Manchester City are a disgrace to English football. They stifle the passage to the first team of young English players by going around the world and paying top dollar for many world class players. They ruin the careers of many of the aforementioned players by either misusing them or just not using them at all. There is a lack of continuation at the club, no long standing servants of the club in the mould of Giggs, Lampard or Gerrard who can be used as a symbol of the club; an anthropomorphic visualisation of club traditions. There isn’t a long term plan from one manager which we can see progress and eventually come into fruition. There is no club philosophy. Yet, they should be admired.
All of the above are true and that is why the Citizens deserve even more credit for their success under Pellegrini. As a football club, they are very easy to dislike. As a football team, they are very easy to admire, even if as a red I have to say that through gritted teeth. They have gone out on endless shopping sprees and spent millions but they are now playing a brand of football to match the price tag.
They no longer look to snatch 1-0 victories through a combination of stubborn defence and blistering counter-attacks. No longer do they play as the underdogs. When the Manchester City players strut out on to the field they have an air of superiority about them. An aura that simply suggests they won’t lose; they believe they are better than the rest. What then entails is more often than not a slaughtering rather than a football match.
They dominate games, relentlessly pushing for more goals. Exploring several avenues of attack, they never give their opponents a break. They have the sheer power of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho through the middle who simply outmuscle the mere mortals in the middle of the park. David Silva and Samir Nasri provide the beautiful, intricate interplay bamboozling opposing defenders. Jesus Navas contributes blistering pace out wide and coupling that with pin point accurate delivery makes a lethal combination. What is there to say about Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negeredo? As a strike partnership, they are phenomenal. There isn’t a set role for each, they simply understand each other and therefore adapt and adjust throughout the game. They are a nightmare for defenders, and that is without the ball at their feet. Negredo, as his nickname ‘The Beast’ suggests, possesses terrific power but is nonetheless not a clumsy footballer. Aguero also has the upper body strength but his frightful acceleration is his most valuable asset. When on form, the two of them are unplayable. The fact that both are deadly finishers just means scorelines usually reflect their superiority. There aren’t many undeserved 5-0 victories.
This is the crux of the matter; the way in which Manchester City play football need not just be appreciated, but applauded. They take the game back to its roots and simply try and outscore the opposition. They play with a verve and freedom far too rarely seen on these shores, save for certain Arsenal and Manchester United teams under Wenger and Ferguson. Granted they haven’t won anything yet but if they do, and they should, then they would have won in style. Should they lose, it won’t be for the want of trying. They will keep playing football, glorious, playground football.
The Manchester United treble winners of 1999 have been paid many a compliment, but the phrase that has stuck with me speaks of the team going and “storming the citadels of Europe; Turin, Barcelona and Munich”. Manchester City create a similar image in my mind. I’m not saying they are going to win the Champions League but there is not just a hope, but also an expectation that they will carry on their free-scoring against Barcelona whilst they have already won at the Allianz Arena. There are not many teams throughout Europe who will fancy their chances against a fully firing Manchester City team. They are the real deal.
However much you disagree with their transfer strategy, their treatment of managers or their slightly dubious accounts you simply have to admire Manchester City as a football team. They have spent millions but what they have created is not just a winning machine, but an entertaining winning machine. People say you get what you pay for but in the case of Manchester City this may turn to be incorrect; they may have got more than they bargained for. Should they carry on this rich vein on form and win any number of trophies they won’t just have earned success, but immortality alongside Manchester United’s treble winners and Arsenal’s invincible.
It is one thing to win, but to win in a comprehensive and fearless style is the sign of a truly great team.