Manchester City, citing that they have information from a number of trusted sources, believe that Arsenal are the main perpetrators instigating for their European ban to be upheld in the eventuality that the coronavirus crisis intervention prevents an appeal by the Etihad. Altogether eight Premier League clubs have written to the Court of Arbitration for Sport jointly demanding that the Etihad squad be excluded from either the Champions League or Europa League next season.
City bosses are also fuming that the League champions-elect and runaway leaders Liverpool have also joined ranks with Manchester United, Chelsea, Wolves, Leicester and Burnley to exert pressure for the ban to be upheld.
Arsenal meanwhile have remained silent on the allegation regarding their involvement and have refused to comment on their alleged duplicitous role in the whole fracas. However, Sunday Mirror Sport reports that the Gunners will directly relay to Manchester City their non-complicity in the matter and that the information City received is inaccurate if the latter were to contact them directly for elucidation on the matter.
In their defense, City have already launched an appeal to the Lausanne-based CAS after being hit by the UEFA two-year Euro ban and £25million fine for breaking Financial Fair Play regulations, and had already begun preparing the case for their defense even as far back as last year.
Unfortunately for them the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a massive wrench into the proceedings with CAS now being awkwardly indisposed and would not be able to hear all the evidence until late in the summer. The possible light in the tunnel for City would be to ask for the ban to be suspended so that they can compete in Europe the following season. This however is bound to meet with fierce resistance from rival teams with vested interests with a £120-million Champions League place potentially up for grabs.
While City would not have been in the least bit surprised that seven of the eight clubs involved would approach CAS for clarification on the issue of the ban, they were deeply disappointed by Liverpool’s involvement given that the Reds have already confirmed their place in next season’s Champions League, although admittedly relations between the Etihad and Anfield have been considerably strained for some years.
Unfortunately, too, the relationship between City and Arsenal had been stretched even thinner for an even longer period of time, reaching back to when Arsene Wenger was blatantly critical of, and questioning, Sheikh Mansour’s agenda for investing in the club in 2008. The incendiary situation was further exacerbated when City later ploughed through the Emirates with a fine-toothed comb to snatch up players like Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna.
Most recently the relationship took a further dive in December when the current Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, was openly approached by the Gunners’ owners to be their manager without showing the courtesy of at least soliciting City’s permission in advance. This would have been a sore point with Pep Guardiola’s bosses seeing how well Arteta had been shaping up as the Catalonian’s assistant coach and the mutual liking and respect both had for each other.
With this nefarious history and what could easily be taken, or hopefully mistaken, for a tit-for-tat sling-as-you-will between both these clubs, it wouldn’t be hard to understand at this juncture why rumours are abound that Arsenal are digging their heels into the Etihad boys.
Hopefully, in the global interest of football solidarity and goodwill, all these gray areas will be cleared up as misunderstandings and not the result of hostility latent in both sides. After all, this is the one of the main pinnacles of sports we are talking about, akin to the Olympics, where the spirit of true sportsmanship is supposed to reign supreme. Not hostility, hidden agendas and behind-closed-doors Machiavellian machinations designed to topple each other.
Any toppling to be done, let that be settled in full fair play on the pitch!