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By Tony Attwood
As the Guardian reports Juventus have had 10 points deducted from their total for this season following a hearing in the Italian football federation’s appeals court. The punishment relates to false accounting by the club. As a result Juventus are now seventh in the league.
Juventus’ chairman and 11 others have also been charged with “false communications”, as well as obstruction of the enquiry, false accounting and manipulation of the market, while the Italian football association have also charged Juventus and seven of its former directors with fraud.
Juventus in reply claim that they have been charged in relation to matters in which there is “an absence of clear rules.”
Of course this is quite different from what is, according to Amnesty International, “one of football’s most brazen attempts to ‘sportswash’ … a country that relies on exploited migrant labour and locks up peaceful critics and human-rights defenders” – which is how it sees the Manchester City “project”.
And thus while the perceived behaviour of Juventus perhaps says quite a bit about Italian football, so the perceived behaviour of Manchester City says quite a bit about English football. The dominant football force in Italy is found guilty of wholesale fraud, while the dominant football force in England is “a sportswashing project for an oil-rich Middle Eastern state,” which has 115 charges laid against it relating to football’s own financial regulations.
Juventus, now reduced to seventh in the Italian league, are at least for the moment not much of a threat to the Italian League where Napoli have won their first title since 1990. In comparison, as All Football recently pointed out, “In the five campaigns between 2017-18 and 2021-22, [Arsenal] finished, on average, 27.8 points behind City. To have reduced the gap so substantially this season is a sign of real progress under Arteta.” Especially as we might note that Tottenham have not managed to get within 20 points of Manchester City in recent years and Chelsea have only managed to get to within 15 points of the club, and that only once.
Of course it is still possible, in the worst case scenario, that Manchester City will end up 13 points clear of Arsenal, which would leave Liverpool as the only club that have come within ten points of the club. Thus as we noted the other day, the Premier League can now be seen alongside the French League and German League wherein (admittedly for different reasons) we know who will win almost every season, before the league starts.
And although it is true that there have been periods of dominance in the English top league before, ranging from Arsenal’s four titles in five seasons in the 1930s to Liverpool’s seven titles in nine seasons in the 1970s and 1980s, and Manchester United’s five in six at the turn of the century, these earlier manifestations of dominance never had the issue of financial unfair play hanging over them.
But what seems different now is that apart from Arsenal (who are we must admit, at the end of the campaign, a distance behind Manchester City) no one is putting in a serious challenge in a way that makes any sense.
One only has to look at the wild and whacky ways in which Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are being run, hiring and firing, and (in Chelsea’s case) spending mega sums on players who actually don’t turn out to be any good, or (in Tottenham’s case) building a mega stadium for which they simply cannot find a sponsor, while hiring and firing the top people in the club with seemingly no clear idea as to what the hell they are doing, to realise that to a degree such clubs have been busy shooting themselves in both feet with both hands tied behind their backs. (If you see what I mean).
What Arsenal have done is realised just how many goals are now needed to win the League, and have set about scoring them by having four players in the top 15 goal scorers this season. It is not something the media comment on enormously, preferring to laud the goalscoring exploits of one man at Manchester City, but it is a fact that all four of the players should be at the club next season. And even the old man of the group (Gabriel Jesus) is still under 27, and undoubtedly would have scored more had it not been for the lunacy of a mid-season World Cup.
The main argument for the rest of the clubs in the league is that the likes of Chelsea can’t be that bad again, that Tottenham can’t mess up their appointments that much again, that Newcastle look like they are getting away with their version of sportswashing, that Liverpool can’t start that badly again, and that Manchester United’s owners must surely one day sort out who owns the club.
It’s not really a very promising future for the PL… except of course for Arsenal who have moved from having five bad runs of results last season, to just one this season. Reduce that by one, and Arsenal might have the chance of the title, no matter how much sportswashing goes on around them.
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