Thursday, April 25, 2024

Arsenal top, others fester below

Morning all.

The dust has settled on the weekend’s football, and generally speaking it was a good one for us. I always expect the ‘big’ teams (and Sp*rs) to win, as a way of steeling myself for mild disappointment, but we did see Brighton demolish Chelsea – which is always nice to see – and Liverpool lost again.

In some ways the Chelsea result is a bit of a worry because maybe you don’t want to face a team that is hurting and looking to bounce back in their next league game, but on the other hand Brighton showed there’s a vulnerability there if you go at them. The two own goals might be seen by some as lucky, but they came when the opposition applied serious pressure to their defence, so that removes some of that in my opinion.

Newcastle sit in the top four, and I’m 100% not here for any of the feelgood nonsense about this club. Is Eddie Howe doing a good job? Sure. Is Eddie Howe’s job made easier by the fact that the owners have spent a lot of money and are going to spend a lot more in the future? 100%. If he’s getting a tune out of someone like Miguel Almiron these days, fair play, but I’m not falling into the trap of considering them some kind of plucky underdogs who have cobbled together a side of local lads, with shinpads made from biscuit tins, and come good.

The relatively newness of this Newcastle project should not distort the reality that they are set to become exactly the same as Man City or PSG. Artificially enhanced organisations used to paint a facade on the reputations of their owners. People roll their eyes when they hear the word ‘sportswashing’, but that’s exactly what it is. The sooner people come to terms with Newcastle as a financial abomination, the better.

The investments in the club, the infrastructure, the local communities, and all the rest lend a legitimacy to what’s happening. If jobs are created, if those communities benefit, then it’s good for those people and when times are hard who cares where the money comes from? When government presides over deprivation, isn’t it a good thing that someone else, anyone else, is doing something that helps? And this is where it gets complex.

Ultimately though, in a world where vast wealth and enormous corruption go hand in hand, we can never truly know what goes on under the surface. Would anyone be surprised if a labyrinthine network of companies and investors into a football club – or maybe even a group of football clubs – coupled with the best lawyers and accountants, facilitated the flow of money which might circumvent legal protocols? I don’t think that’s far-fetched.

Clearly, for legal purposes, I’m definitely not saying that’s what’s happening at any of the aforementioned clubs. But football has long been a festering pool for financial impropriety and I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that we’ve gone from an era of brown envelopes in motorway rest-stops to one that’s significantly more sophisticated. Maybe you announce a partnership with a crypto/betting company whose origins are hard to track down, a company with little online presence for example, and via the mechanisms of that company whose currency is completely unregulated money chunders through and then goes … well, who knows?

So look, Newcastle are fourth and are perhaps a force more quickly than people might have imagined. They’re playing well, the team is full of confidence, they’re scoring goals but buying into that is exactly what sportswashing is, and I’m having none of it. How long will it be before they become like Man City fans, who have reaped the rewards of that kind of ‘investment’ for years, but don’t seem satisfied with all the trophies they’ve won?

They demand to be taken seriously. They seek legitimacy. As if this is something that just came together organically. They want trophies and respect. Well, want in one hand and shit in the other, see which gets full first. Have they been smart? Absolutely. It’s an incredibly well run organisation, with the best manager in the world, but the everything is built on the nation state ownership’s money. Simple as that. There’s no world in which Pep Guardiola comes to Man City without it. So just enjoy the silverware, and let the rest of us see it for what it is.

I was gonna talk about Bukayo Saka today, but I got a bit sidetracked. Tomorrow, I guess. I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast Extra recorded last night, lots of chat about 5-0 win over Forest, Reiss Nelson and lots more.

There’s also an episode of The 30 over on Patreon. Enjoy