans signed a petition that they were less than impressed.

But compared to the good times at the club since he came in and then bought 100% of the shares the above feel like small stories. A few managers came and went until Leeds found their balance and then two key figures arrived and they would be head hunted by Radrizzani himself.

The first was bringing in Marcelo Bielsa the eccentric but brilliant and detailed coach. The Argentinian arriving at the club was seen as a big surprise, one would think if Bielsa was coming to England it would only be to manage in the Premier League. But Bielsa recognised quickly how the history of English football and Leeds were joined at the hip, history always counts in football. He also took it up as a challenge.

The second key in the puzzle was the signing of Patrick Bamford, the striker came in for £7m which was the most the club had spent on a player since Robbie Fowler in 2001. Bamford has been exceptional with the club scoring 29 goals in all competitions for them, including 16 league goals in the Championship. This season in the Premier League was his big step up and he has already scored 3 goals in just three games.

Leeds have started the season well too. With 2 wins from their opening three games, and even when they were defeated it was away to champions Liverpool in a 4-3 thriller. There is something about Leeds under Bielsa and with Radrizzani behind the scenes the club will be hoping to capture the beauty, toughness and essence of their glory days once again.

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What is Brazilian legend Ronaldo’s ultimate goal with Real Valladolid?

In 2018 when Ronaldo, the 1990s Brazilian version became the majority owner of Spanish club Real Valladolid it certainly raised eyebrows.Why would Ronaldo become president of a club who were used to either being relegated or fighting in a relegation dog fight? The answer is the challenge and of course the affordability of the club, Ronaldo now owns 82% of the team, but is his project go after 2 years?

In Ronaldo’s first season of ownership Valladolid came 16th and just 4 points was the difference between staying in La Liga and playing their next season in the Segunda. Everyone at the club was obviously relived. They also made it to the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey which was no mean feat but all in all it was a season with a few highs and one to forget.

The next season saw an improvement in the league when they finished 13th but they had only ironically finished with 1 more point than the previous season and had only won a lowly 23% of their games.

This season marks the clubs 90th in existence. The objective of course is to improve and keep moving forwards. The club lost Mohammed Salisu to Premier League side Southampton but got a small fortune for him 12m euros. Transfers in and have been mostly free ones, though Fabian Orellana from Eibar catches the eye.

The project this season is to try and reach 50 points and finish in the top 10 and then for the season after qualification for the Europa League- this would be the best case scenario. But when Valladolid aren’t playing well one could just imagine that Ronaldo would love to rip off that suit, go back in time 20 years and get on that pitch pronto. The club lose a lot of games and that includes home ones, and this will be a frustrating role for Ronaldo before it gets better, and the fact is football can be cruel, it may never get better, especially if the club are relegated.

Valladolid played four pre-season games losing 2 of them but gained a decent 2-2 draw away to Portuguese side Braga in their last game before the La Liga season kicked off on September 12th.

In the league the club have played two games, starting with a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad at home and then a defeat away to Real Betis losing 2-0. Michel, the attacking midfielder has scored the clubs only goal so far.

It will be a long and testing season for the club with such limited funds, their next game is on September 27th when they will play Celta Vigo at home. Home games will be so important for the club, and they must pick up points here, that is going to be key for survival for the 3rd time in a row under Ronaldo.

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If Messi does leave Barcelona it could take 10 years for them to recover

The ownership power struggle at Barcelona has been in decline for the past 3 years. It is why since 2017 Lionel Messi has had it in his contract that in principle at the end of each season he could leave for free.

That was a threat from Messi- a player considered by many as one of the greatest players to have graced the game. It was supposed to be a warning sign to the Barcelona board to step up and manage the team properly. Since then despite being dominant in Spain,

Barcelona have failed at the highest level- the Champions League. Each of the last 3 years they have been in good positions to win it. Think of the collapse against Roma and Liverpool. Messi has not won the Champions League since 2015 when he was 28. His prime years are disappearing and he may not win it again.

This week it was still a shock to find out that Messi had handed in a transfer request to a club where he was supposed to spend the rest of his career with. But in all honesty it wasn’t a surprise.

Barcelona have been run into the ground over the past few seasons. Some of the board have quit and Josep Maria Bartomeu has made some uneasy decisions. He has been criticised for the way Neymar joined PSG, something that Messi seemingly has never forgiven him for. Then there is the way that the Neymar money was ‘wasted’. Players such as Ousmane Dembele and Phillipe Coutinho cost £250m between them, and both have been poor.

Messi expected Barca to replace the departing Neymar with other star players yet instead the club got stuck with one player who is injury prone and another who was moved on loan to Bayern Munich. Messi probably assumed that at least from the massive fee earned from selling Neymar, Barca would be able to sign at least two quality players and perhaps two decent players as a bonus. If you are a fan of casinos, then do not forget to check exclusive Casino bonuses in Canada.

On the other side under Bartomeu the club have won 13 trophies in just 5 seasons, that includes 4 La Liga titles and a Champions League. But the problems have really been growing for the past 3 seasons especially. The hiring of Quique Setien, a good man but out of his depth at Barca was met with disdain, the 8-2 bashing that Barca took against Bayern Munich with no plan a let alone a plan b summarised Setien’s season, one where Barcelona ended trophy less.

He was eventually sacked and Ronald Koeman was named the new coach. The same Koeman whose career has been steadily declining in club football. True he was doing well with the Netherlands and got them to the UEFA Nations League final, and they were set to participate in next summers Euro’s. Ironically it looked like Koeman had found his stage with the national team. Club football is different, and if you fail with Everton you may be out of your depth with the egos at Barcelona. It feels as if Koeman was given the job to soothe the Barca fans, after all he is fondly remembered here for his time at the club in the early to mid 1990s.

Luis Suarez has been reportedly told that he won’t play for Barcelona again, this has further angered Messi, although that could be a good decision for the club, Suarez clearly has lost some of his devastating pace.

Things are changing at the club and it feels like a new era is around the corner. Even for Bartomeu that could be true given that the new elections are next March, and there will be a new president at the club.

So is Messi playing a bluff? Did he hand in the request for Bartomeu to walk now? After all which president of the club wants to be known as the guy who sunk the ship so low that Messi begged to leave.  As it stands Bartomeu is going nowhere and neither is Messi. The problem is that Messi believed he could leave for free but that expired at the end of May. However Messi’s argument and it is a good one is that his get out of the club free expires at the end of each season. Because of the pandemic the curtain on the season last only came down 4 days ago. Maybe just maybe he has a point.

This is going to be high drama either way you look at it and most transfer windows in Europe will be open until the beginning of October, so this could run and run. Barca want 700m euros for a 33 year old, it doesn’t matter if Messi was 10x better than he is and aged 18 that wouldn’t be happening.

There are many consequences here and even though the club has handled affairs over the past few seasons poorly it also does not seem fair on them with La Liga starting soon that Messi would deliver this bombshell and want to leave for free. There are remember rumours circulating that Messi has a say on who will join the club and who will play with him. Did he have too much power himself? Is he really full of anger because the club could not prize back Neymar from PSG? One wonders if both parties and not just the club are at fault on this one.

If Messi leaves and with so much change revolving around the club it would surely be an end of an era for the Catalan giants. One could rule out trophies for next season especially against a well-oiled machine like Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will want to bounce back from an indifferent season also.

One is reminded of the early 2000s when Barcelona were genuinely suffering after Rivaldo left the club and they were struggling in La Liga. It took the club 5 years to bounce back then.But this is Messi who can guide a club, just look at this season, they won nothing and yet there he was again, aged 33 and still top goalscorer in Spain with ease.

Messi’s influence should not be underestimated and yet like so many other world class players before him it looks increasingly like he is going to leave the club by the back door. He will be remembered as one of the greats and Barcelona simply won’t be the same without him on that field. It really could take the club some time to recover perhaps 10 years before they get a great team together once again who can also gel.

What you have to remember with Barcelona is that finishing 2nd to them is like finishing 10th, what does it matter if you don’t win trophies and if a club like them go 3 seasons without winning the league it really is a crisis. If Messi leaves and the structure of the club falls apart because of it the recovery time could be a long way off.

As for Messi the favourites to sign him are Manchester City. That would make sense, with Pep Guardiola there and the way the club play such an attacking style and of course Messi could fit right into the vacant David Silva role. They look the favourites to get him or perhaps PSG who at least put their marker down this year by reaching the Champions League final.

Let the drama unfold.

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Newcastle takeover collapses and the fans are now demanding why

Yet another Newcastle takeover has collapsed, but this one feels different. Usually when a takeover doesn’t work out the Magpies fans moan about it on forums, grunt and move on.

Knowing that they are stuck with current owner Mike Ashley yet again (as is widely known Newcastle fans have very little love for Ashley throughout the years). But after the latest takeover bid ended and the Saudi consortium pulled out fans have gone that one step further. They organised a petition and have now got an impressive 75,000 signatures wanting to know the ins and outs as to why their club wasn’t sold this summer.

The Newcastle trust of fans have sent pleas to the FA about why such a deal that looked like it was going through for the past 17 weeks has collapsed. They have even sent a letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It’s refreshing to see fans want some clarification. One wonders what has happened behind the scenes. The Saudi takeover was always going to be open to investigation by the FA. This is a normal process to see if the new owners are proper and fit and not investing money illegally. No one but the FA at this stage know why the deal has collapsed, so the petition is a step in the right direction. What is also interesting is that Newcastle’s former player and a much respected one from the 1990s Rob Lee has also got involved adding his weight to proceedings.

Current owner Mike Ashley has faced years of verbal abuse over his running of the club, from the managers that he has brought in, not spending enough money for the size of the club and even at one point changing the name of the infamous ground from St.James’ Park to the Sports Direct Arena. Sports Direct is his company outside of football.The name change at least didn’t last.

It has been reported that Ashley who has usually been very stubborn about selling the club really wants out this time. He has even been in touch with the consortium since the collapse and is hopeful that a deal could be revived. This would make sense given that the club are up for sale for around £300m.

One person who may have been quietly happy about a non sale is current manager Steve Bruce. Bruce has done well in his debut season in the dug out, and the fear for him would be new owners, new manager, especially as the owners were going to bring a lot of money to the table.

This story clearly isn’t over. But with just over a month until the new Premier League season starts fans and Ashley will want a conclusion.

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Razor sharp Blades Sheffield United and their long term project

In talking about Sheffield United’s rise in the Premier League we need to mention three key names, club owner, Abdullah bin Musad bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud Galaz, chairman Musa’ad bin Khalid bin Musa’ad bin Abdulrahman Al Saud and manager Chris Wilder.

It has been a building process that has been going on with the club since the early 2010s and as we start a new decade all of that hard work and investment is bearing its fruits.

This season Sheffield United have got promoted to the Premier League and many media pundits and ex-players who had been involved within the game for years were expecting United to struggle. They used the same old cliche that if the club finished 17th this season it would be seen as a success because it would be survival. But United have been better, much better than that.

Let’s firstly talk about Chris Wilder’s influence on the team. Wilder was recruited in 2016 and didn’t start so well at the club, but then they had a fantastic run there on in and got 100 points as they got promoted from League one. But despite Wilder being financially restricted in his early years with the club there were two things in his and the clubs favour.

The first was that Wilder had played over 100 games for the Blades and was a life long fan. Having a professional manager and one who is a fan in charge of your club is a huge plus. The second was signing forward Billy Sharp. Sharp is a long time United fan too and that just means that there is so much extra passion for the job you are doing, you are no longer playing for a club, in some ways this is what your life is all boiling down too.

Sharp in his 2nd stint with the club has not let his manager down either. He has scored 89 goals from 180 games, scoring 23 in the Championship last season. Whilst the striker has struggled somewhat to adjust to the Premier League as he only has 2 league goals so far he has also had niggling injuries and played just over half of his clubs games.

But with the right owners and Wilder in charge the club just have a fantastic winning mentality. Media pundits have called the team a boa constrictor. In that they let the opposition have the ball early on and then take a grip of the game and do not let up, and let’s face it they have been very impressive this season. So impressive that there is talk they could finish 4th and claim the final Champions League place for next season, imagine that?

For now they are in 5th place and have won their last two games in a row. They would need to find a little more consistency of course as they have still lost 7 games this season.

Wilder, who has got the team promoted twice in three seasons was rewarded with a new 4 year extension contract and rightly so, just how far the Blades could go is only limited it seems by their dreams.

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Where did David Sullivan and David Gold go wrong at West Ham?

Ask many West Ham fans what they think of their owners and you will be met with quite a few colourful words. This in part is because of two things: 1) the club are going backwards under their ownership and 2) not many fans are happy with the new stadium and yearn for the old one, or at least one where there was some atmosphere.

In discussing why West Ham are going backwards, one thing we need to set clear is how many delusional figure heads keep repeating that West Ham have spent very little. This is simply not true and the club have spent close to a quarter of a billion pounds on players in the last four years. On that part it is hard to criticise David Sullivan and David Gold.

The obvious problem though is that expenditure may not be enough in the Premier League. In France’s Ligue 1 for example that budget could well have you chasing PSG but the bar has been set so high in the Premier League. If we look at the money that the Hammers have spent in the last four years it averages out at around £60m per season. It’s difficult to compete with teams when the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool and that is just a few examples can spend that money on one player.

Still winning the league isn’t the priority for West Ham, just staying in it is. With the money spent they shouldn’t be 18th after 25 games though. Look at the likes of Sheffield United and Wolves, but one could also argue that along with good ownership and the owners have also employed very reliable and solid managers too.

One has to question how Sullivan and Gold thought that bringing back David Moyes was a good idea. Moyes had already been West Ham manager and finished with a win rate of 29%. Sullivan and Gold had already sacked him for Manuel Pellegrini which seemed to be a good move before Pellegrini seemingly lost focus. But to bring him back, that was as the French say a faux pas.

Some of the fans evidently hate the owners, and there have been protests and will be more, they want change and they want them out.

If fans want to complain how much money has been invested then that isn’t really going to rub, money has been spent, has it been spent wisely? no not always. But when the club invested in Sebastian Haller last summer it seemed like great business. Haller had scored 20 plus goals for Eintract Frankfurt and had helped the club reach the semi finals of the Europa League, the £45m they paid on him seemed like good business. But the striker has been next to appalling this season only having a couple of good games.

For every intentional good buy there has been a questionable one though, why did the club chase after Pablo Fornals? Because some pundits thought he was good? He wasn’t even near the best players in La Liga last season and yet the Hammers chased after him like he was the second coming and spent close to £30m he has been playing like a version of the invisible man this season.

Maybe the biggest problem with Sullivan and Gold’s ownership is that even though they are fans of the club, they don’t understand the philosophy of how the club need to be run. They don’t seem able to treat or give the fans what they want. The stadium move idea wasn’t a bad decision but the location and moving to the Olympic Stadium was. And for season ticket holders and loyal fans it does rub them up the wrong way that their club don’t even own the stadium and taxpayers have had to help pay for the stadium.

Fans seem to feel ashamed of their owners, and the truth is both Sullivan and Gold do have love for the club and do want the club to do well, if not they wouldn’t have invested so much money over the four years. They have just made some mistakes, bad decisions and above all they are not listening to their fans anymore, that is the sad reality of the situation.

Now West Ham have one of their biggest battles in their recent history. They have been relegated plenty of times in the league, but this one would feel different. A new hope, a new stadium, the Olympic one at that and playing in the Championship? It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and there are no guarantees that you will be coming up again anytime soon, just look at Leeds United as a perfect example of what can happen.

The next 90 days will be pivotal for the owners, fans and club.

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Nantes owner Waldemar Kita determined to make a big splash despite problems off the field

Nantes have been a staple team in Ligue 1 for many years and apart from the odd speedbump with relegation to Ligue 2, Nantes are a respected team who always try and aim for a European spot.

This season has seen the club perform their best consistently in a few seasons and by the half way point they are in 4th place and heading for a Europa League finish. Indeed they are just four points behind Rennes in 3rd and that position would lead to playing in the Champions League qualifiers. It has been over 20 years now since Nantes last appeared in the elite competition.

Nantes want back in the big time, that much is clear and they may just succeed under club owner Waldemar Kita. The Polish multi millionaire bought the club in 2007 and seven years later France Football named him as the best executive in French football. But it hasn’t always been an easy ride for Kita.

Last year he was accused of fraud and some reports suggested that he tried to push Emiliano Sala out of the club when the player tragically died in a plane crash on his way to his new club Cardiff. It has got to the point where banners have gone up by fans wanting Kita out of the club and in the summer he rejected a 60m euro deal to sell the club. That would have meant a 50m profit for Kita, but sources suggest that if he does sell he would hold out for 100m euros.

So Kita has had his troubles, but he also has a vision. One that was rejected by Nantes council last year. His major plan was to build a new stadium where Nantes play. The project had been dubbed Yello Park and would have seen at least 200m euros pumped into the project or the same amount that PSG paid Barcelona for Neymar.

A few months back Kita said in a press statement: “The future stadium is important to football fans in Nantes. Beyond our personal commitments for this project, this stage will be, for the decades to come and for the benefit of several generations, in the continuity of more than half a century of Nantes’ love for football. Nantes and its supporters deserve this ambition and this vision of the future.”

Kita may have his detractors, being the city of Nantes and some fans, but he does have a vision for the club and future projects, and that seems like a positive step. But how bad do Nantes want this change? New stadiums don’t mean success just extra revenue, which in a perfect circle can lead to success.

The future is unwritten at Nantes but there is a scent of hope that the club can return back to their glory days.

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