Kyle Walker denies Man City ‘crisis’ and confident of catching Arsenal

Man City charged by Premier League after more than 100 alleged rule breaches

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Kyle Walker insists there is no “crisis” at Manchester City despite a “missed opportunity” to close the gap on leaders Arsenal on Sunday. The City full-back admitted Pep Guardiola’s side need a response after losing to Spurs in north London. But he maintained there was confidence that still believe they can bounce back to hunt down Mikel Arteta’s Gunners between now and May.

“It was a missed opportunity. But there’s still a lot of football to be played,” said the City and England defender. “We need to dust ourselves down and move on to the next game and try to go on a run. We are still confident. We’re the reigning champions – we’ve been back-to-back Premier League champions in the last two seasons, and we’ve come through a lot tougher than what we’re facing now. 

“But it’s down to us as players and a club to stick together and pull through this. We’re not in a crisis – we’ve lost a game of football – and the world doesn’t come to an end. But we need to make sure we’re on the training field in this week to put it right and move into the next game and pick up the three points.”

Arsenal’s shock defeat at Goodison had presented City with the opportunity to close the gap at the top to just two points. But Harry Kane’s record-breaking goal was enough to leave Guardiola’s side still five adrift which the Gunners could stretch to eight if they win their game in hand.

Walker added: “It’s a natural feeling to have that it was a missed opportunity. When your opponents at the top of the league drop points, you want to capitalise on that. But we knew we were coming to a tough stadium and against a well-organised team, especially here at their home – we haven’t had the greatest of results, so we knew it was going to be difficult.”

City have the chance to regain some momentum when they tackle Arsenal at the Emirates in eight days time. The response was meanwhile calm and measured from City after the Premier League charges on Monday. The club were “surprised” by the allegations but “welcome” the review of this matter.

It was the equivalent of a raised eyebrow, a rueful shake of the head and a heavy sigh. Yet behind the scenes there was barely disguised fury at the top end of the club that once again they have to defend themselves against charges they have not played by the same rules as everyone else.

Privately City feel this is a vendetta that is being pursued driven by jealousy, fuelled by politics, powerful and far from blameless clubs at home and abroad, and with undertones of racism. City sources pointed to the timing of the announcement ahead of an imminent white paper on football governance as politically motivated and rushed attempt by the League to show they can police themselves.

There was also annoyance that the club had been given no prior sight of charges that, after a four-year investigation with which they failed to fully co-operate, they were alleged to have breached financial regulations on more than 100 occasions between 2009 and 2018. 

It is three years since UEFA pursued the same case and handed them a two-year European ban and €30million fine, later successfully appealed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport with the ban overturned and fine reduced to €10m.

If that had been a body blow, the Premier League charge is one which be a knockout with points deductions, suspension or even an explusion from the league in the commission’s armoury. It seems unlikely sanctions will reach the upper end of that scale if at all and with no timeframe established for a commission which has not even established its panel members yet, the resolution will not be quick.

But City certainly appeared confident the worst will be avoided with their statement insisting there was a “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.” The club have a right to appeal any sanction issued by the independent commission but will not be able to take the matter to CAS this time.

In 2020 when they went to CAS the court ruled that several of the charges were “time-barred” in as much as they could not be investigated on account of time passed. Some felt that proved Manchester City were guilty but had got off on a technicality yet the club insist the opposite was true with their evidence refuting those allegations also inadmissible on account of it too being “time-barred”.

Monday’s charges – principally the same ones that UEFA pursued – are that between 2009-18 the club gave information that was not an accurate view of the club’s finances with regard to revenue, sponsorship revenue and operating costs.

They also allege that between 2009-13 when Roberto Mancini was in charge the club did not give full details of manager remuneration with the suggestion the Italian (and some players between 2010-16) were paid more than was recorded on the books.

City won three Premier League titles during the period in which they have been alleged to have not played by the rules observed by others in 2011-12, 2013-14 and, the first of four under current boss Pep Guardiola, in 2017-18. There is no sanction available to the commission to strip them of those titles but a judgement against would tarnish them.

City will fight tooth and nail to come out with their reputation intact. The last line of their statement suggested they were confident the process will see them do that. It read: “We look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all.”

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