Arsenal’s inexplicable failure to win trophies is now clear for all to see, the Europol investigation will no doubt prove that corruption is rife amongst officials and referees with everyone colluding against the club to prevent any success. There are myriad reasons why but they are too many for one club to withstand. Still, it’s nice to know that on the basis of one match taking place in this country with a Hungarian goalkeeper allegedly taking bribes to ensure that his team lost by more than 2.5 goals, that the conspiracy theory is proven. Elvis Presley, ladies and gentlemen, is to return to the stage following his spell of working in a chip shop in Cleethorpes.
Corruption exists, of course it does, but for claims to be considered vindicated, evidence of wrongdoing in the Premier League should be offered. Until that happens, supposition does not become fact. Too many are willing to use this as an excuse for paucity of performance by the team; it is after all, easier to blame the officials rather than take an uncomfortable look closer to him. We do suffer from inexplicable decisions but that does not mean that all are as a result of a conspiracy in favour of one team; some referees are just sh*t. The Europol investigations will make it harder to prove as well; any conspirator worth his salt will make sure that tracks are covered, that protagonists lurk further into the shadows. The PGMO will take this as a cue not for greater transparency, quite the opposite. The logic will run along the lines that not naming a referee until closer to kick-off prevents attempts at bribery and maintains the integrity of the appointments process.
The problem in uncovering anything on such a wide scale is the secretive nature of the organisations in question. Uefa are currently tubthumping their FFP regulations, giving the media their headlines which claim the likes of City and Chelsea will not be able to solve their financial shortcomings through errant sponsorship deals. This is the same Uefa who were consulted by City in formulating the terms of the Etihad sponsorship deal to ensure that it did not fall foul of FFP. If they are willing to assist in making sure that the clubs can bend the rules to suit their needs, rules are indeed toothless.
It is of little surprise that City and Chelsea are believed to be in the 46 clubs who would have fallen foul of the new regulations on the basis of their 2011 financial performance. By the time that regulations take effect in 2014-15, the monstrous losses incurred will have fallen out of the three year cycle, replaced by profits and capital injections by their owners. It is not at all hard to bend the rules when you are given enough notice. Arsenal meanwhile will probably be one of the first to fall foul of FFP, that is the way the club’s luck has been going. Isn’t it…?
All of which brings uncomfortable memories for Arsène Wenger having fallen foul of the greed of man during his time at Monaco, Bernard Tapie ensuring that the streak of stubborn righteousness that drives the manager on his path to footballing purity, remains unbowed. It is impossible not to feel sympathy for him in this respect, to know that your hard work counts for nought when the hand of greed moves in the background. That does not mean acceptance of the pro-United or anti-Arsenal conspiracy either, nor is this evidence that points to anything of the sort.
As this circus starts pitching its tent, Sideshow Bob is getting ready to face England and in particular, Theo Walcott with Roy Hodgson announcing that the spate of withdrawals from the England squad will not bring about any replacements. Unless he changes his mind over his porridge this morning, the chances are that Theo will get his wish and be recognised as an international striker. If it happens, it is a vindication of his stance during his protracted contract negotiations with the club but brings about pressure for him to score.
His international career has been very hit and miss, missing South Africa 2010 (although this might have been a blessing in disguise) and reduced to substitute appearances for Euro2012. It is partly of his own making, scoring a hat-trick in Zagreb raised expectations that he failed to live up to. That is not entirely his fault, repeatedly his England teammates have failed to play to his strengths, so often that there has to be a failure at coaching level. Whatever the case, his record of 4 in 21 appearances is not bad considering the amount of caps won from the bench but it is poor when you consider he has only scored in two matches, once in 2008 and in 2012.
This opportunity, if it arises, has to be taken and it will be interesting to see if Walcott has learned anything. Whilst the pace of enables him to play on the shoulder of the defence, international football is much slower which will be a test of his experience. In some respects, having made 21 appearances will work in his favour, it is not something new. As much as it is a test for Walcott, it is a test for England. Hodgson’s side has been functional until now but he needs to show something more to achieve success for his country.
Of course that measure is relative and depends on how you view England on a global scale. Somewhere in the top ten would probably sit comfortably for most people. Anything into the top five and the English Gentleman will most definitely be considered to have been a resounding success.