The Premier League just got a lot more interesting. As thoroughly depressing as it is to see a Saudi Arabian takeover welcomed in with open arms after the main sticking point (piracy issues, not human rights abuse) was sorted out, there’s little doubt that Newcastle United’s new found wealth gives the established elite something to think about.
While we may not witness the kind of mindless spending that typified the early days of similar occurrences at Chelsea and Manchester City, it’s hard to imagine the Saudi backers not wanting the club they’ve spent so long trying to buy not challenging towards the top of the league.
What, after all, would be the point of their PR exercise? For full disclosure, I am a lifelong Newcastle United delighted by Mike Ashley’s exit, childishly excited for the future but equally wary of what is about to come.
This is far from a romantic story of an upwardly mobile side on the rise again. Still, in modern football, romance is dead. Money has prevailed and, sadly for supporters who so desperately wanted to celebrate the end of the Ashley era, serious questions have to be asked.
The idea of Newcastle managing to compete with the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool anytime soon is somewhat ridiculous. Right now, it seems like there will be a slow build, rather than a superstar approach. So then, it’s the clubs in North London who should be concerned.
Both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are in transitional periods, relying on merely having better players and more money than those around them. Though Mikel Arteta’s infamous ‘process’ may yet come to fruition, it’d be fair to say his side have looked anything other than convincing for a sustained period of time.
Spurs, meanwhile, appear to be in a strange state of limbo. Harry Kane clearly wants out and Nuno Espirito Santo – though a decent man – was pretty much the sixth choice in the summer and would probably have never been given the job in the first place if Gennaro Gattuso wasn’t so toxic. Neither can match the money Newcastle can now spend, either.
This summer, more than any, the top four look far stronger than the rest of the Big Six. Like the mid-2000s, it seems easy to predict who will qualify for the Champions League, even if the order in which they do so isn’t as obvious. For the North London sides, it’s about being better than the rest. Even that has proven to be a struggle.
Now, they have a resurgent Newcastle to contend with. Rather than treading water behind the elite and hoping none of Leicester, West Ham, Wolves or Everton can string some consistency together, they now have the might of the Saudi Arabian state (let’s not pretend it’s not them running the club) coming for their position.
The pressure has increased overnight. If (and it’s a big if) Newcastle get it right, with Steve Bruce seemingly destined to be replaced, the Big Six just became the Big Seven. Again, quite why that has been allowed to happen is a sad reflection of the game in this country and beyond but there is no more speculation. It’s time to deal with the facts. In order to get where they want to be, the capital counterparts simply have to be overtaken.
The idea of Newcastle – backed by such resource – mixing with Spurs and Arsenal is not as ridiculous as it seemed a week ago. Clearly, it won’t be as easy as simply throwing money at the project but it’s not as if either capital side is doing anything particularly amazing at the moment. They were banking on time. That time will soon be up.
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