Arsene Wenger has claimed the lack of ‘unpredictability’ in the Champions League means that only ‘five to six’ clubs can win the biggest prize in European football.
The Frenchman, speaking on a number of footballing issues at an FWA Live event, suggested that the concentration of top-quality players at a small number of clubs leaves the window of opportunity open for those to win the competition limited to those teams in particular.
He said: “Can Nottingham Forest win the European Cup today? No. Why? Because what this financial power has brought is all the best players come in a small number of clubs.
“The unpredictability of the competition has gone down. We know that only ten clubs today can win the European Cup – maybe not even ten, five to six? Because all the best players are together in the same clubs and not spread anymore.”
This year’s competition, by that logic, may become something of an outlier as Ajax and Spurs both made the semi-finals, while Spain’s stranglehold on the competition was finally ended after five consecutive victories between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
But that could also dispel Wenger’s theory. There should be more faith in clubs without the history, financial might or resources of the likes of Liverpool and Barca in the pursuit of the biggest trophy in club football – meaning Arsenal need not worry.
Ajax, in particular, displayed a stark contrast to the kind of team that could be favourites for the competition on paper – while their performances within the system and personnel they deployed were more than a match for the three-time reigning European champions and the side that have won the Italian championship for eight years straight – both over the course of two matches.
Ties like those were no fluke. And as much the makeup of the game changes with VAR and spending power, as long as the basic rules stay the same, football’s unpredictability will live on, and give hope to the likes of Arsenal that one day, they can have another go at the competition, too.