Gonzo Guest Article; Money Talks and Goodbye to Jac

Jac has written a few pieces for the Gonzo team (can a team be one man? I don’t see why not, Manchester United were for a lot of last season but anyway) but now he’s moving on to pastures new. This will be his last for a while in all probability; he’ll be sorely missed as now I have to write my own stuff.  Here he examines whether or not money has ruined football.  You can find him here on Twitter @Jac_Talbot, or here – www.jactal.wordpress.com – on his very own shiny new site.  As ever publication doesn’t imply endorsement or agreement.

How money corrupts our football ideals

In 1996, Alan Shearer broke the British transfer record, with Newcastle paying just over £15million for him. Now 20 years later, Shearer’s a dull pundit and a 22-year-old Frenchman going by the name of Paul Pogba is about to smash the record again, with Manchester United set to pay £110million pounds for the midfielder.

Some will begrudgingly understand the climate of the modern game, whilst others will surely scoff and proclaim that this is just getting too much.

When the Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll transfers went through in January 2011, for a combined £80m+, there seemed to be a dawn upon the game; no more would a £10m transfer seem a hefty price, nor would the idea of the £40m sum swoop seem particularly devastating.

Nowadays it is customary to spend such large amounts on players with just a high-quality potential. There is also the added factor that many of the top-top teams (think of your Barcelonas, Real Madrids and Bayern Munichs), have formulated a habit of keeping the world’s best in their own circles.

Pogba is another instance of this. What’s been highlighted before is the fact that he now faces a year without Champions League football – the must-do stage for the stars to shine. As a man destined to be the world’s best he has, in actuality, sold himself short for monetary gain.

Lionel Messi, one of the world’s highest paid footballers, recently got a suspended jail sentence for tax fraud. The £200,000 weekly salary should have been enough for the Argentine superstar but seemingly it wasn’t.

Money also has a nasty habit of sabotaging ideals within football; passion, love, loyalty… all rendered essentially insignificant by cold hard cash. The unbelievable Premier League win by Leicester City spawned, as Claudio Ranieri put it, a dream-like-reality to which all the fans and players of the Foxes could be a part of.

This did not stop N’Golo Kante, the heart of Leicester’s team, jumping ship to mid-table Chelsea. This transfer epitomises the era we live in.  For me, the singular reason for Kante’s transfer was for higher wages – like Pogba, he misses out on Champions League football as a result of the move.

Professional footballers, have only one thing in mind; money. They do have a very short career span which averages to between 11-15 years. Post retirement there is not much they can do apart from coaching and punditry, and even then there are a very short amount of positions available.

Perhaps we should stop putting our faith in individual players and save our love purely for our clubs.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Premier League Contenders, part deux

No need for an intro to this one, here we go.

Arsenal. Best odds 13/2.

Arsenal are the joint third favourites alongside Chelsea with the bookies ahead of the big kick off. The Gunners managed to sneak second last season but their title bid had faded much earlier. Can they do it this year?

For: It could be Arsene Wenger’s last season in charge and he’ll be desperate to finish with some big silverware if that is the case.  Granit Xhaka is a top signing, perhaps just what they needed in midfield, and fellow summer recruit Rob Holding is also a decent acquisition, although whether he’ll have a big role to play in the season ahead remains unclear.  If they can get Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and a few others firing anything is possible

Against: If Wenger doesn’t agree a new deal or confirm that he’s leaving there will be a lot of uncertainty and that can have an impact on the squad.  Aside from that there are the usual doubts for the Emirates Stadium side.  Can they avoid their now standard mid-season slump? Will the rigours of European action prove detrimental to their domestic hopes? Can they win the league without a real marquee striker? Is their defence strong enough? And so on.

Tottenham Hotspur. Best odds 10/1.

Spurs gave Leicester the closest challenge last season but their form dipped at the end.  I’m quite tempted at 10/1 if I’m being honest, but I’m not sure whether or not I actually fancy them to win the league or if I just think they’re good value.

For: I’m convinced Spurs will continue on an upward trajectory under Mauricio Pochettino but whether or not that will result in a league title at some point is another question.  Vincent Janssen scored for fun in the Netherlands last season and could be the foil/competition Harry Kane needs to push on further.  Victor Wanyama is another shrewd bit of business from the White Hart Lane club and if Eric Dier and Dele Alli can continue to improve they look a stronger side than last season.

Against: There were a fair few Spurs men in the England squad this summer and none really came out with a great deal of credit, Dier aside perhaps.  Do they have the strength in depth to mount a sustained challenge if a key man gets injured?

Liverpool. Best odds 10/1.

Liverpool missed out on the top four last year but maybe they’d have made it if Jurgen Klopp had been in charge for the whole season, who knows?

For: Klopp is a quality manager and – like Pochettino at Spurs – I can only see the Anfield side improving under his guidance.  The capture of Loris Karius this summer was a great move and I think he’ll move ahead of Simon Mignolet in the pecking order when he returns from an untimely injury.  Maybe they overpaid for Sadio Mane but he’s a proven Premier League forward and Joel Matip from Schalke was another good move, I’ll confess I’ve not seen fellow new boy Ragnar Klavan enough to pass comment.

Against: Looking at their squad, I don’t see their best 11 as a title winning side.  I could be wrong of course (who picked out Leicester last year?) and Klopp is a brilliant tactician and motivator – he managed to wrestle the Bundesliga title away from Bayern Munich twice with Borussia Dortmund.  The hunger among the Anfield faithful for silverware might see Liverpool really go for one or both of the cups and that might see them fall short in a Premier League bid.

Leicester. Best odds 33/1.

Has anyone mentioned Leicester were 5000/1 at the start of last season? This year the holders are 33/1.

For: They did it last year and Jamie Vardy didn’t join Arsenal.  If they can keep Riyad Mahrez and find an N’Golo Kante replacement, which they may already have done with Nampalys Medny then who knows?

Against: Losing Kante was a hammer blow to any hopes the Foxes had of retaining the title.  Personally, I don’t think they’ll do it but then again I didn’t last year.  I did believe a bit before most though and am still kicking myself I didn’t jump on and back them at 20/1 around January – stupid Gonzo. They’ll be a real target now as holders as well of course, other than that the big questions are can their squad maintain the levels they managed last season? And will the Champions League prove to be too much of an ask on what is a fairly small group of players in comparison to their rivals? My guess is No and Yes respectively for those two.

And there we go, I’m not going to pick out a winner but I think the title will probably be heading to Manchester. Liverpool are 13/8 to finish in the top four and Spurs are 11/8 – at least one of them will do it I’d think.  Leicester meanwhile are 12/5 to finish in the top six, which is still a big ask but more than doable.

I’ve used Oddschecker for the best prices.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.