Manager Pep Guardiola’s words about the team’s ambition in the Champions League ahead of a new season provided food for thought.
“We are far away from thinking about big targets, considering what’s happened [previously] we are not allowed to dream much higher,” he said.
The disappointment has been immense as Manchester City has consistently failed to live up to expectations in Europe recently. In fact, the club’s story in the competition has become one of raised hopes dashed suddenly.
How has a well-drilled Manchester City side led by arguably the best manager in world football faltered so spectacularly? And so consistently? It’s surprising to say the least.
Even more surprising is the fact that this failure has come when the team has dominated English football. Pep Guardiola achieved a first in the English game when he led the Blues to a clean sweep of all trophies on offer in the land. Not even the much-celebrated Sir Alex Ferguson was able to achieve the feat in his 26 years at the helm at Manchester United.
Yet the team has capitulated to Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon in the last four campaigns. Except for Liverpool, these are teams City can take to the cleaners on any given day. Even for the Anfield side, losing home and away is unacceptable. But it does seem the weight of expectation has worked against the team on these occasions.
Perhaps, that is the reason the manager is bent on lowering expectations. Maybe that will ease the pressure on the players. It could eliminate the jitters and nervousness the players feel when faced with those crunch ties and lead to a favourable outcome. At least that is what the manager hopes is the case.
But having seen so much investment made into the club in the last decade, it is understandable if both the hierarchy and fans demand more. Failing to reach even the semi-final of the competition in four seasons is abysmal. A club at its best parading a top-notch team on and off the pitch should do better.
Guardiola knows it and has taken the blame. Yet, he must do better. A Champions League trophy is long overdue at the Etihad Stadium. Apparently the Spaniard thinks downplaying such high expectations will help take the pressure off his players and bring results.
Thanks to Bayern Munich’s recent form, City have started this season as outsiders. Hopefully, that will be an advantage.
But is the manager right to lower expectations among City faithful? We have to wait and see if the end justifies the means.