On Wednesday we entertain the Mancunian lottery winners in a second-v-third clash which could play a major part in deciding the destiny of the title.
It should also have everyone who loves football praying for an Arsenal win.
Simply put, Manchester City represent everything that’s wrong with the game in England.
They were acquired like a shiny bauble by a rich Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates who had no connection with English football, with Manchester or with the club itself.
Since then they have, in Arsène Wenger’s memorable phrase, indulged in ‘financial doping’ on an obscene scale and in a manner which few sports would allow.
Sheikh Mansour has already sunk more than £500m into the club and that’s before taking into account this year’s operating loss of £121m.
This kind of spending, dished out almost at random (Mansour could as easily have bought Leeds or Sheffield Wednesday or Everton) is a perversion of natural justice in football.
Sure, some clubs have always been richer than others (Manchester United and Arsenal being two obvious examples) but that’s because of the support they have managed to generate. Their wealth has grown organically over decades, not been imposed from above in a moment.
Instant money demands instant results, so the once charmingly unfashionable Citizens have gone all out to buy whatever talent they can for whatever money was demanded, skewing the transfer market in the process.
Now they have the most expensive squad in the EPL with the highest wage bill. If they were a normal business they would be bust a hundred times over.
What’s worse, their once-lovable supporters, whose sang-froid in the face of all manner of adversity made them among the most loyal and entertaining in the English top flight, have also been corrupted by the Sheikh’s billions.
They have taken to booing their own team despite having on-field success the like of which they haven’t seen for decades; whenever they play Arsenal they come on our blog sites and spout the sort of vile, jealous, acrimonious garbage you normally only hear from Spud saddoes; in short, they have gone from reaching for the moon to demanding the earth. From enfeeblement to entitlement in the space of a few, short, oil-rich months.
The club is being wrenched away from its own proud roots and history, but the supporters are jumping on for the ride. Don’t they realise that when the the train hits the buffers – when the Sheikh gets bored and decides to move into Formula 1 or the NFL – they’ll be in a far worse position than they were before the Arabs arrived?
Then there’s the squad. A rag-tag band of mercenaries whose attitude is best epitomised by a certain Emmanuel Adebayor – a man who spent most of his Arsenal career in the offside position and who, since his departure, has displayed as much class as a drug-addled hooker trying to score the next fix.
The gracelessness of the recent comments by Mario Balotelli on receiving the Golden Boy award sums up the arrogance of the entire club. On being asked about the runner-up in the awards (for Europe’s best young player) he said he had never heard of Jack Wilshere but next time he played against Arsenal he would show Jack his award to remind him who was the better player.
I would bet £1,000 right now that Balotelli’s career will be one of stop-starts, bust-ups with managers, irregular international appearances for Italy and multiple club changes, while Wilshere will go on to captain England and Arsenal and will remain a one club man for his entire career.
In summary, Citeh have followed the disgusting, money-is-the-answer-to-everything approach pioneered by Abramovich at Chelsea and taken it to a new level.
Much as I loathe ManUre and the Spuds, at least they have real history and they have developed (more or less) organically with rich owners who have also been fans (the Glazers aside).
Citeh’s template is no way to run our national sport. The new financial fair play rules being brought in by UEFA will attempt to address this but, to me at least, they seem so full of loopholes that nothing will really change.
On Wednesday we have the chance to give Manchester City a second helping of what money can’t buy: teamwork, integrity and strength, leading to a convincing Arsenal win.
When we put them to the sword, as I believe we will, it will be a victory for the best values of English football against the worst evils of the modern game.