We are often told the gap between the Premier League and the Football League is growing every year.
That is often highlighted when teams promoted from the Championship normally struggle when feasting at football’s top table. More a case of indigestion than sating your appetite.
Well for the 5,400 travelling supporters from Sheffield Wednesday at the Etihad on Wednesday evening, they will be able to testify to the gap.
Manchester City are the Premier League champions and they showed their class with a 7-0 demolition job, which saw former England midfielder Frank Lampard shine.
The Owls had the temerity to actually hold out until half-time, proving their defensive resolve after keeping seven clean sheets in their opening 10 matches of the season. But as soon as Lampard – who on this display City will be desperate to keep longer than his initial loan spell from the MLS – netted two minutes into the second half, the writing was on the wall.
Owls fans witnessed some glorious play by Manuel Pellegrini’s team, which was a lot stronger than many pundits had predicted.
There was no Joe Hart or Vincent Kompany, but the starting XI showed the luxury of riches on offer at City.
While £800,000 Stevie May was Wednesday’s big-money signing, City splashed out £32m on French defender Eliaquim Mangala.
Lampard’s weekly income would have probably paid the entire Wednesday side’s wages.
So the financial deficit was always there, but the footballing chasm could not be argued after Wednesday. Of course upsets do happen. Manchester United’s demise at MK Dons in the previous round probably had more to do with the problems at Old Trafford, than footballing reasons. But with Yaya Toure imperious in midfield, two-goal Edin Dzeko a constant danger up front, and Jesus Navas providing the flair, there was little Wednesday could provide to stem the goals rush.
The dismissal of Kamil Zayatte, which led to Toure’s penalty, seemed harsh but even with 11 players on the pitch Stuart Gray’s side were down and out.
Greater minds than mine have struggled to come up with plans to stop the Premier League elite pulling away from the rest.
But with the continual pursuit of Champions League glory, the financial fair play rules will have to be a lot stricter to prevent this.
Liverpool are the latest club to come under UEFA’s spotlight for breaching the FFP rules. It is claimed the Anfield club made losses over the last two years of £40.5m and £49.8m, while FFP rules dictate these must be restricted to £35.4m over a two-year window. Liverpool will argue a large chunk of that was on stadium costs. But it just seems incomprehensible that a club’s financial model should be built on such losses.
Of course, Liverpool are not alone, but while these top clubs are allowed to accrue such overspending and get away with it, how can other Premier League clubs hope to break their monopoly, let alone Football League clubs?