Stephen McGovern is the [Executive] Content Manager for The Final Third podcast. He’s also a student journalist and a Fulham fan. Heartbreakingly, he has accepted that nobody really wants to read about Fulham, so agreed to instead review Manchester City’s rather bizarre season. Without further ado:
It has been such an amazing/surprising/shocking/different/depressing/invigorating/weird season. Circle in the appropriate answer according to your point of view.
For Manchester City fans, the list is far from exhaustive, while the answer varies from person to person. On the face of it, it hasn’t been a bad season for the Citizens: a Champions League semi-final, yet another season where they finished ahead of Manchester United and a trophy to boot. Yet there’s a strange sense of disconnect around Eastlands at the season’s end.
This was no better illustrated than at the final home game, where the supporters hastily exited the stadium after full-time, choosing to miss Manuel Pellegrini’s final goodbye. It wasn’t so much a tabloid SNUB to the man who had brought silverware three times to the club, but more an acknowledgement of indifference. The fans do not identify with this collection of supposed superstars.
MPs watching Fergie’s leaving speech and MPs watching Pellegrini’s leaving speech pic.twitter.com/sb7KzUnd57
— Gaz (@burnagedaydream) May 9, 2016
The problem they just can’t shake, like the dog who refuses to stop humping your leg. Yes, you look very nice and all, but I’ve grown tired of this. Also my leg is now damp, so thanks for that.
You can spend as much money as you like, but you can’t buy that affinity with your fanbase. The disillusionment is real. And what’s the point in having all that cash in the first place if you’re just going to spend it on Gael Clichy?
The opening month promised so much. 2015/16 will go down in history as a sporting fairytale, but it began so differently. Playing some exquisite football, City won their opening five games by an aggregate score of 11-0. Notably, Sergio Aguero was responsible for just one of those. Had they finally found a way to not rely on their star South American? It was already looking like a veritable one horse race.
As they say, though, typical City. The wheels quickly came off. The 2-1 loss at home to West Ham, their first of the season, was followed immediately by a humbling 4-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. 6-1 and 5-1 wins over Newcastle and Bournemouth respectively momentarily steadied the ship.
The League Cup triumph over Liverpool on penalties brought some satisfaction. But maybe it was responsible for instilling a feeling of ‘job done’. That, coupled with the announcement that Pellegrini would be leaving at the end of the season, possibly resulted in laurels being rested on. The Chilean doesn’t exactly exude intensity either.
Somehow City won their Champions League group, finishing above the previous year’s finalists, Juventus, despite losing to the Italians twice. It set them up for a relatively easy run to the semi-finals, where they met a talented yet not overly impressive Real Madrid side.
This is likely what grates most. A game that was there for the taking was met with one of the most insipid displays seen in Europe this season. Aguero did not get a single touch inside the Real box in the second leg, while most damningly City only managed one shot on target in each game. It was a desperate effort in the biggest game in the club’s history thus far.
Consider how City squad were rated last August and how they can press like this and tell me again how Pep will have to “completely rebuild.”
— Maurice Brosnan (@m_brosnan) April 26, 2016
Identity is not the only quality lacking in the squad and the club as a whole, but it’s the one thing that can unite both organisation and fans. Even in the face of a lack of talent, some form of unifying essence can engender loyalty and pride. That is what everyone hopes Pep Guardiola will bring, but is it smart to pin so much on one man?
When you look at the former Bayern Munich manager’s history, you find some recurring traits in all of his teams: consistency, a clear and distinct style, a culture of winning. If he could instill just one of these at the Etihad Stadium, more would stick around until the very end.
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