Sorry Spurs fans, Arsenal winning title would be good for the Premier League – here is why

 

Arsenal's Leandro Trossard celebrates scoring their second goal with Declan Rice
Arsenal need Manchester City to drop points in order to win the Premier League title CREDIT: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

We know precisely how the last few days of this Premier League season will unfold. Arsenal will win their final two games, first at Old Trafford this weekend, then at home to Everton next Sunday. And they will do so with aplomb, securing six points with performances of gusto and intelligence. In other circumstances it would be a triumphant stroll to the club’s first title in 20 years, Mikel Arteta’s side issuing a glorious reminder of the days when Arsene Wenger was at his peak as a tactician and motivator. It is a fresh and enticing storyline, centring on players like Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard getting the reward their verve, skill and enthusiasm deserves.

Except it won’t happen. Not a chance.

Because Manchester City, timing their finish to perfection as serial champions do, will also win their remaining fixtures. And given they have one more in which to accrue three points, they will overtake Arsenal at the line, winning their fourth title on the bounce, a record run. Few could argue with the claim that Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Rodri and crew will be the most convincing champions not just in recent history, but perhaps right back to the long forgotten dark ages before the Premier League began. They will win because they know better than anyone else precisely how to do it.

But it won’t just be in north London that many will be hoping that all logic, precedent and expectation will be somehow upended. At Goodison Park and the City Ground, not to mention Old Trafford and many other Premier League stadia, all available digits will be crossed in the baleful yearning that Tottenham do their hated red rivals a huge favour and suddenly find a return to lost form next Tuesday, or failing that West Ham could, on the last day, mark David Moyes’s final game in charge with the most unlikely of away wins. Astonishing as it may seem (and Tottenham supporters should look away now) the overwhelming feeling among neutral supporters is that Arsenal would be more preferable winners of the title than City. Suddenly Arsenal are the people’s choice? Yes, I know. Ridiculous.

It is not simply the dull insistence of routine, with light blue ribbons apparently permanently attached to the trophy, of seasons merging into one in their predictability, that has made everyone else verge away from the norm, swallow hard and start rooting for Arsenal. Though it is partly that. For the Premier League, hegemony is not a persuasive marketing tool. If they are consistently to claim that their competition thrives on competitiveness, it is not a good look for the same side to win it time and again. After all, even in Germany, in a league mired in repetitiveness, this season has seen someone other than the usual suspects lift the title. And while Arsenal, by dint of their scale and financial backing, may not match the leftfield, romantic unlikelihood of Leicester’s win in 2016, were they to lift the trophy for the first time since 2004, it would at least suggest the Premier League is not a closed shop.

But more to the point, an Arsenal win would offer the insistence that natural justice is more attuned to the public mood than the Premier League’s due processes. Because if City, for all their on field excellence, for all the genius of their manager, lift the trophy in the very season after they were charged with 115 breaches of the Premier League’s own regulations, you have to wonder what is the point of having rules in the first place. For roughly 100 fewer misdemeanours, both Nottingham Forest and Everton have been docked points this season, the kind of punishment which, if directed at the club who have been charged with record levels of imaginative accounting, would have prevented them winning the title and thus setting new records for the very competition whose rules are meant to ensure a level playing field.

And while it is true that City vehemently deny all wrongdoing, insisting they have done no more than run themselves more smartly than everyone else, what sticks in the craw of those of Forest or Everton affiliation is why that certainty has not been tested in a robust examination. If the Premier League has sufficient evidence of these charges to issue them as long ago as February 2023, why has nothing happened since? Why has the whole affair been brushed under the carpet? Forest and Everton were rightly and properly brought quickly to book and punished for their wrongful practices. Nothing has happened with City; no due process, no hearing, nothing. If they are, as they insist, innocent, then they have been denied the chance to demonstrate they have done nothing untoward, leaving a cloud hovering over every achievement. And that lack of action surely cannot be because they can afford to employ more expensive KCs than everyone else. Can it?

Indeed, all that has happened since the charges were issued and then ignored is that many have lost all faith in the credibility of the Premier League’s processes. What’s the point in having rules if you yourself don’t apply them? Which is largely why Arsenal have picked up an unexpected number of those wishing, in truth no more than forlornly, that they might defy all logic and actually win the title. Finally, then, some justice might be done.

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