Friday's soccer news starts with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger asking a basic question about what we're watching. As relayed by BBC Sport, Wenger links spending with predictability. We're watching the clubs spending the most running away with the titles in the top leagues in Europe, with Italy the only unlikely outlier. The point still stands since it's been a safe assumption for years that Juventus would be taking the Serie A title.
"When you look at the five big leagues in Europe, in December we already knew four champions," Wenger said. "That means something is not right in our game. The huge financial power of some clubs is basically destroying the competition."
It's worth mentioning that Wenger's Arsenal were true believers in Financial Fair Play. They adjusted their spending accordingly when their closest competitors did not. There's a way of looking at Arsenal's decline running parallel with the lack of enforcement of the full force of financial fair play. Had it come into full effect on schedule, Arsenal would've been in a stronger position.
That said, the game as we're watching it is far from a meritocracy. Without a salary cap, something leagues and UEFA itself are reportedly considering, there's nothing stopping spending. Financial Fair Play seems toothless from a pragmatic perspective. No elite teams have found themselves barred from Europe over spending, even as that spending continues to increase. That's a game some teams have become very good at playing, with the cost of competition drawing a line between a handful of super clubs and everybody else.
Making sure an elite team is on the super side of that line is its own competition. It's one that doesn't guarantee competing for a championship domestically or in Europe. It's simply keeping pace rather than getting left behind.
What Wenger is describing used to be associated with the smaller leagues in Europe. Any club willing to spend would probably end up competing for a title. If the other teams in your league are all operating on a budget, any difference can become an insurmountable advantage. It's not supposed to be that way in the big leagues. Now that it is, what does that mean for the future of the sport? Wenger is already asking, and so should the rest of us.
The Miami Herald's Douglas Hanks reports on members of the Overtown community's concern over potential MLS stadium construction in their neighborhood.
ESPN's Andy Mitten wonders about Manchester United's response following their loss to Spurs and manager Jose Mourinho's issues with Paul Pogba. Goal.com's Tony Maston has Chelsea coach Antonio Conte picking club over potentially coaching Italy. The Guardian's Sid Lowe explains Manchester City's new signing Aymeric Laporte. The Gentleman Ultra's James Evans on what Italia 90 meant for the soccer stadiums in Milan and Genoa.
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