Give yourself a pat on the back if you've been able to keep up with football, give yourself an even bigger pat on the back if you know what the next fixture for your side will be. Perhaps the last line is stretching it but it seems that football has really gone 24/7 over the past couple of years where players just never seem to stop playing. The pandemic caused obvious congestion but there hasn't been a let up since. We have witnessed 5 major international tournaments in 18 months- the European Championship, the Nations League, the Copa America, the Womens European Championship and the World Cup.
Just three days after the World Cup final Manchester United and Manchester City were playing in the EFL Cup, our minds are so set in stone that we understand no competitive football takes place after a World Cup final for a good six weeks, and yet here we are. A winter World Cup has really squished out the calendar and put it out of place, but football will go on and so it has. We have already witnessed four Premier League matchdays and it will be five by next week and the World Cup final will still be less than a month old. Whew! However Qatar 2022 isn't entirely to blame but a finger could certainly be pointed at UEFA and FIFA. Belgium and Manchester City legend Kevin De Bruyne was very critical of the Nations League games that came full on immediately after the end of the domestic season last summer. Belgium have looked sluggish recently and one has to worry what effect all of these games will have on players and especially the very best ones who are expected to create moments of magic on the pitch.
Gianni Infantino the FIFA president will not leave well alone and he is talking about creating yet another competition, the FIFA World Cup Club, which of course already exists but he wants to expand it from 4 teams to 32 and have it every four years which may well turn into every two. But isn't this competition simply looking to trump the Champions League? What competition will end up becoming the most important? Imagine for example Manchester City finally win the Champions League, does their glory get evaporated six months later when they get knocked out at the quarter final stage of the World Club Cup? Is it not allowed anymore to revel in your glory and believe you are a champion, or is that supposed to only last nanoseconds before it is swallowed up and you are judged again? Infantino also wants a World Cup every 3 years and he will get it probably from 2033. Arsene Wenger so utterly wise as a manager who changed the game in England when he arrived in 1996 was used as FIFA bait last year suggesting a World Cup every two years, FIFA well knowing that it would be rejected had the 3 year compromise up their sleeve. Granted it's nice to see more football but too much might end up sanitising the quality of the overall tournament and too many competitions and games piled on each other may pose health risks to players. However money is king and UEFA and FIFA will get their projects off and running you just have to wonder if their proposals are for 'the good of the game'?
The 142nd FA Cup started last year of course but the Premier League teams have only just recently entered it. Everton who are under pressure to stay up this season were knocked out by Manchester United losing 3-1 the pressure is really on manager Frank Lampard to keep his job however the score doesn't reflect the game and Everton came off unlucky especially with a goal ruled out by VAR which would have made it 2-2 at the time. It is still complexing to see that VAR is not used in every game of the FA Cup, surely that is simply unfair? Wolves believed so as they thought they had knocked out Liverpool winning the game 3-2. Not so. VAR had no camera, or at least a lack of cameras. This is in a Premier League stadium, the champions of 2020, it is now 2023 and VAR has been hyped and talked that it is the future of football, blah blah blah. There was no extra angle, and Liverpool got away with it. Simply put down to gamesmanship what a poor job. It's also very disheartening for any football fan except Liverpool to see the utter joy of the Wolves fans, elevated, the greatest moment in their lives at least for five seconds, the emphatic glory swept away by jobsworth VAR. Liverpool who by their standards are having an horrendous season live to fight another day.
To win the FA Cup: Manchester City 3.25, Manchester United 5.00, Tottenham 8.00, Liverpool 10.00, Arsenal 11.00
Finally we lost Gianluca Vialli one of the most talented players in world football over the past 30 years. The Italian lit up Sunday afternoons on Channel 4 with Football Italia with his Sampdoria side. He won numerous trophies with a club that would become much loved on English shores and even reached the last European Cup final before the Champions League switch where his side eventually lost to Barcelona. However he did win Europe's greatest prize four years later with Juventus. He played for three seasons with Chelsea and at the time that was seen as huge coup for the Premier League to have Vialli trading his game here and he scored 40 goals with the Blues. He would go on to win the FA Cup with Chelsea and altogether he won a staggering 19 trophies and also coached Chelsea to a FA Cup win only two years after winning it as a player. Fans of all clubs liked Vialli and that should tell you everything you need to know about the Italian that came to England and graced the game with skill and goals and graced himself off the pitch with humility and kindness.