Please don’t let the ticker tape and champagne and open air bus fool you. Don’t let the charming social media entries sway you. Please don’t stray from facts. Yes, we have new champions. No, they aren’t the best team ever. Yes, I hate them.
Congratulations to Manchester City. There, I said it. Now, just hang about for a second as I convulse in the corner of this darkened room.
City cruised to the title in historic fashion. It was a genuine rout start to finish. The destination of the pot was never in doubt. I predicted they would win the Premier League. I, and no one else, expected this type of domineering showing!
They were spectacular. Clinical. For the most part they toyed with opponents. Outscoring anybody who stepped on the pitch. But then they wobbled. And came apart when the business needed getting done. They got annihilated over two legs by Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinals. Absolutely mugged off by the Scousers. It wasn’t even particularly close. And this from a club two places behind City in the table. And let’s be honest, Pep Guardiola was hired to win in Europe in a competition people forget he hasn’t reached the final in since 2011 (that’s a long time for a gaffer who only manages perennial kingpins like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City). Then to top it all off, City collapsed and turned a 2-0 lead at home into a 3-2 loss to the gods of Manchester and Britain, wearing red, when a chance to seal the trophy against their arch rivals went begging. #yikes
And I was there giggling to myself at the telly. Why? Because every single person became outrageously brainwashed this season by these Cityzens. So why the hell not!
Yes, they were utterly brilliant to watch. This Manchester City side were magnificent all season. And nobody denies that. Their quality wasn’t diminished and their domestic season wasn’t tarnished by that tumultuous week where they lost three times in a row. But denying that happened or that it didn’t affect the legacy of this 2017-2018 team is to make an enormous mistake. The squad was bought to win everything. And there is little room for error.
But now, we cannot sit around and talk about how great this crop of players is and simply forget that they were assembled with a cheque book. It’s not bias. It’s not a critique. It’s a fact.
I am by no means grumbling. I am calmly remaining objective.
Manchester City, just like Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea and the countless Chinese and Russian clubs, were bought. And invested in. To win at the highest level. And they have (to a degree). This is not a judgment of the club. This is strictly the truth. To forget that, as many are doing now, is vigorously dumbfounding. I am not angry at that aspect of the game. It is the game we know now. My club, Manchester United, also spend massive amounts on players. Barcelona and Real Madrid as well. Almost all Premier League teams, now that the television revenue is pouring in at Hurricane Katrina type levels, can outspend most organizations around the globe. And it happens. Frequently. To pretend like that is not how the sport currently operates and has for years is truly naïve.
My gripe lays in the theory that City did not actually spend that much on this roster. Or even better, that they spent wisely so that excuses the gigantic fees. I mean, I can’t even type that with a straight face. Why don’t we break it down? Here we go! What follows are facts:
Goalkeeper: Ederson £35m
Defenders: Kyle Walker £50m, John Stones £47.5m, Nicolás Otamendi £32m, Aymeric Laporte £57.2m, Benjamin Mendy £52m, Danilo £26.5m
Midfielders: Kevin de Bruyne £54m, Fernandinho £34m, Bernardo Silva £43m, Leroy Sané £46.5m, Raheem Sterling £49m, Ilkay Gündogan £20m, David Silva £30m
Forwards: Gabriel Jesus £31m, Sergio Agüero £38m
That’s not part of the squad. There’s no youngsters getting their due and filling in. No youth team members breaking through (which is where City differ in one of the many ways from the traditionally successful and history filled clubs like United and Real and Barça). That’s the WHOLE team. Paid for. And some of those fees are genuinely back breakingly hilarious (Laporte, Mendy and Bernardo to name three). Manchester City have the most expensive back line in the history of football. And that is their WEAKNESS on the pitch! John Stones doesn’t even play. Danilo and Aymeric Laporte barely either. Bernardo only if there’s an injury. And Sergio Agüero doesn’t start when Gabriel Jesus is fit leaving City with one of the richest benches in history.
So, yeah, I do get it now. This City team and their triumph this season were historic.
And they will continue to spend. This summer will see City surely splashing more cash on reinforcements. MORE defenders to shore up the not-sure-how-at-that-price creaky back four. A replacement for Fernandinho and David Silva in the works. And I promise you they will seek out an attacker.
And they aren’t alone. Which is my point exactly. City are doing as the others do. But when they win why do we become forgetful of that? Because they play good football? Because their manager is a good guy? Come off it! Pep himself was bought and is one of the highest paid managers in sports at a whopping £16m a year.
Spending money is one thing. And I agree that spending wisely is a skill. It does take scouting. But it also takes a bottomless pit of oil money. Lauding City for spending well is borderline grotesque and definitively misleading. They spent £35m on a goalkeeper! I hope to god he’s useful. They spent £50m on an English right back! They spent FIFTY TWO MILLION POUNDS on a left back!!! For that price he better be the new Paolo Maldini! He isn’t. How is this talented buying?! Did I forget to tell you that they spent £57.2m on a defender who DOES NOT EVEN START! If City spent wisely then why do they struggle to keep clean sheets in crucial matches?? In 2018 alone, Liverpool have smashed NINE goals in against City (all wins for LFC), Bristol City have scored THREE over two legs, United scored the aforementioned three in a come from behind win, Basel scored twice and beat City in a second leg (albeit for naught in the end), and Watford, Burnley (twice over 2 matches of which one they drew), Newcastle United, Leicester City, Wigan Athletic (whilst defeating City in the FA Cup), Everton and Tottenham have also found the net. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been a stingy defence, but are vulnerable to a goal. And against the big boys, that will prove costly. And has. Ederson only has 14 clean sheets, which isn’t that impressive for a team that has only lost in the league twice this term (United’s David de Gea leads the league with 17 with far fewer wins for perspective).
And lastly that Bernardo fee: a role player who does not seem like a midfielder Pep would put year round faith in. That’s £43m of a footballer that will be replaced or at the very least bought cover for. It’s a joke. Flat out spraying cash out and seeing what sticks. Let’s just call it as it is.
Don’t hide from the truth. If you’re a City fan (I know and am close, unfortunately, with proper City fans who have endured the bottom and survived to tell the tale), embrace it. Enjoy the title. You bought it! Just relax and focus on new signings and trying to win the Champions League. You know who and what you are. You are now a bully of world football like a handful of others. And the target is on your shirt. Backing away and/or denying that or the fabric of this modern making of the club is dishonest and wholly pathetic. Money was spent. Players were bought. Trophies were won. That is just the facts.
To the champions. And all of that money.