Liverpool thrashing Bournemouth is a reminder of football’s profound inequality

Fabio Carvalho celebrates Liverpool's goal against Brentford Credit: PA Images

Fabio Carvalho celebrates Liverpool’s goal against Brentford Credit: PA Images

Liverpool took their Manchester United frustrations out on Bournemouth, but are these big wins a sign of greater inequality between the clubs?

So it turned out that Liverpool were angry and had something to prove. Bournemouth finished on the receiving end of your anger. Two up in six minutes and five up at half time, Liverpool could have had 15 on another day. And all of this came without a single goal from Mo Salah, who managed to miss a handful of decent chances.

The following day, it was Celtic’s turn, this time against Dundee United at Tannadice Park. Celtic matched Liverpool’s nine-goal win and did so away from home. Furthermore, Dundee United had already conceded seven unanswered to AZ in a Europa Conference League game this season. He has received 23 goals in his last four games.

It’s not just happening in Britain, either. In Germany, any belief that Bayern Munich’s grip on the Bundesliga could be weakened following the departure of Robert Lewandowski already seems optimistic. Their two away wins have been by a score of 6-1 and 7-0.

For a long time it felt like these big wins were becoming something of a trend, but is this confirmation or novelty bias, or are these results the inevitable effects of other issues pressing the game? And if it’s not just a coincidence that something like this can never be ruled out more and more often, what does this say about the direction professional football may be taking?

There have been four 9-0 wins in the 30 years of the Premier League, but three of those have come in the last three years. The common denominators of these results seem to be one of two things, or a combination: being a big club playing against a considerably smaller club; or be playing against Southampton. Santos was, of course, involved in two of these four matches. Three of those four 9-0 wins went to Manchester United and Liverpool.

How the hell do you recover from losing 9-0?

The most obvious is to blame the growing gap between rich and poor. While both the sample size for big wins and the number of games played this season are still a bit small to be statistically significant, it’s still valid to question whether the widening gap in resources is having any effect.

One of the big criticisms of the Premier League’s decision to bring in five substitutes from the start of this season was that doing so would likely only widen that chasm further. Football, we are repeatedly told, is a team game nowadays, and that benefits the big clubs if they can fill theirs out with elite players who can come in at any time and further squeeze opponents with resources. more modest at your disposal.

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Consider, for example, the game between Nottingham Forest and Spurs. The former have spent a lot on players during the summer transfer window, but that has been on a lot of players rather than a few expensive ones. At The City Ground, Spurs were leading 1-0 and holding on for a bit against a cheery Forest side when they were able to introduce Richarlison, a £60m summer signing and current number nine from Brazil. He advanced the second goal to leave the result beyond doubt.

This is a conversation that has been taking place in women’s football for years. In early December 2021, England beat Latvia 20-0 in a World Cup qualifier, while just days before, Belgium edged out Armenia with 19. These huge margins of victory have been a source of derision for football. female, but the unevenness of resources underpinning those results should really be a cause for concern rather than mockery, because what they’re talking about is a huge imbalance of resources between teams.

The different reactions to these big wins in the men’s game are surprising, but the cause behind them may be similar. The resource differences between Premier League clubs are not as great as the gap between Europe’s biggest women’s teams and their smallest nations. But if that gap continues to grow in the men’s game, there’s little to suggest they won’t become more common in the future.

All of this can lead to the game having to make a decision at some point. Would you prefer more results like this, or would you like to reduce inequality between clubs and make it more competitive? It is not a question with a direct answer.

After all, when a system is tilted in favor of the biggest clubs, the majority of supporters of those teams will be in favor. Why would they want to reduce the likelihood of their side vacuuming up all the cutlery while absolutely beating up some poor unfortunates along the way?

And their numbers can be persuasive. Critics may argue that turning, say, the Champions League group stage into a succession of Harlem Globetrotters games is bad for the sport, but supporters of the bigger clubs are the loudest voice in terms of numbers. There are more Liverpool fans than Bournemouth fans. In particular, criticism about how predictable all of this is getting usually comes from outside.

The amount of effort that has gone into reducing inequality within the game was effectively zero, and UEFA’s FFP checks were derided as an excuse to maintain existing inequalities. Old money versus new money, if you prefer. And it wasn’t hard to see how UEFA’s FFP rules would likely replace one hegemony with another without significant reform of the distribution of television and prize money in its competitions.

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    Credit: PA Images

Credit: PA Images

This type of conversation is riddled with such contradictions. The Premier League is regularly criticized for its inequality, but its TV distribution model is better than other European countries. At the end of last seasonFor example, Manchester City earned £164m from the Premier League television and prize money fund, while the lowest-earning Norwich City earned £98.6m. Compare that to Italy, for example, where in the 2019/20 season, higher-earning Juventus earned €100m from their national TV deal, while lower-earning Brescia earned just €40.5m.

And then there is the small matter of the difference in television agreements between countries. In much of the rest of Europe, there is already a growing perception that the European Super League is already here in the form of the Premier League, and that the only answer to this may be the formation of a tournament to rival it.

But how the hell do you begin to reduce inequality in the different leagues? It doesn’t seem very likely that the Premier League will, will or even should look for smaller TV deals because other big European leagues can’t do the same. The solution is probably not financial redistribution, but rules on how much clubs can spend on transfer fees and salaries. The probability of something like this happening at the top end of the game is not greater than zero.

And it’s worth noting that Liverpool are no more to blame for this state of affairs. They are simply doing what they should with the resources they have. If anything, they are a model of how football’s ‘old money’ can compete with the new, even though they seem to have to run faster and faster each season just to sit still.

But while Liverpool 9-0 Bournemouth may be a lot of fun for Reds fans, it’s not so much fun for the rest of us, and this is an issue that those who govern the game need to address in the future. All this leaves football with a decision to make. He can either continue to exacerbate this yawning financial chasm at the risk of more games becoming little more than exhibition matches, or he can try to narrow it down and risk complaints from the bigger clubs.

As always, the whole thing boils down to a couple of questions. What do we want football to be? And how can it be achieved by keeping the majority of people interested? These are questions that often don’t seem to get asked enough these days.

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