Arsenal host Manchester City on Sunday, and you might expect a game of such importance in the context of the Premier League season would be subject to the usual pre-match guff: Mario Balotelli’s antics, Theo Walcott’s contract etc and so on.
And normally, that is exactly the sort of stuff that I would be writing about. But instead, I am climbing aboard my soapbox, as an entirely different sort of debate has sprung forth form this fixture, and really is one that needs the widespread attention of football fans everywhere.
Arsenal Football Club are charging fans of Manchester City £62 to attend the match at the Emirates, resulting in the champions sending back 900 unsold tickets, which the club maintain remain so because City’s hardcore fans have taken a stand against the price.
Together with the cost of travel, as well as inevitable extras such as a matchday programme, food, drink and so on, the cost for City fans heading to north London will be anything upward of £125, this after a sequence of five games in two-and-a-half weeks over the expensive Christmas period.
Forget your arguments about players who dive or commentators who might occasionally speak out of turn, this is the real issue that hurts true fans. The irony is, of course, many of the keyboard warriors who make such huge issues out of the most insignificant ills of football have probably never had to worry about ticket prices in the first place, and the City fans should be applauded for their stance because this situation cannot continue.
For too long football clubs have taken the mickey out of fans, charging extortionate prices, and nowhere so is this more true than Arsenal, who seven years ago were charging just £26 for the exact same ticket, and the loyalty of the football fan is just being exploited to the maximum by greedy owners who care not a jot for the customers, only their bank balances.
You might say that someone who pays £62 to watch Per Mertesacker lumber around the pitch deserves all he gets, but that is to misunderstand the psyche of the football fan. It is precisely because board rooms know that people will pay £62 to watch Per Mertesacker lumber around the pitch that they can get away with it, but if City’s reaction is the start of a revolution, it can only be a good thing.
And it looks like that may be the case. The Football Supporters’ Federation has made strong noises about making the treatment of away fans their priority
Anyway, off my soapbox there is a match taking place at the Emirates on Sunday and I’m going to cut to the chase: it is a match that Manchester City are going to win, even if many of their fans aren’t there to see it.
The champions are 33/20 to pick up the points, with the draw at 12/5 and the Gunners 6/4, and this is one time when I am going feet first into my opposition of Arsenal.
Every time Arsenal play I am looking to be against them – they are just too inconsistent to be siding with on a regular basis – and I figure that there is no better time to be on their opponents than when the champions are in town.
Manchester City are a better side, pure and simple, and if Chelsea, Schalke and Swansea can go to the Emirates and win this season (as well as Sunderland and Fulham pick up draws) then Roberto Mancini’s side certainly can.
Despite a League Cup win there last season, City’s record at Arsenal is not that great, and in fact they haven’t scored at the Emirates in the Premier League since 2007. It shows you how far City have come that the scorer of that goal was DeMarcus Beasley (honestly), and even though that record is a slight cause for concern, I’m not going to let it put me off a superior team seeing off an inferior one.
You never know which Arsenal is going to turn up, and when you have a performance as abject as, say, the League Cup defeat to Bradford City in your locker, you can’t be backing them with any confidence. The Gunners’ record against the top half has been poor this year, too, with only three wins to show from their nine matches against the division’s top sides.
It is a pivotal day for City, with defeat almost certainly handing the title to Manchester United if the Red Devils were to beat Liverpool. But City look better equipped, mentally anyhow, to chase rather than to lead and I think they will play with a bit more freedom, as five wins from their last six shows.
In short, it is 33/20 for the champions of England to beat a side who, in my opinion, have flattered to deceive for most of the season and I can’t let that go by. City are a better team, and I for one will be all over them to win at the Emirates.