Benfica Vs Arsenal Makes Zero Sense by Dan Smith
Arsenal are in a bizarre situation where they will travel to Italy to face Benfica on Thursday, while the following week our ‘home advantage’ has been confirmed as being in Greece!
I asked how a 2-leg tie was possible a couple of weeks ago but as expected the actual integrity of their competitions is bottom of UEFA’s priority list.
Due to the Pandemic, Arsenal and Benfica found themselves unable to fulfil their tie on the dates ordered. The UK government has Portugal on their red zone list, insisting that anyone arriving from that country must immediately isolate for 10 days.
Even if both clubs were willing to postpone their domestic fixture while in Quarantine, logistically it would have been impossible. If they had played in Portugal, we would have to wait at least 10 days before we could play in England again, while Benfica would have to be in London 10 days before their visit to the Emirates. As there is just a week between the two matches, it simply can’t be done.
You would think you could rely on European Football’s Governing Body to help (you know do their job) by changing dates around or even make it a straight one-off knockout encounter.
Instead they simply told the two sides to sort it out however they wished, while casually reminding them they can add fines for a venue change or unfulfillment of fixtures. For those in charge of the sport in Europe to have that much lack of empathy during COVID will continue to drive away supporters who just want to see a bit of sensitivity.
All they care about is clubs fulfilling contracts to appease broadcasters and sponsors. That means clubs facing each other twice, no matter the location or if it makes any sense.
Arsenal could in theory draw 0-0 in Rome, then 1-1 in Athens and go out on the away goal rule. Yet the whole concept of the away goal rule is to reward a team for scoring away. As there will be two games at neutral venues, why should us scoring in the Stadio Olimpico be any less/more significant than the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis? (And vice versa – we could equally benefit from an away goal which isn’t an away goal seing as neither team will be home or away.)
It’s not just our tie ……..
Man United are playing Spanish opposition also in Italy although they and Real Sociedad are okay to play at Old Trafford.
In the Champions League, instead of Spain, Chelsea must go to Romania, while Liverpool and Man City were originally meant to play in Germany, but now will go to Hungary (as will Spurs).
It means both UEFA competitions are uneven
Some teams are playing at home while their opponents can’t, some are the traditional home and away scenario while others (like ours) will be in two random stadiums (with no home or away advantage)
I would be interested to know if any club discussed not having the away goal rule implemented or if it wasn’t an option?
While some would argue wherever you play, you’re playing in front of zero fans, there are some clubs who are believed to be not happy about the idea of not having home advantage while their opponents do.
Reports in Spain say Atletico Madrid privately feel that Chelsea will have an advantage playing in familiar surroundings while they don’t, though the La Liga leaders are resistant to say that publicly.
I don’t feel sorry for any club.
I long took the stance that back in March it was clear that all sports needed to be postponed. Owners of clubs were adamant they were willing to do anything to keep playing and even threatened legal action if they couldn’t.
Players became puppets on a string, told how far apart to train, when to wear a mask, advised not to celebrate, etc.
All because of greed. Not just Football clubs, the likes of Sky and BT were not willing to compensate, nor sponsors or advertisers.
So when a manager moans about their hectic schedule or how many injuries they have …… blame your owners who prioritize money over what was best for everyone’s welfare
Everyone wanted what was owed to them, when they easily could have worked together to protect the product.
Instead of admitting that though, we have had the likes of Boris Johnson tells us Football is carrying on for the public benefit. For their escapism, their mental health, for a distraction, etc. Tell me at which point during reorganising our last 32 tie were fans’ enjoyment was considered?
There will be gooners who can’t see their loved one, who have lost jobs, told to stay indoors, etc. Dreams of a run in Europe probably is an escape. Yet the tie with Benfica has been diluted
2 games in empty stadiums with an away goal rule already seems strange, now we have an away goal rule even though no one is at home or away. UEFA could have made it a lot more entertaining by making it a one-off game.
But our entertainment isn’t the priority is it?
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