Manchester City Charges Have Made The Premier League Even More Compelling

City's on-field response to off-field questions has been emphatic
13:00, 17 Feb 2023

So Manchester City are in the dock and English football’s reputation is being dragged through the gutter again.

Don’t believe it. Every cloud has a silver lining and the 115 charges laid at City’s door for alleged financial shenanigans could turn out to be the most backhanded bonus the Premier League could wish for.

The day before City’s Arab owners were accused of cooking the books with regard to Financial Fair Play, they went down 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur – a team more flaky than a box of Special K. But the bombshell case has done nothing but shove a proverbial rocket up the backside of Pep Guardiola and his players to the extent they are now top of the table and odds-on to win a fifth Premier League in six years.

They have now won their last two games by scoring six goals and conceding only two. Wednesday night’s 3-1 pummelling of Arsenal was the blunt, two-fingered response to claims by the authorities that City’s bean counters have been over inflating sponsorship deals, syphoning off money for managers and players, and generally obstructing the course of justice during a four-year investigation.


The result on the pitch means that City are now a short nose ahead of Arsenal on goal difference as we enter the decisive last phase of the season. It means the Premier League has got the title race it wants, as have the fans, the sponsors and the players. But more importantly the mass TV audiences worldwide who love paying through the nose to watch our game week in, week out.

A straight fight to win the richest league in the world over the next three months is only going to enhance the appeal to armchair supporters around the globe. Wednesday, April 26 especially, when second-placed Arsenal travel to City’s Etihad Stadium for the reverse fixture, will threaten records for TV audiences worldwide. Everyone wants to see that. If this season’s title race turns out to be as ultimately close and exciting as last year’s then Brand Prem is only going to become even more popular.

The next TV deal is not up for negotiation until 2025. But keep going like this and the next one will easily beat the £4.8 billion that the Premier League is trousering for the next two and a bit years. That’s far more, I imagine, than City have been accused of squirreling away with their alleged dodgy dealings.

Rather than being embarrassed by City’s instant resurgence in the face of a rap sheet as long as Erling Haaland’s legs, Premier League bosses will be quietly pleased with how things are shaping up, for the long term anyway.

It now looks as if the legal wrangling will drag on for years and not months. There will be no swift verdict, no threat of instant points deduction or relegation. If the Premier League thought City’s legal eagles dragged their heels during the initial investigation they have seen nothing yet.

If it goes the distance of four years as projected then many of the current squad will no longer be in City’s colours, such is the turnover of players these days. So they will play on safe in the knowledge they will be long gone by the time when any chickens come home to roost, if they do at all.

Guardiola’s main job now is to maintain that tide of anger and resentment running through his club from top to bottom at what they perceive to be unfair charges and to keep whipping up the feeling that everyone is against them. Which probably is true.

That won’t be easy. Adrenaline eventually subsides. There will be an inevitable and natural come-down. Guardiola will require all his motivational skills to be sure his players turn out for every match ready to fight the world. But while the people at the top of the Premier League pursue their case, it is only having the effect of making the best football even more enthralling.

Courtroom drams are Hollywood gold. Throw in a bunch of highly-paid, pent-up professional, ruthless sportsmen and it is box office dynamite. Surely someone in the corridors of Premier League HQ can see that?


*18 + | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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