THE UGLY GAME
“Now is the winter of our discontent” probably sums up the feelings of both Spurs and Arsenal fans after last night’s respective horror shows against Man City and Man Utd. Having seen their pre-season preparations wrecked by the designs of Barcelona, Man City and Chelsea on their players, both Spurs and Arsenal have had a torrid opening sequence of results in the Premier League.
Two seasons ago, Spurs pipped Man City to the lucrative 4th spot (and Champions League qualification) but in the two years following City have spent close to £200 million on new players to race ahead of Spurs. Last night, that gulf in quality proved insurmountable for Spurs as City’s expensively assembled team thrashed hapless Spurs 5-1 with striker Dzeko grabbing four for himself.
Matters were compounded by Luka Modric’s half-hearted display at the heart of the Spurs team. Modric allegedly refused to play just minutes before the game, his mind concentrated on getting his big money move to Chelsea. If weekly remuneration of £50,000 is not enough for a professional footballer to ensure that he complies with his contractual obligations, then it is indeed a sad day for football in general.
The super-rich owners of Chelsea and Man City have been given the keys of the Premiership to do as they please. Thumbing their noses at the very concept of sporting competition, they have taken the joy out of the formerly beautiful game completely. By offering and paying these outrageous wages to players, they have distorted the value of footballers to such an extent that players like Modric and Nasri have only eyes for the filthy lucre. Football is a rich man’s plaything and sport (and even business sense) is thrown out of the window.
After Spurs’ humiliation at the Lane, their bitterest rivals proceeded to have the stuffing knocked out of them hard by Man Utd. The final 8-2 score is hard to swallow, especially for the Arsenal fans and manager Arsene Wenger. Whatever one may think of Wenger and his flaws, the man is being punished for believing that football is about player development and nurture and playing the game the right way. Except that in today’s unforgiving climate, he is beginning to look like a naive fool.
Clubs are Spurs and Arsenal – both properly financially managed now look like dinosaurs in the wake of the super-rich owners of Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Not spending the cash is now tantamount to suicide as pressure mounts on both clubs to sort out the messes they have suddenly been saddled with. And with the transfer window closing very soon, the opportunities to strengthen are dimming fast.
As for the Modric saga, it certainly appears that the Croat will be allowed to go for £40 million but who will replace him? As usual, Spurs have left it too late (remember the Berbatov saga) and a season of attrition beckons. For Arsene Wenger and Arsenal as well, 2011-2012 promises to be a long, hard season. But as the Frenchman himself remarked, the time for judgement is at the end of the season. Time will tell whether the crisis that currently besets the North London rivals will have been resolved or not.