The great Mick Jagger once sang: “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you get what you need!”
The Capital One Cup final marks the end of a week for English football, and football in a wider context, where this timeless lyric might resonate deeply. On Sunday we are faced with a game where both clubs desperately need to lay their hands on the oft-mocked tin pot cup despite a few years ago neither club really wanting to win it – leaving it as some sort benevolent day out for struggling mid-table teams while the big boys had more important things to worry about.
Manuel Pellegrini wishes to embellish his forthcoming legacy to Man City with as many trophies as he can. Especially after the typical “Cityish” week of crashing out of the FA Cup with a team of youngsters and then utterly dominating Dynamo Kiev midweek in Europe. While Jurgen Klopp needs to add some silver to the steel of foundations he is currently laying at Liverpool.
Some fans may take the view that while Pellegrini wants to wins the cup, Klopp needs to win it to vindicate Fenway Sports Group’s decision to oust Brendan Rodgers after a less than stellar start to the season.
As to denote their metoric rise and sustained challenge at the summit of the Premier League, Leicester City this week were informed that they will play televised games over four consecutive Sundays during the league run-in over April and May.
While it may neither be what the club or their fans want it be exactly what they need in order to manage their performance and expectation levels going into and coming out of games. There is a solid advantage in knowing exactly what you need to do when the majority of challenging teams will have played their games by the time you kick off at 4pm on a typical “Super Sunday”.
If we cast our eye further afield to the contrasting European adventures of English clubs we witnessed Arsenal once again scale new peaks in the “Peak Arsenal” syndrome, from which they seem to suffer so badly. They are much maligned for their style of play, which is derided as “Barcelona-lite” and the fallacies of the want and desire of Arsene Wenger to replicate an inimitable style came to bear when they met the “full fat” Barcelona on Tuesday night.
After a number of years of struggling to emerge from groups of steady mediocrity and then falling at the first knockout hurdle, Arsenal’s want for European glory may need a management overhaul. Whether Arsenal’s board are man enough to put on their big boy pants and make the change the club may struggle to balance their wants versus their needs for some time to come.
Arsenal’s Tuesday night struggles lie in direct contrast to Man Utd who turned around a shocking result from the previous week to give themselves a much-needed confidence boost complimented with some green shoots of recovery in the shape of younger players whom Louis van Gaal seems increasingly willing to blood.
The aftermath of the game has summed up what has been a strange season for Man Utd, after elimination from the Champions League neither the club nor the fans were excited about participation in the Europa League, however success in this competition could be exactly what they need to move forward into next season with a sense of purpose and confidence.
Finally, the wider world of football and its governance made a vital step forward in terms of reparation and catharsis in the form of Gianni Infantino. The Swiss-born lawyer is a career sports administrator that did not have a glittering football career scoring goals and lifting silverware over his head. A qualification that some deemed necessary in order to progress among football’s ruling classes.
The fact that he was a substitute candidate in place of the disgraced Michel Platini sums up his standing at the time. Infantino was a legal director for UEFA before moving on to its club licensing division and then onto the role of secretary general in 2009. Infantino offers a clean and transparent vision for FIFA’s future as an organisation. In his manifesto presentation he outlined exactly the amounts of funding that each region would receive over the next few years.
For those who thrived and profited from the seemingly infinite grey areas of FIFA’s previous incarnations, it was far from what they wanted but it is exactly what world football’s governing body needed.
While football sometimes acts like Veruca Salt, that spoilt child from the Roald Dahl’s famous story Willy Wonka, once in a while it pauses, takes a breath, and grows up just a little and for that we must be grateful.
David Knowles, Pundit Arena
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