The last few days have been all one needs to appreciate the spectacle of journalism that surrounds Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s intensity boiled a bit after the Burnley match, inciting charges of unhinged awkwardness. Then, a quote from an NBC interview was used to spin Guardiola’s current lack of success as a lack of passion for the game. Antonio Conte felt compelled to defend Man City’s skipper under such scrutiny.
Guardiola arrived in Manchester with the hope of building on the club’s aspiration to compete with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Liverpool, and other European powerhouses. Throughout the fall, his recognition of the squad’s multiple areas in need of improvement has been present in almost every interview.
With the additional funding provided by current investors, City’s check book allows them to compete for the finest players in the world but with that comes the scrutiny of “buying” success.
A circular narrative is created by commentators and journalists as squad selection and individual performances are enmeshed with daily transfer rumors. It is inevitable — in the age of Twitter, Instagram, and other elements of the media deluge — that such speculation and accusatory talk effects players’ mentality, as Jurgen Klopp points out here (9:04).
Expectations are greatly accelerated when elite financial status implies immediate, infallible form on the pitch. Raheem Sterling’s woes were always correlated with interviews and social media use. John Stones has been up and down as he sorts out a story of fairy-tale of potential with the disorientation that has troubled City’s back line. Claudio Bravo’s struggles have been compounded by his portrayal as an impostor to the Joe Hart legacy.
Under mounting pressure, the best managers act as a shield for players but the scrutiny of a team’s form, trainers’ decisions, and individual’s actions on and off the field, often seem to steer the progress of a campaign.
As the current season unfolds, Pep Guardiola’s history and his role in managing the roster, transfers, and creating an ideal style of play against the approach of English and European opponents, has amplified criticism of the man and the team.
What his harshest critics fail to understand is that City’s hopes of winning a Champions League title and additional silverware in English competitions requires a deeper, more sustainable cohesion of City’s current roster and additions made in the next few transfer windows.
While December saw City at their lowest, an immediate rebound seems imminent and it will only come from the positivity of those currently enlisted at the Etihad.
Although Guardiola is more cool and collected than Antonio Conte’s often fiery presence on the touchline, the Spaniard’s ability to arrange the Sky Blues’ current talent and motivate them to chase down Chelsea still holds much promise.
Guardiola himself would say that thinking only in terms of this year is not his focus but such talk is incomprehensible to the instigators of English football gossip.