This is when football starts to change part 3: we know who wins before it starts



The aim of the Premier League enquiries into the transfer antics of clubs like Manchester City, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Chelsea, is to try and enforce the rules that aim to retain the league’s status as a competitive event

Quite simply the majority of the clubs don’t mind there being a big six or seven clubs, because they always stand a chance of beating one or two of them, to the joy of their supporters, but when one club wins the league six times in seven seasons, then it is felt by many to be less competitive, and more like France (PSG six in seven), Germany (Bayern Munich 11 in 12),, Spain (Barcelona five in the last 10).

So what it is particularly wanted, is to avoid what we have seen in other countries with one or two clubs dominating the league so much that although supporters of other teams will of course still go and watch their clubs, they go without any thought of success in a competition.

A variety of teams have won the top league in England – the those that have won the league the most are Manchester United 20 times, Liverpool 19, Arsenal 13, Manchester City 10, Everton 9.

But does it matter?   Obviously not to Manchester City supporters, and that club might argue that despite their success all PL matches sell out.  However, it does to some people for there is a very big difference between the Premier League we have now and that which we used to have.

And this development is comes with historic warnings.  We might note that in France in the late 1980s and early 1990s Marseille won the title five times in a row, but then had the last of these five removed after they were found guilty of bribery and corruption.

And indeed in the 1930s Arsenal won the league five times in eight seasons having previously never won the title before, but no corruption issues were raised then nor when between 1923 and 1926 Huddersfield won the league three times in a row, having never won it before or since.   Manchester United indeed did win it five times in six years in the final years of the last century, and the start of the 21st.

The point is that the alarm is not blown simply because one club becomes very successful, but when it does that on the back of what are seen as financial dealings that other clubs cannot match..

So the argument is not that there is something wrong with a team rising to the top, as Arsenal did in the 1930s or Manchester United did at the end of the 20th century.

But this Manchester City rise feels different perhaps because they are also wrapping up so many other trophies at the same time such as the Club World Cup, Champions League, Uefa Super Cup, and the FA Cup in 2023.  And because of the 115 allegations against them.  And because they are the first club ever to sue the League that it is in.

Of course, some teams can become very good, as Arsenal were in the 1930s.   Chelsea for example between 2012/13 and 2021/22 came in the top three six times along with winning the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Champions League, the Super Cup, and the Europa League.   But other clubs did get a look and besides Chelsea then in 2022/23 ended up 12th in 2023, scoring just 38 goals. Last season they were back up to sixth.  Further, their clever idea of putting players on 8-year contracts to help get around FFP was accepted as legitimate – but the rules were then changed to stop other clubs from following the same loophole.

This is the normal way in which football works.  Clubs rise and fall.  Arsenal at the end of the last century and start of this had eight seasons with the club coming first or second while winning the FA Cup four times, and of course, I, like every other season ticket holder, enjoyed every second of it.

But three titles and four FA Cups in seven years is different from seven seasons in which Manchester City have won six league titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups and the Champions League.  Even that might have been something everyone would put up with, but the fact that they rounded that off with a legal case against the league complaining that the restriction on how much they could spend was illegal, was a step too far for many.

That really is the point.  This is the most consistently successful club in the history of a competition that is widely admired across the world.  And yet it is complaining that their freedom is being restricted by illegal rules.

It is indeed as if they have looked at PSG in France and instead of seeing it as a dire warning of what can happen if one club is allowed to spend anything it wants, have seen it as a model way forward.

Of course, I would still go and watch Arsenal even if it were to return to the mid-70s when Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup early on and came 10th, 16th and 17th in three successive campaigns.  I watch because I am a supporter, but if one team is allowed to win the league and cup over and over again, I think I might reconsider.  Not because Arsenal are not winning, but simply because the competitiveness is no longer there.

Surprises and the unexpected are part of football, and the current approach of Man City has removed that.  So for me, it seems reasonable to change the rules to make the league competitive once more.

Man City are currently 10/11 to win the league next season.  It hardly seems worth bothering with, hence the need for change.

14 Replies to “This is when football starts to change part 3: we know who wins before it starts”

  1. Sorry to go off topic so soon but I couldn’t allow lasts nights events to go unmentioned, because despite the not totally expected fawning over Bellingham’s stunning equaliser I think our man Declan was the star of the show. Although you wouldn’t of thought it when you read the comment/rating from the Guardians Jacob Steinberg. It simply beggars belief.

    Back on the 26th of June I said this of Rice:

    As far as I’m concerned Rice has been our most consistent performer. He hasn’t done anything spectacular I concede, but he has been solid as a rock. According to his rudimentary stats suggest just that.

    Pass completion just under 93% As a comparison Bellingham’s is just under 92%

    Overall performance rating is 7.02 As a comparison Bellingham’s is 7.18

    Both have been MOTM once each.

    Neither have set the World alight. Who has in an England shirt?

    So, 2 players with very similar levels of performance yet 2 completely different ways of talking about them in the media.



    So again I ask why?

    Theses are Rice’s stats from last night and if anything they are even better:

    109 touches
    100 % tackles won
    100% dribbles completed
    90% pass accuracy
    80 passes completed
    7/7 long passes completed
    6/6 ground duels won
    4/4 tackles won
    3 shots (of which one hit the post)
    2 interceptions

    They are remarkable statistics yet this is what Steinberg had to say about Declan’s performance:

    “Faced with too many runners. Struggled in possession, hit the post. Better when England led 2-1”.

    He gave him a FIVE out of ten. Apparently he was our 6th best player!!

    “Faced with too many runners” Really? 100% duels won. 100% tackles won..

    “Struggled in Possession” Really? 100% dribbles completed. 100% long passes completed. 90% pass accuracy overall.

    That is up there with one of the worst pieces of analysis I have ever seen.

    Saka’s not hit his stride yet. Not playing bad, but as yet not impacting games quite enough.

    Anyway, well played Declan. Proud of you both.

    Oh. and as for Steinberg. Get your head out of your backside man.

  2. Nitram,
    When I watch I see that Saka is desperately looking for a rigth back like White, for a midfielder like Odegaard and a striker like Havertz/Jesus in the middle. There is hardly any connection with his teammates shortly around him. Could have something to do with the system that is being played and the lack of fluidity in the England team….

  3. Nitram
    I suspect that you will not be surprised to hear that. this morning Adrian Durham awarded Declan a THREE out of ten for last nights performance!

  4. Walter

    Quite possibly.

    We definitely haven’t got an attacking midfielder of the quality of Odegaard or a wing back of the quality of White.

    Kane is indisputably a top striker. He is a much better goal scorer than either Jesus or Havertz, but he doesn’t work anything like as hard as either. He isn’t making the same defence stretching runs. If he doesn’t score, he doesn’t impact the game at all.

    Anyway, back to the odious media. The BBC have just run a short report on the match and of course they are focusing on Bellingham’s fantastic equaliser. Okay, even though he did virtually nothing else I can live with that.

    But he goes on to say:

    “But amid the celebrations there was also cause for concern. Earlier Slovakia had took a deserved lead.” Again, fair enough.

    But then this:

    “England’s ‘so called’ super stars producing their latest lack lustre performance”

    And who’s face was first on the screen when he was saying that? Of course it was Declan Rice, who as I say, and the statistics back this up, has arguably been our most consistent, if not our best player.

    It’s the same stunt they pulled with Saka when criticising another performance. Alongside all the negative reports was Saka’s face.

    And we all know what the connection is between the two players don’t we??

  5. mick shelly

    It must be 10 years since I listened to Talkshite. The most embarrassing verbalisation of click bait that has ever existed.

    The moronic excuse for a journalist Durham wrote a column for the Mail back in the day. That didn’t last long as he received so much criticism because back then comments weren’t moderated, unlike his phone-ins where he puts through the ones he wants, abuses them, then cuts them off. He was once described in the Guardian as:

    “expert phone-in troll, arrogantly spouting inflammatory football opinions in the hope of prompting some indignant phone rage from an uppity fan”.

    And even that is way too complimentary.

    I say it again. Rice was immense.

  6. Again off topic and apologies for this as Tony’s article was incisive as usual.

    I agree with Nitram the sledging of Declan is as shameful as it is innacurate. The same with Saka, all the comments about lacklustre performances are wide of the mark. The problem with the England team is simple, there is a disconnect between the back four and the midfield and a similar disconnect between the midfield and the front three. This, in my opinion is down to the manager entirely. He selected one left back who was injured and realisically has no chance of playing any part in the tournement preferring to play Trippier who has been not up to the task. You only have to look at the difference Saka made when switched to this position to see how bad Trippier has been at left back. Why Mitchell of Palace wasn’t taken as a back up is beyound me. We know why Ben White didn’t go and who can blame him, he would have been sat on the bench and no doubt berated by Steve Holland. Imagine how much better Saka would have played if White was at right back. Don’t get me started on Kane, ok he’s a good goalscorer but little else and certainly not a captain that would garner much respect from anyone with more than a brain cell or two. The use of Gallagher is another mystifying inclusion, energy yes apart from that nothing apart from a preponderence to find himself in the referee’s notebook. Southgate was a defender and has a particulary defensive strategy which is fair enough but he is blessed with some of the finest attacking players around and doesn’t know how to connect the dots. If we are to stand any chance at all agaist Swizterland we need a much more pragmatic team selection and sadly I don’t think that will be the case. All I hope for now is that the Arsenal players stay injury free.

  7. Back to the topic…

    Clubs ought to play systematically their Bteams against City. So they cannot be accused of a boycott. They just play it safe. After all they don’t have close to half their budget – why bother getting a player carded or injured, with all the financial and sports consequences and make the City title one of brillance ? Just let them have it, let them know about it in advance. We’ll see if their fans come to watch each game if it is not competitive. We’ll see how they fare in Europe with real competition if at home they have none. We’ll see how the TV quotes are for their games. We’ll see how their players take it being in a club with no challenge except : let’s try to score 15 goals today : their place in their respective national team would be in danger very quickly.

    Fans ought to petition the parliament to enact a law stating City is the de-facto winner of the PL. Give then the cup and design a new one for second place.

    Just make their title worthless.

    Then the PL can start marketing the real PL, which is second place. Design a second trophy.

  8. Saka would be a lot more effective playing for England if Walker passed to him while Saka is facing the opponent’s goal instead of his own. Forward passes from England’s defence have been far too slow for the last 9 England matches, causing the wingers to run back towards their own goal in order to receive the ball.

  9. seismic

    I’ve avoided saying this because I didn’t want to come across as paranoid. And I’m still not sure if I’m right. But I’ve had the feeling for a while that certain players don’t want to pass to Saka. The worst culprit being Kane.

    My issue is, when I have, for want of a better word, a ‘theory’ I like to support it with stats, and I cant back up my theory with them because I cant find them.

    Also some of it is subjective. Was the pass on, wasn’t it?

    Just a theory and it may well be wrong.

  10. Nitram I agree, I have had the same feeling but as you say it is difficult to substantiate these suspicions. It was the same when Walcott played for England, Rooney being the main culprit who made it pretty obvious he didn’t want to pass to Theo. It seemed blatant to me, the number of times he used to make runs but the ball was never passed to him, but it never seemed to attract any media comment.

  11. micky shelley

    Yep, I had exactly the same feelings about Ronney too. Spooky.

    “…..but it never seemed to attract any media comment.”

    Well, there’s a shock!

  12. I’ve been watching Saka closely for the last few matches, particularly since the cries for Cole Palmer to replace Saka started. Walker has been very slow making forward passes. I heard no mention of it by the BBC or ITV punditry (no surprises there), but in the Telegraph today there was an article by Daniel Zeqiri which stated that “both Saka and Foden received too many passes with their back to goal”. In too many cases this seems to occurred because Saka had made a forward run, but the ball was not played to him so he had to run back towards his own goal in order to receive a delayed pass.

    This is not based on stats. It’s based on my observations, but it has become so obvious during this tournament. Not obvious to the TV punditry, but it’s taken them 8 years to realise that Southgate may be over-rated.

    Contrast Southgate’s behaviour during the “drink breaks” with that of Arteta.

  13. seismic

    The problem is, the media fixate on players. They’ve done it before and they are doing it now.

    It’s so obvious who they are, as you mention Palmer is one, and of course Jude Bellingham.

    Apart from his 2 goals Bellingham has done zero. But of course scoring is his primary job and he has scored in 2 matches, one of course being brilliant and crucial, so I can live with all the fawning. But in reality much much more than just scoring goals is expected from a modern striker and the fact he contributes very little else could be part of our overall poor performances.

    And Palmer has also done nothing special. He’s done okay but in no way has he ‘changed the game’ when he has come on, as has been inferred.

    Despite all the criticism, I still maintain Rice has been our best player.

  14. Stuart Pearce has been saying the same thing today on TalkS**te. Never mind. Ben White should be available soon.

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