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The break before the final sprint
I am restarting doing the weekly newsletters.
After a break writing these and lots of thought, I have come up with both something that I will not feel burnt out writing and something that I think will be interesting to the people that subscribe.
The idea is that there will be an "A" block with a story that I want to comment on, hopefully through my unique perspective. The "B" block will be the traditional look at the weekend's fixtures and the odds. Lastly will be a grouping of links to what I have written this week and the things that I read that I found interesting.
FFP is back, but still the same?
Teams’ soccer-related spending, according to people briefed on the regulations, will not be able to surpass 70 percent of their income, a regulation that appears watered down from the strict salary cap that had long been championed by UEFA’s president, Aleksander Ceferin.
Ceferin had for at least five years discussed imposing salary caps as a way to address European soccer’s growing wealth gap. But faced with the complexities of European employment law and deep-pocketed opposition, UEFA has abandoned the concept of a hard cap and, according to three people familiar with the proposals, settled on a proposal that — after a three-year implementation period — will require teams to keep their spending within a strict ratio.
My initial reaction to the news of a new implementation of financial regulations for UEFA competitions is that this is probably a small tweak but not likely to really change anything.
My understanding of the current rules is that they are based on profits and losses from previous seasons, with the requirements essentially coming down to needing to have broke even over a three-year rolling window before the penalties start kicking in. The change to a simple rule that player cost (wages plus amortized transfer fees) does not exceed 70% of revenue is probably easier than the rules around break-even but still has a number of the very same issues.
First, is that this seems more geared at ensuring that teams don't spend beyond their means rather than creating a more even playing field. Second, this really doesn't do anything to address the issues where teams with wealthy owners can circumvent rules with inflated sponsorships as a way of boosting revenues and then ability to spend on players. Third, this really doesn't seem to do anything about the revenue disparities between teams and between leagues (maybe this will happen at a later date but I will remain skeptical that big Clubs are going to be willing to give up a substantial enough share of the money they receive to benefit smaller teams).
My politics lead me to generally oppose salary caps (I think of them as basically rules that take money that would go to players and redistribute them to owners) but can see that they can also lead to a more "fair" situation between teams.
I wonder if something more akin to a luxury tax would be more palatable to teams (maybe in conjunction to revenue-based cost controls). My spitballing take would be to set a luxury tax threshold of say €200m (you would probably set a separate rate for each UEFA competition) and a tax rate of 35% for overages taken from the prize money a team would earn. This would be distributed to the teams below the the tax helping to serve the goal of helping the smaller teams.
So making up some numbers as an example, let's say Manchester City have a total wage cost of €450m, they have a tax bill of €87.5m. If they win I will guestimate that they would receive about €110m in prize money of which they would keep €22.5 with the rest going to their tax bill.
This isn't a perfect solution as some teams still would blow past tax thresholds but it would probably help to push more of the prize money to lower revenue teams. I don't know if something like this is viable with the politics of the sport but it does feel like something has to be done to address the structural problems in the game.
Tight races await the Premier League return
The Premier League is on pause but this is typically the section that would have the match odds for the weekend ahead but seeing as this is an international break weekend so this week.
So this week it will be a short but sweet look at where the simulated table sits now.
The title race will be in full swing (I think I am still putting my money on City to win but my confidence has dropped). Liverpool's form has been incredibly impressive to where depending on how much you weigh current performance, you wouldn't be crazy to think that they are the best team in the world.
The top four race is still way too close for me as an Arsenal fan and I can't imagine how stressful Arsenal's head-to-head matches against United and Spurs will be. Arsenal have also been in a rich vein of form but that hasn't led to them opening up nearly a big enough gap on the chasing teams to feel comfortable. After spending most of the season thinking this season might have one of the weakest 4th place finishers, I am starting to reconsider that as it looks like low 70's points will be required this season.
Lastly, the relegation fight is still pretty wide open for the last spot. I am morbidly curious what might happen if Everton are relegated, even if I don't have any special dislike for the team. They are only second most likely after Burnley for the last spot but I do worry that they might have a total collapse in them, they are playing poorly, with an inexperienced coach, and players that didn't expect to be in this situation.
I was sparked by comparing Alexandre Lacazette to Premier League Average to then make the effort to rank his performances this season compared to other forwards this year.
The monthly check-in with how Arsenal are fairing compared to my goals of 6th place or better level performances. #SpoilerAlert its good
Andrew probably doesn't need my link for people to read what he writes but I thought that this was a great perspective on Willam Saliba. The development plan seems to be paying off for the young Frenchman.
This is behind the Athletic paywall but I think that it is still a very good article looking at the changes that Xavi has done at Barcelona. John Muller is amazing at this type of work and I think that pretty much everything he writes is a must-read.
A book recommendation:
Net Gains: Inside the Beautiful Game’s Analytics Revolution
This is a book that I am very much looking forward to by a writer whose work has inspired me. Ryan O'Hanlon has a knack for finding interesting angles to tell cool stories, I am a little jealous of the ways that he is able to intertwine analytics with his regular narratives. A bonus is that he is also bold enough to go with a pun title for his book, I have full respect for that effort.
Please consider pre-ordering the book (these sorts of things are very important for smaller authors).
I can't wait to read this and maybe if Ryan does some press maybe do an interview with him closer to the release date.
Thank you for reading.