Arsene Wenger believes that the manner in which international sides qualify for major tournaments should be overhauled because the long, drawn-out process is as painful as having teeth pulled out without any anaesthetic.
The full line-up for Euro 2012 will be completed by the end of next week with four play-off ties set to signal the end of a grating two year process. In the meantime the rest of the world’s teams are being forced to play out meaningless friendly games which will no doubt leave most football fans dozing on their respective sofas.
Asked in this month’s Arsenal Magazine whether it was time for UEFA to instigate drastic changes, the Frenchman answered in the affirmative.
“I would say that yes we need a major overhaul,” confirmed Wenger. “I would propose that we had the smaller teams playing against each other in qualification, with the best ones going through to the European Championships, and that the bigger teams then have the opportunity to be qualified directly.
“Of course I have not studied the problems deeply, so I do not say I have the key for the solution, but there is definitely something there that is not right, and I’m sure that the format as it is now has no future. I think there will be more and more disinterest from people.”
All too aware that supporter attendances drop off when matches do not live up to expectations or are lacking in importance, he continued:
“People want quality, and we saw some games in the last round of internationals – Bulgaria v Wales for example – there were just 1,000 people there. That makes a mockery of international football. So we have to look at that quickly, because it creates a new problem.
“I think it will get worse and worse because we are facing an economic crisis too. That will have direct consequences for the attendances. It’s more and more difficult to sell out games – even in a big country like France. Not one home game there was a sell out – not one.
“That shows you that there’s something happening that is a deeper problem.”