It would have had to have been a very cold day in hell for me to have watched Man City smash Real Madrid last night. The fact they did gave me about 1% feeling of “well, they’ve just tonked the European Champions, so perhaps the inevitable was going to happen for us. In my attempt to rationalise how we have fallen short this season, I am still sending my brain narratives. But as one person on Twitter said last night:
They told you this was the weakest league season they've seen.
Exactly the opposite of reality.
Arsenal were going toe-to-toe with an all-timer: the finished works of Pep Guardiola after 7 years of state-funded technical development, with the youngest team in the league.
— AI (@nonewthing) May 17, 2023
It’s hard to argue with that reality. Does it make me feel any better about how we fell away? Not really. Annoyingly. Arsenal fans are starting to look with a closer eye on the financial doping because it has impacted us this season and I’m going to make a confession to you: I haven’t paid too much attention to it before this season. We were competing at a different level to them historically; it was almost a different competition given the distance they finished above us in the league in previous seasons. But this season we have been thrust in to the centre of it, right at a time in which the 115 charges have become public. The reality is that those charges aren’t really related to us and the ‘now’, so whilst we should be as outraged as every other Premier League side, the real clubs that should feel aggrieved are those that were truly fighting for a title at the time. So it’s probably, what, Liverpool and Chelsea, maybe United?
Don’t get me wrong, I want them punished and I want the book thrown at them, but the team they have assembled right now is their best ever and as the tweet shows above it is the culmination of seven year’s of work by Pep. Sure, they may have got some of those players through some ‘creative accounting’, but they are still the best on the planet.
What we all have to hope for now, If the 115 charges are proved (I mean, come on now footballing authorities, just pick a few to choose from, for god’s sake), then we have to see the book thrown. Because if it isn’t, then it will open the door to any side funded by more money than God. Imagine if City get a three, six, or nine point deduction for their 115 transgressions, assuming those are all proven to be true. If I’m in Newcastle’s shoes, or the guy who wants to buy United, I can basically say to myself “fair enough. Let’s do the same. Then after 10 years and when we’ve sorted ourselves out with the best and most expensively assembled squad ever through 10 years of creative accounting, we’ll take a fine and some points deductions. No problem”. That’s what i’d do, anyway. Because if the punishment doesn’t outweigh the crime, why get worried about the crime?
Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day, when the decision is made and we know what the outcome is. For now I’ve spent too much time talking about them.
So let’s go back to focusing on The Arsenal. As you’d expect it’s pretty much quiet at the moment, although the Arsenal women did beat Everton to keep up their pressure on the title. It’s probably 99% not going to happen by the sounds of it and when you start to read about the volume of injuries they have had you can see why. There isn’t a team in men’s or women’s world football that can cope with that many players out for as long as the Arsenal ladies have had it, that’s for sure. Perhaps next season they can have more luck because they pushed Chelsea all the way last season and I suspect there was a feeling they’d do the same this season.
I’m not sure if Arteta will do his presser today or tomorrow, given that we play on Saturday at tea time, but if he does I’ll be interested to see what his response to last weekend will be. He was pretty angry, looked deflated, but I wonder if he’ll have gotten back some steely reserve about him by now. I’d hope so. It’d be nice to see us react to the disappointment of losing out on the league by winning our last two games and getting to 87 points, a figure that will have won the Premier League title in eight of the last 20 titles. So that’s not bad going. It’s not quite where we wanted to be (I thought we might get to 90 at least) but it’s a pretty good haul and I think when we reflect on the season and Arteta looks at how he needs to improve his squad to pick up probably another six or so points on top of this haul this season if we get to 87, I think he’ll have a good idea of what he needs to build on.
Those questions will start to increase in volume as the season reaches it’s conclusion, but I’m expecting him to bat them away as much as he has done with those types of questions all season. But the hope is that the wheels are in motion nonetheless. I suspect they definitely are, but because we’re swimming in a transfer pool where the sharks have even bigger and more expensive teeth, that getting business done early might be a bit too much of an ask. City got the Haaland deal done early last summer purely because Dortmund had a release clause, if it was left to negotiation between the clubs I suspect it might have been a little more protracted. If we’re after Caicedo, Rice, or both, I suspect that these deals are going to take us well in to the summer before we learn if we can cpature the players, or if their destinations lie elsewhere.
More on that as it all starts to hot up when the summer properly kicks in. For now I’m going to call it a day and wish you and yours the best.
Have a good one.