It was Jimmy Greaves that said ‘Football is a funny old game,’ and he wasn’t wrong. Following City’s 9-0 thrashing of Burton Albion in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final, the blues came in for all sorts of strange criticism, some of it verging on the ridiculous.
Last season, the blues scraped past Bristol City at the same stage last season, edging the home leg 2-1 after being 1-0 down at half time, and after that match, journalists and pundits were almost salivating. Bristol City had kept the blues at bay for most half the match and took the lead on the stroke of half time before eventually losing to a last minute goal. But they took an away goal and a slender defeat for the home leg and a 1-0 win would have been enough to see them through to the final.
Oh how the prospect of City getting humbled and destroying their chances of the quadruple, which the media insisted City were going for, was so tantalisingly close, but was ripped away when the blues won the second leg 3-2 to book their place at Wembley.
Last night, the blues took no chances against their lower league opposition and fielded a very strong line-up to face the Brewers. They then proceeded continue where they left off against Rotherham in the FA Cup and ruthlessly take apart the opposition. But it appears this was too much for some pundits, so-called journalists and opposition fans. “Disrespectful,” “It was only Burton,” “why didn’t Pep play the kids?” “should have stopped scoring at six” and “why didn’t they start Foden?”
Yes, these were actual comments identified by some well-known names in the media and some completely unknown people on social media. Let’s take a look at these in detail.
City were classed as disrespecting Burton as they fielded a strong starting eleven. David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus were just three of the names who started last night’s game, yet this was classed as disrespectful to Burton. How dare the blues play some of their best players? They were also called disrespectful for scoring nine goals, with some saying they should have stopped scoring at six!
Is this disrespectful?
No it wasn’t. In fact, City paid more respect to Burton Albion than any Premier League team has shown against lower league opposition. By playing some of their best players, that is an ultimate sign of respect for the opposition and the competition. To play a weakened side would have denied the Burton players an opportunity to test themselves against some of the best in the Premier League, disrespect them as a club and treat the competition like they didn’t really care whether they win or lose it. Burton Albion are a professional side and, as such, they were treated like one, not like a particular game that was played on Monday!
Pep was also accused of disrespecting Burton because he said City are already in the final. Not being funny, but he’s absolutely correct. There’s no disrespect to Burton, but the chances of the blues losing the second leg by 10 clear goals is about as likely as finding an honest politician. I could understand if he’d said that after last season’s 2-1 win over Bristol City, but I would hazard a guess this one is ever so slightly different.
It was only Burton
The blues fans celebrated the win like any other, even chanting we want ten, but apparently this shouldn’t have been done because ‘it was only Burton.’ Talk about being disrespectful, saying ‘It’s only Burton’ is one of the biggest marks of disrespect you can get. As stated above, Burton are a professional team and should be treated as such. To say things like it’s only Burton shows an incredible lack of respect for the side.
Why didn’t Pep play the kids?
Guardiola has continually stated that he wants to win trophies, and as a manager, that is his job – to win as many trophies as possible. It is also the manager’s job to select the best team to do just that and again it comes down to respect. If Pep had filled the side with youngsters, he would have been absolutely slated for it. He would have been accused of taking the competition for granted. He would have been classed as arrogant, believing any team he put out would have been enough to beat Burton, so he put out a strong side and still got slated. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Should have stopped at six
This was by far the funniest comment of the night and yet, such an ill-thought out notion that the blues should have taken their foot off the gas when they went 6-0 up. Why on earth would a team not want to score goals just because they’d scored six already? Apparently, it was an absolute disgrace that City continued to score goals. I don’t remember anyone asking for Middlesbrough to stop scoring when we were trounced 8-1. Did anyone ask West Ham to stop scoring against Bury as they won 10-0 in 1983, or Liverpool beating Fulham by the same score in 1986? Or maybe recently when Spurs put 7 past Tranmere, did anyone say that they should stop? No, because that’s just how the game is played. Footballers want to score goals, that’s the idea behind the game!
You can imagine the headlines if City had deliberately missed chances in order to keep the score down. Last night, I did feel sorry for Burton, on the receiving end of such a beating, but that’s football and the fans took it in good spirit. As the City fans chanted ‘we want ten,’ the Burton fans responded with ‘we want one,’ which just shows the Burton fans as nothing but brilliant.
But on another, possibly even darker side of the coin, can you imagine what would have happened if the blues started deliberately missing chances? How quick would the blues and their players be investigated for possible match-fixing? A Jesus tap-in that gets walloped over the bar, or a tame shot straight at the keeper when it was easier to score? The football authorities would have already opened their investigation and be on the verge of finding City guilty.
City have been berated in the media this season for not taking some of the chances presented to them, then when they do take their chances, they’re berated for taking them because it’s Burton. Thankfully, the people saying this stopped short of demanding City gift Burton a couple of goals, although they were probably thinking it!
Why not start Foden?
Phil Foden started Sunday’s game against Rotherham and many expected him to line-up last night, and it was something of a surprise that he didn’t. It was apparently a game that Foden would have excelled in and would have been good to give him another taste of first team action. But Pep doesn’t have a reputation for being the best coach in the world for nothing. If anything, he knows how to blood youngsters into the side. He knows that by throwing kids into first team action, no matter how talented they are, there’s a danger of burning them out. Foden is only young and needs to take his time if he wants to be one of the best. He knows it, and Pep knows it. It’s just a pity those ‘experts’ don’t understand it.
So the blues act in a professional manner, take the opposition seriously and come away with a big result – everyone complains. The blues play an understrength team, disrespect Burton and their fans and come away with a different result – everybody still complains. There’s no pleasing some people!
Greavsie said it’s a funny old game. He mentioned nothing about it being bizarre.