Arteta out, Spurs bottom, Haaland in form: eight things that will happen during Ivan Toney’s eight-month ban

Dave Tickner
Mikel Atrteta, Erling Haaland and Frank Lampard

Ivan Toney has been banned from football for eight months. Eight months! Look, he broke the rules and English football is a betting-smothered sport that has never been shy of a bit of hypocrisy, so the punishment is what it is. But eight months!

If a week is a long time in politics, eight months is, well, it’s an even longer time in football. And in politics. Where were we? Yeah. Eight months. Christ.

For a rough idea of how mad an amount of time eight months is, simply go back and have a look at what football looked like eight months ago.

Manchester City were top of the Premier League which is, admittedly, not a great jumping-off point. But back then, seven games into the season, they were level on points with Antonio Conte’s unbeaten Tottenham. Newcastle were 10th. Leeds and Southampton were mid-table, above 14th-placed Aston Villa. Most astonishingly of all, Chelsea were as high as seventh. To our weary May 2023 eyes, the football landscape of September 2022 is almost impossible to comprehend.

So what on earth might English football look like on January 17 2024 when Toney makes his comeback? Impossible and pointless to try and guess, so we’ve done just that.


1) Frank Lampard is Chelsea caretaker manager
It just wasn’t working for Mauricio Pochettino, who had improved results significantly and managed to get Todd Boehly’s wild selection of random £100m signings to resemble something close to a functioning squad, but his polite request that maybe a post-match changing room was not the appropriate place for Boehly’s entire extended family was a clear and disrespectful attack on the club’s benevolent overlord, so he had to go.

Attempts to secure another manager stalled as a series of potential targets declared the club “f***ing mental” but heroic, brave Frank Lampard has once again agreed to step into the breach for the rest of the season and beyond that, who knows? Yes, his team are currently on an eight-match run without a win and have nothing left to play for after an FA Cup third-round defeat to Wrexham, but the press have had a little think about it and concluded none of this is the fault of Frank, whose endless use of the phrase “I don’t have a magic wand” continues to provoke a flurry of tweets saying ‘Spoke well, I thought’ from football media’s largest brains.


2) With his difficult first season behind him, Erling Haaland is at last delivering on his rich promise
Everyone knows it takes a year for anyone to get up to speed with Pep Guardiola’s byzantine football philosophy and, with that difficult first Manchester City season now behind him, Norwegian robostriker Haaland has proved the doubters wrong by becoming the first player to score 100 Premier League goals before Christmas. Harry Kane, despite having already amassed 23 goals of his own for Manchester United this season, now faces the very real prospect of Alan Shearer’s Premier League record being broken in two robot years.


3) Unai Emery is Arsenal manager
Starting the season expected to challenge put the pressure on Arsenal from day one and, true to form, they crumbled – winning only one of their first eight games before Mikel Arteta was sacked with the team above only goal-shy shambles Tottenham in the embryonic Premier League table. Unai Emery’s return has steadied the ship and lifted them to the safety of mid-table. “We never expected to be higher than ninth or 10th anyway,” insist Arsenal fans.

Ex-Arsenal manager Unai Emery

4) VAR has become sentient and is now genuinely biased against your team
Typical, that.


5) Manchester City have finally scored a goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
In a season-opening win, and at just the sixth time of asking, plucky City have at long last managed to join West Ham, Ajax, Everton, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Southampton, Bayern Munich, Watford, Sheffield United, Olympiacos, Bournemouth, Chelsea, Brighton, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Norwich, RB Leipzig, Wolves, Manchester United, Arsenal, Maccabi Haifa, Leicester, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Mura, Vitesse Arnhem, Leeds, technically in a way Rennes, Morecambe, Eintracht Frankfurt, Sporting, Nottingham Forest and also I guess Spurs in scoring a competitive goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.


6) Europa Conference champions West Ham are safely through to the Europa League knockout stages
Thus raising the very real prospect of a club that has never finished higher than fifth in the Premier League qualifying for the Champions League, in accordance with the prophecy.


7) Tottenham are bottom of the league
They have had more managers (3) than wins (2). Daniel Levy still refuses to give Pochettino a call. Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg is their leading Premier League scorer with three goals in a barren post-Kane wasteland. Tanguy Ndombele is starting games. Djed Spence has been recalled from an unsuccessful loan spell in Holland. “He’s like a new signing for us,” insists a visibly unconvinced Ryan Mason, now in his fourth spell as caretaker.


8) Football365 is not as good as it used to be
Used to be funny. Not eight months ago. But before then. Way before.