TAs the new year begins, there is some nervousness in football’s top flight, not all of it related to the usual concerns.
Many would perhaps say that “unusual worries” perfectly describes the prospect of England finally winning a tournament. Gareth Southgate’s side are seen by the majority of the field as the likely winners of Euro 2024, at least outside France.
It’s a feeling of anticipation, not just optimism, that is new even for this manager’s era. That’s partly because England have something new in modern team history with a player like Jude Bellingham.
He can crown himself the best player in the world in 2024 while making England the best team in Europe. This could be his year. That could be it.
Arsenal will view the opportunity to become champions for the first time in 20 years in a similar way to Aston Villa’s opportunity to return to the Champions League for the first time in 42 years.
Or rather, to return to the competition that used to be the European Cup and won’t really look like the Champions League as we know it.
Because while these are all simplistic, old-fashioned worries about what might happen on the field, they come in a new, more complex calendar.
This is where the nerves lie Really come. There is some concern about the new-look Champions League, in which most of Southgate’s players and their main rivals will play.
Europe’s premier competition will grow from a symmetrical 32 to 36 clubs after a quarter of a century, changing the nature of the entire opening round. It is based on the “Swiss model” used primarily in chess.
All teams will play in an open group, with schedules based on seedings. This represents a clever circumvention of the core problem of financial inequality that blighted the old group stage, while attempting to address a number of other issues.
There will be more big games between big clubs, more guaranteed revenue and there will also be an attempt to solve the dead surface problem that has characterized this season’s season. Further places for the last 16 will be allocated on a staggered basis and there will even be play-offs.
This is a direct response to major clubs threatening the prospect of a European Super League for some time. However, the format change was decided before April 2021 and the first idea for the Super League became public. Those who worked on this idea insist that it “modeled” the best of all possible formats.
It’s still not that easy to explain right away, which makes it difficult to figure out what comes next. Senior football figures believe this could be crucial for the future of the game. Damien Comolli, the former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur sporting director who is now overseeing an impressive overhaul at Toulouse, shares a common view.
“If it works really well, the Super League is dead,” explains the French manager. “If it doesn’t work well, some people will try to come back and introduce Super League. For me it is a turning point in the history of European football.”
This statement is undeniable, but not exactly an unprecedented description. A number of developments in recent years have been reported, mostly in reviews like this one.
There are so many potential turning points because the game is so complex. It is no longer a simple pyramid. It’s a steep pillar with all sorts of distortions and big players trying to bend it to their will.
In that sense, the European Court of Justice’s late ruling in December means it is probably too late for the latest form of the Super League to exploit concerns about this new Champions League.
They never applied under the old pre-approval rules, which now violate European law but have already been changed by UEFA. However, the same ruling could pave the way for other challenges in the future. This war is not over yet.
Surrounding politics could be significantly affected by the outcome of another battle. The Premier League trial against Manchester City over alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play rules is seen as a potentially extinct event for football in its current form due to the immense amount of emotion involved.
Every harsh penalty changes the face of the game. However, anything less would lead to turmoil in the rest of the Premier League.
It’s just that we may not even see a result in 2024, a prospect that has also caused excitement in the game. City are expected to face an independent panel by the end of the year, but may not find a solution until 2025. The next 12 months could instead see developments in a similar investigation against Chelsea.
With so many problems off the pitch, the Premier League could do with a proper title race, preferably one involving more than two teams. It would not be good for the image of the competition if City won it relatively easily again, even if it would represent another milestone.
They would become the first club to win four English championships in a row, as Pep Guardiola also aims to make them the second to retain the modern Champions League while achieving a personal record – level with Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid side could represent the toughest competition for the Cityzens. Football has been in this concentration for a long time.
Guardiola could actually use some serious competition for his own legacy. Arsenal could make that happen as they aim for their first home title since the Invincibles in 2003/04. However, Liverpool are suddenly looking at the new year more seriously.
Among them, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a 25 percent stake in Manchester United could finally change the discussion at the club.
However, things have gotten to the point where the European Union and even FIFA are worried about the decline in competitiveness in football. European ministers will meet on January 10 to begin discussing the idea of a sports model for the continent. FIFA is now actively looking at ways to make the game more balanced, with everything from a salary cap to transfer restrictions on the table.
By its very nature, international football cannot escape the world around it. The play-offs for the remaining Euro 2024 places will take place in March, with Israel taking on Iceland before a possible meeting with Bosnia and Herzegovina or Ukraine.
The prospect of a match with Ukraine is looming as senior UEFA figures brace for the prospect of calls from protesters to boycott Israel like Russia amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas and the bombing of Gaza. No European association is thinking about it The Independent It was reported that the associations are aware of security concerns due to possible protests if they were to host a play-off involving Israel.
There is a certain irony in this, as international football increasingly represents a relief from football own problems. This is not just because England are looking to win their first trophy in 58 years, or because it is the first stand-alone tournament since 2016 that is no longer played in an autocracy, as it takes place in Germany rather than Russia or Qatar.
The level has evolved into a purer version of the sport. Although there are still large and small countries, none are perfect and you cannot simply buy solutions to problems on the transfer market. Likewise, players play for the glory of the whole and not for the reward.
England finally has that glory within their grasp. It’s just that a lot can still change between now and the start of Euro 2024.
Teams can suddenly come into shape. Kylian Mbappe could have a lot to say about where the trophy ends up, especially as he continues to struggle with frustrations in his own club career at Paris Saint-Germain. The French star himself is sure to end up at Real Madrid in what may be the biggest transfer of the year.
Women’s football is not yet close to this financial level, but its development will only accelerate. Investment is pouring in, particularly given the impending overhaul of the game in England. There will also be a landmark of a different kind. Emma Hayes will take charge of her final Chelsea game before becoming coach of the US women’s national team.
In terms of the way the game is coached, there can be pure development on the field. Over the last 12 months, managers such as Roberto De Zerbi have already tested the parameters of Guardiola’s positional play, which has dominated the last 15 years.
For the first time in this period, we saw the shape of the game change. It may attack less offensively and do more tricks. But it doesn’t get any less sporty. This is where sports science brings us.
However, the entire year can bring changes and a lot of anxiety.