In a first for the Gonzo Sports Desk, I’ve accepted an article from a guest writer. Publication doesn’t imply endorsement or agreement, for example I quite like Manuel Pellegrini and wouldn’t say he was ‘punching above his weight’, but if we all agreed on everything life would be pretty boring. In any case I’ve got no interest in controlling what people say, I’m not Rupert Murdoch or North Korea.
Here Jacque Talbot offers his thoughts on Manchester City, you can follow him on Twitter @Jac_Talbot.
Manchester City’s 2008 takeover looked set to transform them from serial underachievers into one of the biggest sporting clubs in the world. However, since their acquisition by the Abu Dhabi United Group they have won just three major trophies – the Premier league in 2012 and 2014 and the 2011 FA Cup. Any takeover begs the question of whether buyer holds the club’s best interest at heart. For City, it is easy to see that transfer spending certainly hasn’t been a problem. Money brings obvious benefits, but sometimes it does so at the expense of the club’s traditions or heart.
The 2015/16 season for City has fallen under the radar for many – with the attention being drawn towards the plight of Chelsea in the early part of the campaign and Leicester’s success in the latter half. City’s squad is full of world class names and a fourth place finish would have been viewed as a failure before a ball was kicked. Keeping neighbours Manchester United out of the Champions League aside, fourth place is indeed underwhelming considering the amount of money the club has spent into building its squad.
As Arsenal claimed second place on the final day, there were plenty of Gunners fans who deemed it a bad season – to such an extent that a not insignificant number of Arsenal supporters called for the removal of Arsene Wenger as manager. Whilst many have laughed at the calamity of the Arsenal protests and inner fighting – their ideas and arguments, on both sides, are fuelled by a central want for the club to be the best it can.
Can this be said for Manchester City? It’s doubtful, in fact there seems to be a silent agreement of disregard for any competition aside from the Champions League, which turned around mid-season (when Pep Guardiola was appointed); to them perhaps not being particularly bothered by the season at all. The main concern for Manchester City, was obtaining top four in order for Guardiola to have a shot at the Champions League next season.
The season was regarded as a ‘transitional year’ for Man City by most – a term I still struggle to come to grips with. I think it is a recent fad, or ‘get out clause’ that big clubs can use when they have a bad season. The so-called transitional year is when one or two players will retire at the end of the season, or they have a few youngsters in the ranks, who although 23 and been who’ve been playing for seven years in the top flight, are classed as inexperienced. The whole idea of a club having a ‘transitional’ period is complete bollocks – especially with a club with the amount of wealth and resources as Man City. They should be challenging for the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League every year, and every time they don’t, it should be considered a failure.
Yes, I would argue that City are not in a transitional year, because I simply do not believe in it. What’s more, given the season they’ve just had, I would say that they are almost a one-man-team – with the man being Sergio Aguero. City’s underwhelming displays have been largely camouflaged by this world class, clinical striker. Without Aguero’s contribution in goals and assists, City would have finished behind Southampton, West Ham and Liverpool in ninth place and with a +2 goal difference – mid-table.
Aguero’s ability has allowed the once talismanic Yaya Toure to become a passenger. With a £200,000 per-week salary – Toure can be seen as the embodiment of City’s one-track thinking. The past couple of seasons have made him to be thought of as the player who will only perform to the best of his ability if the match is an important one. But this season, the sheer laziness from Toure has reached the boundaries of hilarity. Even in the Champions League semi-final showdown with Real Madrid there was a Vine that went viral, showing the Ivorian wander around aimlessly for 90 minutes, which completely undermines the idea that he has these ‘man of the match’ performances against big clubs.
The fingers should point the blame at now former boss Manuel Pellegrini – yet they don’t as it’s universally accepted that a large majority of the players couldn’t care less for what he says. I do believe that the man was punching above his weight in the job role, yet he undeniably worked tirelessly for the club. His farewell was outrageous. The fans who left should really have words with themselves. They got caught up in the Guardiola appointment halfway through the season and this of course was another kick in the teeth for Pellegrini and made it almost impossible for him to manage without being undermined.
It seems that the ‘money mentality’ of the club can have an impact on its players. If the club’s owners show off a representation that trophies should be bought and not won, it can have negative effects on the players and then unto the fans of the club. Fans should be wanting to win every game, regardless of opponent. This idea of resting before a big game or losing 4-2 to a Southampton side just because there is a bigger game in the Champions League next week does the Premier League no justice, nor does it give Manchester City any credibility.
Being accused of ‘buying the cup’ was thrown towards Chelsea in their 2003/04 triumph, and the supporters got angry. The same sentiments have been thrown City’s way and a few seem to revel happily in agreement. There is no mistaking the capital interest of football nowadays – and it can have good points. But reflecting upon the strength of heart in Liverpool’s and United’s European dominance of the 80s and 90s, the same cannot be said for English football currently. Yes, clubs likes Barcelona have always been rich too, but their buys have either been almost perfect and majority of their talent stems through their youth system ‘Messi, Xavi, Pique, Sergio, Alba, and Iniesta’.
This is why the appointment of Pep Guardiola is much more than it seems. Not only does he have the tactical prowess and the silverware, he is also a manager who will take no shit (are you watching Yaya?) and who is shrewd in his transfers. Some of his Bayern purchases include: the young Kimmich for £6.3m, Robert Lewandowski as a free, Sebastian Rode as a free, Xabi Alonso for £7.5m and Kingsley Coman on loan. These rather calculated transfers are an almost polar opposite to City ‘bazooka’ buys which accumulated at £350m since Pellegrini’s appointment in the summer of 2013.
I hope that the City fans don’t read this as an attack on them or the club. I have a lot of respect for City, I consider it a ‘massive club’, both in terms of current finances and previous history. My gripe is purely with the obvious attitude problem that’s currently ingrained in their current owners. The money owns all attitude is problematic, especially when the club is representative of English football in European competitions.
There really should’ve been a fight shown by this season by Man City, but there was none. Leicester City’s title win wasn’t an intense fight with the big boys, it was almost a stroll to victory. Though I highly commend Leicester, it’s my belief that the likes of City and Chelsea should hang their heads in shame. Leicester have made an absolute mockery of them. I feel that Pep will do well for them as he’ll get rid of the deadwood, and perhaps build a team capable of securing silverware consistently.