Same clubs always winning
- Optimism to succeed. A further and last reflection from AKH
- What Arsenal have to do next season to become even better?
By Tony Attwood
In Scotland, Celtic have won the league 11 times out of the last 12 (and there’s a suggestion people are getting a bit bored by it all). In France, Paris Saint-Germain are about to win Ligue 1 for the ninth time in 11 seasons. Although in Germany there is a bit of excitement because although Bayern Munich look likely to win an 11th straight title they are only one point ahead of Borussia Dortmund, which makes a change.
But now compare these scenarios with earlier days in England.
- Between 1931 and 1935 Arsenal won the league four times in five seasons.
- Between 1976 and 1980 Liverpool won the league four times in five seasons.
- Between 1982 and 1986 Liverpool again won the league four times in five seasons
- Between 2007 and 2011 Manchester United won the league four times in five seasons
That is four runs in around 80 years of football (removing a period for the second world war).
But now, assuming that something utterly extraordinary doesn’t happen, Manchester City will take this on to a new level in England winning the title five times in six seasons – something not seen before in English football. So what does this say about the competitive nature of the Premier League?
Considering this recently, the Athletic seemed to argue that it doesn’t really matter too much because ultimately Guardiola will leave and “City will, for a while at least, struggle to recreate this level of superiority.”
But really, is that likely? With the type of money that Manchester City now have at their disposal, will City struggle? Will they not, when left to their own devices as PSG are in France, simply bring in another Guardiola who will buy up even more talent?
Indeed as the Athletic article on the subject points out, in Europe clubs change their managers as a matter of course, often after the club has just won the league. Laurant Blanc, Thomas Tuchal, Unai Emery… win ratios in the 70%+ zone, they leave, the club goes on and on.
But it is more than the fact that everyone else is then playing for second place. It is that the top team can buy everyone they want. The competitiveness gets lost because as soon as a new star emerges he’s off to one of the big boys.
Which is probably why the issues of the 115 charges brought against Manchester City, and the suggestion that Newcastle United are under the control of the Saudi state, are being talked about in football a lot more than football journalism would have you think.
There is also a suggestion that the Premier League will win its case against Manchester City, strip the club of their titles, and the owners might walk away in a fit of pique, Saudi Arabia will walk away from Newcastle, and the League will run its own show.
Certainly, the reports in the Guardian a couple of months back show that there really does look to be a clear case of state involvement in the Sovereign Wealth fund that was used to buy Newcastle. And indeed that case does look rather amusing since it appears that in yet another court case Saudi Arabia describes the fund that bought Newcastle, as “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” run by “a sitting minister of the Saudi government”. I think they shot themselves in both feet on that one, but time will tell.
And we don’t know as yet who is buying Manchester United, but Qatar looks the most likely purchaser.
Now in response to this, the Athletic article claims that “Football is cyclical, and both United and Liverpool can attest to periods in the wilderness after eras of domination.”
Well yes, but there is nothing in the constitution of the Premier League that says this cyclicality in football, automatically continues. And in noting, “City’s wealth and the sensible way in which they’re run…” the article suggests that whatever happens the club will get away with whatever financial meanderings they are playing about with. And yet they have not been sensible enough to avoid being charged with “breaking financial fair play rules” 115 times. That really is pretty careless.
So the comment that City, “won’t fall that far, but they will still likely have difficulties when Guardiola finally goes,” might well be the most gigantic misunderstanding of all time. Guardiola going is not the issue.
What we have to remember is that the Premier League was in itself a breakaway league set up by a group of 1st Division clubs, fed up with being under the yoke of the Football League. So the clubs broke away and then asked the FA to be their controlling body before kicking the FA aside, and taking over control themselves. Having shown they can act in that most dramatic of moments, I’ve no doubt they can do so again to swat away the annoying hornet that Manchester City has become.
In this regard, I am moved by the commentary in Economics Observatory which in part says, “it seems likely that City did break the rules. After all, they became a successful team while doing precisely what the financial fair play regulations were designed to prevent. In the process, the club spent much more money than their revenues could ever support.”
What’s more, all 19 other members of the League at the time signed up to the case. If the League wins, I wouldn’t be surprised if the owners of Manchester City either walk out totally, or pick up the club and move it to France to play in Ligue 1 alongside its other poodle, PSG.
If Manchester City wins, I suspect the rest of the League will walk out and set up another competition just as they did when leaving the Football League. They were resolute and audacious in going after a bigger share of the money. Now Manchester City, by winning everything all the time, has removed that objective, and I think the other clubs want the competition back.
So it actually doesn’t matter if the League wins the case or not – the Premier League is a breakaway league and is used to having power. Manchester City have removed that power, and the League will take it back, even if that means 19 clubs resigning and setting up “The English League”.
This is not a scenario you’ll read in other places, largely because a central part of football journalism is to support the status quo. But we’ll keep on trying to look at this issue from a historic and contemporary perspective. It seems to make more sense that way.
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