IAN LADYMAN: Premier League must be reduced to 18 clubs … and not a single offer for Pogba
The best English clubs don’t care much about the national cups. We know that from the teams they line up and the things they say.
But English football doesn’t need small cup competitions, but a smaller Premier League.
The highest level in English football is supposed to be the elite. This is the sale. But it is misleading.
Norwich at the bottom of the table has collected just 10 points in 19 Premier League games
Quality at the top is great but at the bottom the Premier League is rotten. Football sucks and has been for a decade. Standards near the bottom of the table do not justify a 20-team league. The only motivator for the status quo is money.
Since the 2011-12 season, the average number of points the team relegated to 20th position has amassed is a paltry 24. Only once during this period has a club amassed more than 30. It was West Brom with 31 four seasons ago.
Last year Sheffield United lost 23. The year before, Norwich had only won 21. Before that, Huddersfield had only won 16. This season? Well, Norwich, the floor is yours again.
So the pattern is clear and the case for a Premier League of, say, 18 clubs is starting to harden.
Clubs like Fulham, Norwich and West Brom exist quite comfortably as “yo-yo” clubs.
There are factors that contribute to this discomfort. The controversial parachute payment continues to be one. The teams from the championship know that relegation will not kill them. The money they put in the bank gives them a head start to recover. Therefore, teams like Fulham, Norwich and West Brom exist quite comfortably as “yo-yo” clubs.
The leaders of some top clubs believe that over time something can give. They envision an 18-team league. It’s hard to see how this would work out when any change has to be approved by 14 of the 20 member clubs, but the concept is at least on people’s minds.
As for the Premier League spectators, they are short changed a bit and so are the TV companies. Much of what is provided by clubs on the wrong side of the table is turgid and, more damning, just not competitive enough.
An 18-team league would allow the fixture list to breathe. It’s too crowded and it’s dangerous. If something is wrong – as we have seen during the current Covid outbreak – then the squeeze affects every competition.
Large crowds this weekend show the FA Cup remains alive in the hearts and minds of fans
But the modern thinking that it’s the cups that have to change to make room is dead wrong. It’s only the Premier League clubs – and some of the more ambitious teams in the league – who really mean it.
Check out the FA Cup attendance this weekend.
They were 52,000 in Newcastle, 40,000 in Chelsea, 16,000 in Hull, almost 17,000 in Millwall and 8,000 in Port Vale and Yeovil. The crazy scenes away from home as Cambridge won at St James’ Park and even when Chesterfield only scored once in a big loss at Stamford Bridge illustrate that in the hearts and minds of those who really matter – the supporters – the FA Cup remains alive and well and important.
Football is about hopes, dreams, friendship, shared experiences and escape. The FA Cup, and to a lesser extent the League Cup, continues to give us that. The Premier League? Yes, that too, but not always as much as we like to think.
The cups have taken enough hits as the landscape of football continues to change. It’s time to look somewhere else.
I hope I’m still wrong about Coutinho
My first memory of seeing Philippe Coutinho play for Liverpool is that of his shoulder injury against Swansea in 2013. I wondered if this brilliant little Brazilian would be too fragile for the Premier League. I was wrong.
My last memory involving Coutinho at Liverpool is of Jurgen Klopp explaining four and a half years later how the club just couldn’t stop him from leaving for Barcelona. I was worried that Klopp’s team would never be the same without him. I was still wrong.
And now, at 29, Coutinho returns to England, to Aston Villa.
Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho (above) is European football’s lost little boy
He had virtually no impact at Barcelona, also on loan at Bayern Munich. He is the lost little boy of European football.
Coutinho is a huge talent with a big heart but I don’t see him finding his genius again at Villa Park.
I really hope I’m wrong about this too.
Newcastle bought Trippier for the Championship
People ask why Kieran Trippier joined Newcastle but what is more interesting is why indeed they chose him.
Trippier is a good full-back but also an ultra-modern who prefers to play his football in the opposing half of the field.
For that to happen, he really needs to be playing for a team that commands possession. Newcastle are not that team which makes me wonder if they bought Trippier with a view to being promoted next season. Newcastle will have a lot of ball in the league.
Newcastle may well cover their bets by signing England full-back Kieran Trippier
It’s hard to buy players when you don’t know which division you will be in.
By recruiting Trippier, it looks like Newcastle are just hedging their bets.
United didn’t have a single offer for Pogba
When Manchester United signed Paul Pogba in 2016, they insisted on a six-year contract as they suspected his representative Mino Raiola would one day wish him to go on a free and lucrative transfer.
This summer that day will come.
I asked a United source why they hadn’t tried to sell their World Cup winner last summer, just to get a few pounds back.
They said they would have done it if they had only had one offer.
Midfielder Paul Pogba set to leave Manchester United with free transfer this summer
£ 2.3m PER TARGET
Paul Pogba has only scored 38 goals in 212 games since returning to Manchester United for £ 89million, or £ 2.3million per strike!