Once again, I’m bringing you news of a Manchester City loss. This is my fifth ‘What We Learned’ now, and for the fifth time I am writing about a failure to win. I’m writing whilst watching the camera pan to sad City fans wondering how they’ll get home after missing the 17:34 train, all the while Rio Ferdinand is lapping up their misery, rubbing his hands at the fact City have to play United on Thursday. Classic. In any case, today’s game surely provided us with a few lessons but more so a reminder of lessons we need to heed if we want any chance of realising our potential under Pep.
As soon as the full-time whistle blew, Mr. City Watch messaged me saying ‘possibly a necessary defeat to rip this squad apart’.
Time and time again we’ve looked at problems with the first team, in particular in defence, but today we weren’t bad, man for man. The real problem came after 90 minutes. Arsenal were able to bring on Welbeck and Bellerin, but still had Iwobi and Walcott in reserve. Arguably City’s only game changer on the bench, Raheem Sterling, was called into action in the 23rd minute for David Silva, and Pep was forced to bring on Delph and Fernando in added time for Agüero and Fernandinho – hardly a change to inspire a late win. Moreover, I’m starting to wonder if Pep trusts Kelechi, as he was only able to play 15 minutes. If he doesn’t, how many of our players exactly does Pep rate?
I really thought if we were going to win today, it’d have to be within 90 minutes, something we just didn’t get done. People might point out that with both Gabby Jesus and Gündoğan to come back, our problems will alleviate somewhat, but at the end of the day, we need better squad players and first teamers. The problem with a lack of quality in our first team is huge, but the problem with our squad runs just as deep.
Does Luck Really Exist? And If It Does?
I don’t believe in luck. And, if you asked anyone else, people might say City are the luckiest club of all time. On the face of it, you could make the argument that we ‘won the lottery’ in regards to Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008, the Agüero goal could be ‘luck’ if you were that way inclined (this is a terrible shout though), Crystanbul, Gerrard’s slip, and so on. However, sometimes it feels like if it existed, luck certainly is not on City’s side. Once again, the officiating today was fairly abysmal. I don’t really want to go into the specifics too hard, but I’m not sure why Sané’s cross for Agüero/Sterling’s goal in the first half can be deemed to have crossed the byline, amongst a few other refereeing issues, and we seem to have decision after decision against us this season. I’m not deluded enough to claim there’s some global conspiracy against City as you might see from a Madridista (UEFAlona) or a Culé (Franco’s Ghost), though.
But away from that, City hit the woodwork twice today. Kevin De Bruyne’s miss against Chelsea in December still appears in my dreams, hitting the crossbar when Samaras/Corradi/Bianchi/Mpenza etc. could’ve scored.
Perhaps, if luck truly does exist, it’ll return to us one day. Maybe Navas’ll score a hat-trick on Thursday.
Perceptions of Next Season
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m a history student. And one thing I’ve learnt from studying history is that perceptions of events change throughout history, because society changes contexts and the new context alters the perception of said event. For example, throughout the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte’s stature changed several times. He went from national hero, to evil despot, to national hero, and this definition of Napoleon changed several times, based on the socio-economic context of France at the time of perception. This is important to us because right now, City will end this season trophyless, having bottled the Champions League to arguably lesser opposition who then avoided the big 4 in the next round, and currently our top 4 status stands on fragile ground. The average commentator might say that City in some ways have regressed from last year. However, if next season goes well, ie. City win something and Pep pulls some masterclasses, this season might have a better light about it.
We can put this season down as a season of transition, a season where Pep, unlike any of our previous managers and City, arguably unlike most clubs in the world, are trying to build a club rather than shoot for immediate success. Buying young players, enforcing a radical, and let’s admit it, beautiful, style of play, including a youth policy aiming for a side of eleven Mancunians is all part of the goal we have. Pep has seen this season that we have serious weaknesses in our squad, and some decisions have gone his way and some of his have had decidedly less success. So, if City again flatter to deceive next season, people might be able to legitimately question where Pep is taking us.
For now though, I have 100% belief this summer will bring major changes in personnel, and Pep’s experience so far here will help him no end. For an assessment on this season, we might require the hindsight only time could give us.
Hopefully the next time I’m trusted with this segment, City will have won and I can be positive. I promise you that I’m positive, sometimes.