More competitive international football. A help or a hindrance?
Last week in an interview with beIN Sports, Arsene Wenger said the World Cup and European Championships should be played every two years and the rest of international football, such as the Nations League and friendlies, should be kicked out (pardon the pun) completely.
This sparked a good old football debate here at Nifty and got us thinking, would it benefit the game or be detrimental?
Generally in football, when Arsene Wenger speaks, people listen. The man is well respected all over the world and rightly so, he is the only manager to go un-beaten in a Premier League season, a league which is often dubbed the toughest and most competitive on the planet.
Also, interestingly, Arsene has never managed an international side, and club managers are renowned for being against too much international football, finding it a hinderance to the success of their teams. However, on this occasion, the Arsenal legend is asking to improve the regularity of competitive international football.
There is no denying how much we all look forward to a big tournament. Football is a game that brings people together and nothing does that quite like a World Cup or Euros. For the UK in particular, you only have to look at the last two - Wales defying the odds to reach the semi-finals of Euro 16, beating Belgium along the way, and more recently in the 2018 World Cup when Gareth Southgate and the boys walked into the lion’s den in Russia and gave us all a summer to remember (when football so very nearly came home). Having said that, would doubling the amount of these tournaments dilute the love we have for them?
Another thing we can’t ignore is the strain this would have on the players, who, ultimately, need rest as some of them play in the most demanding leagues in Europe. We’ve seen it time and time again where a player gets injured on international duty during a pivotal time of the season for their club. An injury to a star player of a team has a big knock-on effect from the player himself right down to the fans and in particular, league position.
Arsene agreed to players needing four weeks holiday every year and his way to fit all this in was to condense qualifiers, subsequently reducing the amount of international breaks needed during a season. His actual words were:
"Instead of going away in October, November, September, March, June, we regroup the qualifiers all in one month or two quadruples in October and in February. At least the players can dedicate that time to the club from March until June, and we would gain four dates."
Mr Wenger definitely raises some good points and he appears to have done his due-diligence, which I suppose is to be expected of a meticulous tactician, but even still, to implement change in a tradition which has been around since the inaugural World Cup in 1930, would be a tough task for anyone.
My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is that I think things work quite well at the moment, every four years seems like the correct amount of time in between tournaments. Maybe that is because it’s all I’ve known but Arsene’s preferred option of a having those tournaments every two years means that there will effectively be a World Cup or Euros every single year, which for me, doesn’t make sense, and I worry we might lose a little bit of love for these tournaments if they become more regular.
Regardless of which way this goes I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops and hearing more opinions from those in elite football and if anything does change, you can bet we’ll be straight on it with a Nifty blog!