Yet as soon as Unai Emery announced the club had a captaincy group of five, it was plain there was a problem. Arsenal required no surfeit of leaders when Tony Adams had the armband, or Patrick Vieira. Chelsea did not need anyone beyond John Terry, and Manchester United did not look beyond Bryan Robson or Roy Keane.
A long list is not a sign of strength. Emery hasn’t got any captains; that is why he found it so hard picking one.
Unai Emery has announced a group of five captains but the Arsenal boss has no real leaders
Give fans reason to cheer, Pep
A frequent complaint from Pep Guardiola is that Manchester City do not receive the backing of their fans in Europe. This isn’t true. City may not completely sell out group games at home but are far from alone in that.
Equally, resentment of UEFA is part of the identity of City’s fans — but that doesn’t mean the place won’t go wild for a win.
The drama of their last-minute disallowed goal against Tottenham last season was the juxtaposition of extremes, elation and deflation. It was precisely because the roof came off the place that VAR’s intervention was so stunning. City fans were certainly not muted when they thought Raheem Sterling had won it with the last kick.
The previous year, City were outplayed by Liverpool at Anfield which, again, is hardly the fault of the fans. Just because the Champions League anthem gets a shoeing doesn’t mean the locals don’t care. There is a difference between a healthy contempt for UEFA and selling the team short.
Group campaigns are a procession for City now UEFA’s seeding at last rewards title-winners. The tournament proper begins at the knockout stage where Guardiola’s recent record is elimination by the first good team he plays. If he gives the fans something to shout about, he’ll find them anything but unappreciative.
A complaint from Pep Guardiola is that Man City do not receive backing of their fans in Europe
Compromised BBC must do better
In the light of the Alberto Salazar verdict, few emerge as poorly as Barbara Slater, head of BBC Sport.
It was a brilliant BBC Panorama investigation that greatly assisted Salazar’s downfall, yet Slater has consistently given her employees airtime to rubbish it as a witch-hunt, the phrase used by Steve Cram, hopelessly compromised as an ambassador for Nike.
Paula Radcliffe is sponsored by Nike and her husband, Gary Lough, is Mo Farah’s coach. Yet this conflict was not even mentioned as she pontificated about the cost and length of the United States Anti-Doping Authority investigation.
Slater should be able to locate better, independent, voices. And if she cannot, the BBC should find someone who can.
Few have emerged as poorly from Alberto Salazar verdict as BBC Sport head Barbara Slater
Fabianski blow so costly
That Lukasz Fabianski could be out until January might put a roadblock in West Ham’s season.
Fabianski is the best they have had since Phil Parkes, who was the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when he signed from QPR in 1979. If anything, Fabianski is even better. He has matured into an exceptionally accomplished and commanding figure, and was equally outstanding at Swansea, despite relegation in his final season.
Last year, he made more saves than any goalkeeper in the league. Adrian was his very capable deputy, but he left for Liverpool this season, and the jury is out on Manuel Pellegrini’s man Roberto. He was poor at Oxford in a 4-0 defeat and unconvincing at Bournemouth when Fabianski went off.
A slow-motion replay of one save — a powerful shot, but straight at him — showed Roberto had not so much attempted a catch, or even to parry, but crossed his hands to protect his face. He will need a marked improvement if he is to steer West Ham through to New Year, still in contention for Europe. The ability to ride injury to key players is what keeps the elite in place.
That Lukasz Fabianski could be out until January might put a roadblock in West Ham’s season
Empty seats in Doha speak the loudest
Qatar has no love for athletics, no feel for athletics and no interest in using the sport as anything beyond a soft power play on the global stage. There is absolutely no reason for the IAAF World Championships to be there beyond the obvious. And plainly, wonderful athletes like Dina Asher-Smith deserve more than the echo of footsteps in an empty stadium.
Yet as a metaphor for a sport in crisis, and the reasons why, it is perfect. Indeed, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at Lord Coe, reduced to picking a fight with Gabby Logan to justify a decision so nakedly crass and wrong that its foolishness is broadcast daily around the world.
Actually, commentators no longer need to denounce Coe and his allies over this. One simple panoramic shot of the empty seats says more than words.
The World Athletics Championships have been plagued by poor atmosphere and attendances
Cardiff dressed it up many ways, from a simple quest for clarity to a grand ethical crusade, but withholding the transfer fee for Emiliano Sala always seemed to be about little more than saving £15million.
The fact that they have been ordered by FIFA to pay Nantes the first instalment of £5.3m suggests that over time Cardiff will be liable for the full amount. So now there will be a challenge at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and more legal wrangling.
FIFA believe the deal was done and Sala was Cardiff’s responsibility at the time of his death. That should be the end of this tragic affair, but what will now follow is depressingly predictable. Little to here has been edifying, so presume Cardiff will continue down the same, sorry path to its bitter end.
World Cup in China? Well, money talks
The centenary World Cup in 2030 should return to South America, where it began, yet this appears increasingly unlikely.
A British and Irish joint bid is being prepared, as a nod to the sport’s origins — even if these islands were very late to FIFA’s party — yet senior FIFA executives are increasingly open to a World Cup in China.
It would mean changing the rules on tournament rotation, because Asia will host through Qatar in 2022, and dealing with an authoritarian government — but when has that bothered them? So China it will surely be.
FIFA will dress this up as bringing the tournament to a new region, you know, for the good of the game, but we understand the true motivation. A friend who keeps a close watch on World Cup TV rights predicted China years ago. Just follow the money, he says. He’s rarely wrong on that front.
The centenary World Cup in 2030 should return to South America, yet this appears unlikely
Daley Thompson, who celebrates the 40th anniversary of his Olympic decathlon gold next year, is one of the most outspoken critics of London’s 2012 legacy.
‘We didn’t make the most of it,’ he says. ‘Instead of saying we must have the most beautiful stadiums, we should have asked how we could affect grass roots.’
Yet politicians want legacy, too. No-one is going to remember a thousand valuable but tiny contributions around the base of sport, when they can look at a fancy new stadium.
It is why the Prime Minister is big on bridge building — the literal, not the metaphorical kind. What London is left with is a monument to the egos of Ken Livingstone, Lord Coe and Tessa Jowell. Enjoy.