By Tony Attwood
Last season Arsenal began the league campaign with three defeats. They also ended the season with two defeats and a win. Both times there were calls for the manager to be sacked or to have the decency to resign, and complaints about the team and its inadequacy citing the fact that during the campaign Arsenal not only had a run of three defeats at the start but also a similar drop in form in November / December, another in January, plus yet another in March / April.
This season, the club has reduced that to one dip in form, right at the end of the season, with a run of eight games generating just nine points. So we come in second, while the media was suggesting it would be fifth or sixth. No one is complaining overall, although the media are trying to whip up discontent with headlines like “Piers Morgan questions Arsenal stars who said they didn’t bottle title after “dire” display” and multiple headlines elsewhere using the word “collapse”.
However this season there is a bigger worry. Manchester City face 100+ charges which apparently won’t be resolved for another four years. So anything they have (or indeed have not) been doing this season that has been wrong probably won’t be resolved until this season is a dim and distant memory. This means Manchester City will continue on their special way doing things their way, spending money which most other clubs don’t have access to. All that they have been doing which has resulted in legal challenges by the rest of the league, will continue next year, as will their undiminished spending.
In short, the Premier League has bypassed the two-club model of Spain and Scotland and gone straight to the one-club model of Germany, France and Greece wherein one knows who will win the league before it starts.
Except there are two possible ways out, each of which looks to be worse than the problem we now have. Saudi Arabia bought Newcastle with the connivance of Boris Johnson and now Qatar is looking to buy a football club. Seemingly they learned a lot about underhand dealings in the world cup, and now they want to apply this approach to a national league.
Of course, we have for some years had a group of clubs that would regularly (but not inevitably) be at the top, and now that has grown to seven clubs, although the crazy incompetence of the Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea ownerships means that we are, for a while at least, back to five.
But what is ordained now is the fact that Manchester City win the league as PSG do in France. They simply keep spending oil money on more and more players while looking at the rest of the league saying, “if you don’t like it, charge us with misdemeanours. It will take years and years to bring any of these to fruition and meanwhile, we will just keep on winning. The competition for the league title is over.”
Of course, there is a way around this: every year the Premier League could start a new legal case against Manchester City, so once the first four years have passed and the current case is heard, the next case will be running behind. At the same time, we could have a mass boycott of everything to do with Abu Dhabi.
That then would be a problem for Arsenal since Abu Dhabi is just the leading principality of the Emirates and Arsenal are sponsored by Emirates Airlines. But then I suppose at least a little something could be done by all supporters of Arsenal by boycotting Emirates Airlines. I must admit I did use them once, but since then I have been using the services of either Korean Air or British Airways when going to see my family in Australia.
So although the future looks pretty bleak for English football, we can take comfort from looking at the position of Arsenal at the end of the previous three seasons, while making comparisons with the unbeaten season, and with this season.
OK we are going to be between six and nine points below the achievement of 2003/4 but we have already scored 10 goals more than in the unbeaten season, and our goal difference is only seven worse than in that season.
Personally, from the Arsenal point of view, I don’t think things are too bad at all, and I am already rather looking forward to next season. I don’t think Arsenal will win the league, because Manchester City will be allowed to buy anyone they want and will win the league next year and the year after and the year after, but eventually when the league do either kick them out or ban their financial practices, they might remove all those Manchester C championships from the record book. By then it will probably be nine titles in ten years, which is why even the dumbest League chairmen will be saying, “this is not a competition any more” and slowly it will dawn on people: first is not a trophy.
- Is the Premier League getting more exciting or simply ever more predictable?
- How far down might these points deducations take clubs?
- Big clubs that foul less lose fewer players of their own to injury
- What takes clubs up and down the league: attack or defence?
- Referee Extremism: the situation in Spain and in England