What a few days it has been at Manchester City. From the depths of despair to the elation and ecstasy, the blues certainly know how to put the faithful through the mill. Two goals down and facing the very real prospect of Liverpool stealing the title, the blues stormed back to take the title and deny the reds a domestic treble, and potential quadruple.
And to think, City have done this without a recognised striker. It’s a phenomenal feat and manager Pep Guardiola, along with the City hierarchy, must take the credit for this success. They refused to be held to ransom by Spurs ludicrous demands for an over-inflated fee for England striker Harry Kane, instead, they bided their time and signed Erling Haaland for next season.
And, as the big Norwegian star joins the Premier League champions, he and the faithful will be hoping that next season, City won’t push their fans to the edge of hospitalisation for the second time in ten years.
It’s sad, therefore, that City’s achievements this season in keeping Liverpool at bay. Yes, what the Mersey reds have done this season is incredible, but the reality of it is they have only gone one game further than City did twelve months ago.
Last season, City were an FA Cup semi-final win away from playing every game possible. A successful League Cup run ended with victory over Spurs, and the blues had secured the league title long before they beat Everton 5-0 in the final game of the season. City faced Chelsea in the Champions League final and the same opposition beat them at Wembley in mid-April.
So what Liverpool have done this season is simply going one game further than the blues did last time around, not that the British media, and I’ll be addressing those in a separate article, will having you believing that fact.
According to the media, Liverpool should have won the league because people like them. They should have won the league on style of play. They should have won the league because of their net spend and the fact they are still spending the Philippe Coutinho money. And they should have won it because they only lost twice, compared to City’s three defeats. They conveniently forget that football is based on points won and the team with the most points wins the league.
And that team was Manchester City.
They forget that the blues scored 99 league goals without a recognised striker, five more than their red rivals, who apparently have the best strike force in the universe. While Liverpool took six points from City, Chelsea and Spurs, the other teams to finish in the top four this season, the blues took eight. I suppose its easy to forget these things while wallowing in salty tears.
Yet we are to believe that City only won the league because a referee and VAR failed to give Everton a penalty when 1-0 down at Goodison Park. As Riyad Mahrez, Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus will all testify, the award of a penalty does not equate to a goal, but let’s not allow that little fact to ruin the narrative.
The fact of the matter is that Pep Guardiola and Manchester City have made a remarkable achievement this season. They kept a relentless Liverpool side at bay and edged out the reds when it mattered the most. But all that is ever seen in City spending money, almost as if other teams don’t spend a thing.
It’s strange when people say they could manage City with the money the club has and the players at the club. Apparently, there are many grandmothers who could also do just a good a job as Guardiola, as it really is that simple. All he has to do is buy a player and stick him in the team, what could be simpler?
The same could be said if one was to buy a Ferrari. If you can afford it and want it, you buy it. But it doesn’t mean you know how to drive it or indeed, how to handle it when you want it to perform. The same can be said for footballers.
There are plenty of egos in today’s modern game, proven by a little look at what’s going on across the border in Stretford. It takes a huge amount of skill and experience to get the best out of the players, yet Guardiola manages this, week in, week out. He has players on the bench that would walk into any Premier League or European side, yet none of them are banging on the manager’s door demanding to play or they’re leaving, throwing public strops or acting like Cristiano Ronaldo when he sees Bruno Fernandes miss a penalty.
So, they can call the boss what they want. Fraudiola, chequebook manager whatever. Guardiola has brought a style of football to the Premier League and made it a success when others said it would fail. He has installed a winning mentality in the team that was missing for years. Even under the Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini reigns, there was still an underlying feeling that the belief was not there. Guardiola has dispatched that and turned City into a dominant force in English football, and Sunday’s comeback win against Villa is all the proof you need.
It is sad that Manchester City and Pep Guardiola doesn’t get the plaudits they deserve. It is a sorry state of affairs that the focus is not on the champions, but on the team that finished second. It seems that Bill Shankly’s words that ‘if you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing’ only applies to teams other than Liverpool.
Apparently, City will never be a ‘big team’ unless they win the Champions League. If that’s what it takes to be a big team, most blues will be happy at being known as Little Old City – Premier League champions again.