THE FAN IN GUARDIOLA MUST UNDERSTAND THE SUPPORTER’S RELATIONSHIP WITH CLAUDIO BRAVO
If the match-fixingly suspicious ‘attempt’ at making a save from ex-City kipper Harry Bunn hadn’t given a clear indication of where Claudio Bravo’s future lies this summer, the hand-to-the-ear gesture and grin combo he offered as a reaction to the sarcastic jeers directed his way by a rather unimpressed Etihad Stadium certainly had. Bravo doesn’t care, he goes home and tells his wife how much he hates us, he asks himself why he moved from Barcelona to this shithole. The feeling’s mutual, Claudio.
OK, so ‘hate’ may be a strong word. After all, it’s only a bloke failing miserably at trying to prevent a leather sphere from making contact with polyethylene monofilament. But in the stadium where tensions are high and grown men forget that they are, in fact, grown men and regard any mistake as a personal assault against them, you can understand the reaction to Bravo. There is absolutely zero relationship between the player and the supporters and the situation has progressed to such a level that there is no chance of there ever being one. Bravo will leave the club this summer as possibly the worst high-profile goalkeeper to have ever played in the Premier League.
Guardiola will have been rightfully chuffed with the goalkeeper’s magnificent chip in the build up to Agüero’s second goal in the 5-1 win over Huddersfield, but even pieces of brilliance like this do not disguise the fact that Bravo is a useless shot stopper. If the priority is passing, put David Silva in net.
Of course, though Guardiola requires a goalkeeper who is capable of passing so accurately under pressure he knows that Bravo has underperformed and that bringing him in this summer has turned out to be a mistake. Nevertheless, the issue is a separate one to the case of Joe Hart – a man who many fans believe could solve the current problem. If we’re talking a short-term fix then I’d agree with those demanding that Hart be reinstated but as a long-term solution Pep has already made it clear that a Hart reunion is never going to happen. My mate spoke to a few landscapers who do some work on Joe’s house in Hale Barns and they told him that his wife expects him to join Liverpool this summer. How grim would that be?
Guardiola’s clever enough to know he’s cocked things up between the sticks. It’s the reason why Willy Caballero is now our first choice stopper and perhaps explains why he seemed to be so frustrated with the fan’s treatment of Claudio on Wednesday night. Questioned on the taunting from the crowd, Pep told the reporter to “ask the fans”.
But in that same press conference Guardiola was heard speaking passionately about Luis Enrique’s future at the “club of my heart,” Barcelona. Surely, as a passionate fan of a football club, Guardiola can understand the reaction of City supporters to a player who is just not pulling his weight.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
— J (@JimmyFlan) March 1, 2017
The friendship between Sergio and Pablo could be enough to explain the euphoria that flavoured Agüero’s celebration here, though I suspect Sergio’s awareness of just how well he is responding to his manager’s demands is the real reason for such a reaction. Before the Monaco game Sergio had 18 goals and 1 assist to his name. An injury to Gabriel Jesus and another nudge from Guardiola later and the striker now has 22 goals and 3 assists. Sergio’s response has been emphatic and this was the celebration of a man who has no intention of going anywhere any time soon.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It’s the best Sergio Aguero ever and the best I’ve seen yet. His performance was amazing.”
Pep Guardiola on Sergio Agüero’s performance against Huddersfield.
PICTURE OF THE WEEK
A good relationship off the pitch leads to a devastating one on it, clearly.
CLAUDIO RANIERI’S DISMISSAL PROVES THAT, IN THE END, NICE GUYS ALWAYS FINISH LAST
There are no heroes this week, only villains. Kasper Schmeichel joins Adam Johnson, Joey Barton and Ched Evans on infamous list of ex-City players to go and make a tit out of themselves. The former Blue, who left the club for Notts County in 2009, was left to stutter in front of Sky’s cameras as he was asked whether he had any involvement in Claudio Ranieri’s dismissal. “So you can look me in the eye right now and say it did not happen at all?” It’s fair to say Schmeichel’s politician-like response told us everything we need to know.
Whether Leicester’s owners were right in relieving Claudio of his duties is a different matter. The world in which we now live in means that uncomfortable decisions have to be made. There is no room for sentiment – Leicester are a business and were/still are at risk of losing over £100m should they drop down into the Championship. There are those that will question the legitimacy of the decision but the majority understand the position the owners were in and why the call was made.
But if reports of a player backlash are correct, then it leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. As Gary Neville wonderfully put it on Monday Night Football, there should absolutely be no direct line between the players and the chairman of a football club. Schmeichel was quick to downplay the influence of the player in decisions such as this but again, if reports are true, Ranieri’s dismissal is a perfect example of the growing power of the player. It’s easier to sack one manager than a whole team of players conducting themselves pathetically on the field.
At first I found myself likening the situation to Mourinho’s at Chelsea a couple of years ago. You can see how a character like himself could lose the players. José is a terrific manager but an admittedly controversial one who doesn’t pull any punches. He is arrogant and rarely takes responsibility for a defeat, so the situation he found himself in at Chelsea didn’t really surprise anyone. Then I thought about Ranieri – a different personality altogether; respectful, upbeat, always willing to discuss issues with the press – and suddenly it was a completely different case.
It’s sickening to think that the confidence Ranieri injected into a group of players who would’ve been happy to escape relegation by a point one year ago could be the root of his downfall. He finished first last season, but in the end, nice guys like Claudio always finish last.