Manchester City have become a football club that appear easy to dismiss out of hand when they are playing well, quick to tear apart if their form dips, whilst questioning every non-footballing action through a harsh microscope. Within the club’s own fanbase the line between offering constructive criticism and being a supporter has blurred. Let’s take a look at the factors that don’t add up.
First off I’ll deal with the least favourable portion of the chat: City’s own fans. Lately there has been a generic response from certain supporters to question anyone that dares highlight an area where the team could be performing better. The usual Action Man pull-string line sounds something like, “Remember that we used to be shit.”
This is something that can’t be argued. But I doubt that these fans were walking away from Maine Road hiding their disgruntlement in those darker days. I dealt with the pain during the infamous season in the third tier of English football by having an extra pint at half time. Over said drink I’d criticise the players as I saw fit. It didn’t mean I wasn’t 100% behind the team, but to fail to see areas, and then comment, where the club should be better is playing the role of a blinkered fan.
I’d never boo a City player, I don’t think I even groaned like some with Lee Bradbury, nor would I offer an in-depth dissection of the team in the wrong public forum. But between fellow City fans there’s nothing wrong with pointing out where it’s going awry or which player needs to offer more. I’m not saying we should forget those bad days – they make me all the more grateful for the present – but to lean on them and ignore shortcomings shows a lack of ambition. We’ve moved on as a club and with that the mindset has to evolve.
This brings us to the next area of concern: The way we are perceived by others. Nowadays if a City fan shows any degree of confidence he is labelled as arrogant. That he has somehow forgotten that City was once a non-threat. And yet at the same time the opposing voice will point out that City should be winning because of the investment spent on the squad. It makes intelligent debate impossible when so many are unfairly gunning for the blues.
Much is obviously made about the money spent. My views on Financial Fair Play have been written here many times so I’ll spare retreading old ground concerning this oxymoron. Needless to say the detractors appear happy to see City fined and squad restricted in Europe this season, without ever explaining why the double standards within FFP are acceptable to them.
When City was playing catch-up, thus spending heavily, the process was demonised in the press. The very same press that wrote in terms of endearment and excitement when Manchester United splashed the cash this summer. Even now they report with growing arousal that they will continue the splurge. But they’re allowed because it’s their money, despite being in debt and City don’t owe anyone a penny. Other teams are applauded for business choices that bring about investment from foreign markets but City are viewed with suspicion for adopting new methods like sister clubs.
The double standards do not stop there. Much is written about how excessive spending is killing the youth system in England. Yet the ambitious academy City has recently launched wasn’t met with the same fanfare as one at United or Anfield would have been. Sheikh Mansour’s best intentions are conveniently under-reported, areas open to interpretation overplayed. If any doubt exists to United’s youth development we are reminded about the class of ’92, as if it’s the only measuring stick, still recent and relevant.
If this now appears like negative comments to detract from facts it’s barely worthy when placed alongside the professional examples. Many articles written nowadays are undoubtedly click-bait for the masses. The tabloids will be targeting groups they believe have larger numbers, like Liverpool and Manchester United fans. This is fine if the articles are club centric and not written to the detriment of others. Instead the click-bait stories are often written in a manner directly attacking competitors with tripe. The chosen teams are protected and given weekly prayers the press hope are prophecies; the unfavourable clubs are knocked down and written off without consulting the available evidence.
For the last two Premier League seasons the UK press has awarded the title early. Liverpool secured it with a month to spare last season, this year the Chelsea Invincibles took the title in November. Liverpool was lauded last year, as if the third highest spenders in Premier League history had never spent a penny, that Brendan Rodgers was a demigod and they “deserved” it. Pellegrini went about business like a class act, without ever receiving credit for hard work and the correct choices that brought about City’s most successful season.
This season we now sit on twenty games played, City and Chelsea have the exact same record, nothing separates them other than alphabetical order. But it’s still Chelsea that play the role of the chosen ones. Stats aside, because there’s no real split there, it’s hard to understand why the press and media are so quick to dismiss City. While they are busy romanticising over Mourinho’s team they aren’t asking the appropriate questions.
Had the two teams been tied at New Year but it was Chelsea that had suffered the loss of all available strikers throughout December, with their best one still out for a few more weeks, and John Terry had been out the side, then the anticipation that they would go on to secure the title once they were back to fitness would make sense. However, it’s City that have battled on with depleted numbers but for some reason this hasn’t been placed into any equations. Nor has the probability that at some point Chelsea are likely to lose major players. We know how City respond with men down – they close an eight point gap. How will Chelsea fare when they lose big names for long periods?
Chelsea are still spoken about as some unstoppable force, a City side carrying significant injuries is sneakily brushed aside. I’m not saying the press shouldn’t report City’s weaknesses, but they should be placed into context. Any areas that could be better only serve to show just how strong the best parts of City’s play are. Everyone is a harsh judge during Champions League games but Liverpool limped out of a weaker group without nearly as much inspection.
The press need to stop the pathetic click-bait, crowd mongering when it comes to Manchester City. Every team deserves to be given the same fair crack of the whip. And City fans need to stand together without forming fragmented groups just because of differing opinions. All we need is constructive criticism. Save the blinkered droning, combined with sickening courting by the press, for other teams.