Well, it’s Groundhog Day… again! For the third year running, Manchester City are Premier League champions. That’s five titles in six seasons now, and but for Arsenal’s surprise challenge this might have been one of the most lopsided championship wins in some time.
At this point there appears to be no end to City’s dominance… at least not within traditional boundaries. Can the Gunners really challenge again? Are Chelsea likely to be true contenders any time soon with Todd Boehly struggling to get a handle on football’s various intricacies? And are Liverpool due a major overhaul before they can get close to repeating their incredible run between 2018 and 2022?
It seems the only possible route to stopping City in the short to medium term comes within the old adage ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. Their takeover in 2008 by Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour is what has led them to this point: perennial Premier League champions, they are two games from real greatness in their treble pursuit. And now they are so much better than the rest that you can only really see opposition coming from similarly structured clubs.
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Newcastle United confirmed their return to the Champions League on Monday night when they drew 0-0 with Leicester City and the natural next step for them is to have their Saudi PIF owners drive them towards the very top of the table. Manchester United need a point against Chelsea on Thursday to also regain a Champions League ticket, all while Qatari royal family member Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani attempts to buy the club from the ruling Glazer family.
While it is only seven years since Leicester performed the miracle of all miracles to win the Premier League, and a matter of just three days since Arsenal’s improbable title challenge was finally ended, the romance of English football is now a relic of the past. Instead, the future is here. A future in which nation states battle with other nation states for the honours.
The Premier League is looking more and more like a Middle East arms race. Arsenal’s appearance in the top four is the exception that proves the rule of where this is headed. Nobody tipped Mikel Arteta’s side to go anywhere near as close as they have simply because they don’t have the backing it truly takes to win a league title in this country nowadays.
From here on in, the riches are set to be fought out between the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and even though some neutrals are holding out hope that Manchester United’s sale to the latter doesn’t go through, reports in Spain suggest that Sheikh Jassim is already primed to turn his attentions to West Ham United if the Red Devils deal falls flat. The message being, if it’s not Man Utd, it’ll be someone else in a flash. The three Middle Eastern super-powers will boss the top three spots in the league for some time to come, whichever club they’ve co-opted for their own means.
If you think City’s current dominance is bad, wait until you find yourself cheering for one nation state over another all in the name of a bit of variety at the top of the English game. Quite how anyone will be able to buck this new trend is anybody’s guess.
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