We are more than halfway through the International Break and that means we’re only a few days away from more Liverpool football. A date with league leaders Manchester City looms on the weekend, and with it a chance for Liverpool to go top of the table. The air is, as they say, electric.
And the circumstances for Liverpool headed into the break itself were actually quite great given rivals for the top of the table dropped crucial points. When you bring in the news this week that another rival would be docked points by the FA for violating the Financial Fair Play rules, I should be floating on clouds.
But I’m not and that feels really weird.
The race for the title tightened up last week. But before then, you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling that Liverpool, bunched up in third/fourth for most of the season, were hard done by. There is, of course, that Spurs match, for most fans to continue to obsess over.
But there were gifts in that raft of results over the last two match weeks in the Premier League. First, other top of the table rivals like Arsenal dropped points. Not to be outdone, Spurs themselves finally got pulled back to earth - and done so in a slight turn of irony by a refereeing mistake. The biggest gift, though, was that Manchester City dropped points, leaving Liverpool a mere point off their main competition for the trophy.
There is certainly glee here, though some of it is tempered - ever so slightly - by knowing that Ange Postecoglu deftly handled the inevitable round of questions after his Spurs team were forced into accepting a loss on the back of controversial refereeing. The Australian manager has quickly put his stamp not just on the team but also generally, garnering a reputation as a decent, straight-talker.
It’s easy to look at these results and truly want to bask in the pure, uncut schadenfreude. It still feels right.
This past weekend, as the International Break was winding down, news dropped that Everton would be docked 10 points for financial doping. It is a stunning punishment and one that clearly is meant to set a precedent.
Normally, I’d probably be quite celebratory but a few things are holding me from that. First and most importantly, Everton being another team from Liverpool always meant that while the rivalry was true and passionate, I could never root for the proverbial meteor to take them out in the way that I would certainly be fine considering Manchester United. The decency of Everton figures like Bill Kenwright always manage to pull me back from imbibing directly from the font of Football Tribalism.
The other reason is more about the circumstances and potentiality of punishments that are still looming. Specifically, knowing that Everton’s punishment was handed down with Manchester City still awaiting adjudicating on the 115 violations of FFP they’ve had as well as news that Chelsea are undergoing an investigation for potential violations while Roman Abramovich owned the club. Everton’s punishment threatens to upend the system if Manchester City and potentially Chelsea are forced to account for their own malfeasance.
But my cynicism regarding the arbiters of global sport broadly but of football specifically is what’s making any kind of glee I might have remain muted. We all remember that UEFA attempted to ban Manchester City from Europe for failing their standards, only for the Court for Arbitration for Sport to overturn the punishment.
Beyond my own personal hope to have what Reds fans have always known about City and Chelsea be validated in the official record, I find very little in this to be hopeful for. If Everton’s appeal fails, I suppose it’s possible that justice might happen - and perhaps concern to fall upon other clubs like Manchester United and Newcastle.
But I won’t be holding my breath. Instead, I’ll keep my eye on the pitch and allow this group to settle the score in the more entertaining and enjoyable way: putting up the kind of performances that will run these clubs off the pitch.