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Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 0: Some Thoughts

May 8, 2014

Last week I had a wonderful dream. Manchester City were cruising to a league title. They were ten points clear at the top, and another trophy was a matter of time. There were no slip ups, little pressure, no gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking games. It was a procession. Like most of my wonderful dreams, it will probably never happen.

Yes, here we are again. Tomorrow I will be sat at my desk shuffling some paper and suddenly the thought of the Sunday’s match will rush quickly through my head and my stomach will clench as if going over the crest of a rollercoaster. That’s what happened on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and today.

A small part of my brain saw this coming. After the loss to Liverpool, the logical part of my mind rued the missed opportunity and wondered if that defeat was a death knell for our title campaign. Somewhere at the back of that mind though a little voice kept whispering. It kept whispering that this defeat had probably made a title victory more likely, because if City were going to win the league then you could guarantee they would do it via the hardest possible route. Thus, when City went 3-1 up at Goodison Park on Saturday, it was inevitable that Everton would pull a goal back with time to spare and make for a nervy finish, as what’s the point of a comfortable win? Where’s the fun in that?

That narrative though didn’t include Liverpool surrendering a three goal lead at Crystal Palace on Monday. It has given City that little bit of breathing space.

Those nerves returned before last night’s match and they were there in abundance at half-time. City had dominated possession as expected in a game they couldn’t afford to lose and I dreaded that deadly breakaway goal that I have witnessed so many times down the years.

I was also panicking at the weather which I worried would be a “great leveller” and ruin our plans. I am capable of worrying about anything, basically.

The thing is though that the players do not think like the fans – there is a completely different mind-set at play. We sit there powerless, a bag of nerves, voyeurs watching events unfold over which we have no power. The players are paid big money to deal with situations like this and it has been the City way many times under Pellegrini to show patience and wear down the opposition – and that is precisely what happened.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in Aston Villa. I expect any team to try and disrupt City’s rhythm and get men behind the ball, but not quite to the extent that Villa did last night, considering that they are safe from relegation and the same applies to the timewasting throughout much of the match. As a fan, a voice inside your head screams constantly – “JUST STOP TRYING VILLA AND LET US WIN, FFS!!”

In the end though it was comfortable, thanks to Villa’s one chance not crossing the line, a possible Sliding Doors moment in the match. It could have led to a nervy last 10 minutes, but was instead followed by two further goals.

There’s little more to be said about Yaya Toure. As soon as he got the ball I expected a goal, which pretty much says it all.

And what a wonderful way to bring up the 100th league goal of the season. City’s goal difference is now the same as the number of goals Manchester United have scored all season (63).

The star of the night though was Pablo Zabaleta. A title triumph for him would be more fitting than for anyone else, especially considering he only started 18 matches the last time City won the league. As the song reminds us, he truly is the sexually-active man.

And with the flood of goals came an atmosphere to saviour. It brought back good memories. I can’t speak about anyone else, but I am simply incapable of creating an atmosphere whilst stressed. I think they call it multi-tasking.

City have hogged the headlines elsewhere this week of course, due to Financial Fair Play penalties. Nothing was going to distract from the football for me this week and if we win the league I don’t really care what they do. There is also little point me explaining what I think of the regulations as you will all already know what a farce they are and the real reason they have been implemented. What I will say though is that UEFA cannot say where the £50m fine money will go and the figure does not come off the club’s balance sheet next season so is little more than a back-hander, which tells you everything you need to know about these rules, and with reports coming out that PSG will receive a smaller fine than City despite making no effort to meet the regulations, despite posting much bigger losses and despite their ridiculous inflated sponsorship deals, it’s worth remembering that Michel Platini’s son works for PSG, which I am sure had no bearing on UEFA’s final decision, no siree. If City’s sponsorship deal for the stadium is deemed of unfair market value than City should really tell UEFA where to go, considering United signed a bigger deal just for training kits soon after.
Money is fine in UEFA’s/FIFA’s/Platini’s world of course, especially oil money, if it is used to bribe officials into hosting a World Cup in the middle of a desert and debt is fine too, though the Glazers got their grubby hands on United well before Platini came to power, but then as I said I am telling you nothing new.
The whole deterrent to City is pointless considering they won’t be making losses within a year or so, though I do see some good in making clubs self-sufficient, but these rules weren’t set up for the good of football but to maintain a status quo. UEFA has paid scant interest in dealing with the real issues in football such as racism, corruption, violence and so on, but with £100m+ in its back pocket for fines, at least we can sleep safe in the knowledge that its top brass can continue to tour the world, feasting on the finest food and the finest wines known to humanity in the shiniest of 5 star hotels.
As for the penalties, the fine and the Champions League squad size restrictions are not the end of the world. Our owner can pay the fine by reaching behind his gold-plated couch. The problem is a limit on wage bills as it could hamper the summer transfer plans.
City have to be cautious about taking UEFA on though. If they refuse the penalties then it goes to an independent panel. I don’t know what the penalties could then be, but City need to know what the worse case scenario is. What’s more, it’s never good to take on your sport’s governing body, as it marks your card somewhat. I would hope for a compromise late in the day, then we can all move on.
(though I have heard City expected no problems with UEFA this week, so you do wonder if the club have been stabbed in the back)

Anyway, I’m off to protest against FFP by climbing the Big Wheel. I’ll be down at 10pm, point made.

I’d discuss next year’s season ticket prices too, but I’ll only get even angrier. City will get £96m if they win the league on Sunday – pricing out loyal fans is not only a bad idea prior to a stadium expansion, but totally unnecessary.

And so onto Sunday. So close now, so close. City cannot try and play for a draw and there will no doubt be nervy moments ahead, but their only choice is to be positive and go for goals. Fingers and toes crossed for a wonderful day.

I hope no one was inconvenienced by the “large bodies of water” outside the South Stand after the match last night. I’m not sure the stadium announcer needs to warn Mancunians about such matters.


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  1. Anthony Catterson permalink

    Howie, share lots of the same sentiments, but have to disagree with ‘We sit there powerless, a bag of nerves, voyeurs watching events unfold over which we have no power’ – as when the atmosphere is rocking, it can, and does have an impact upon the players. Sometimes the opposite is true as well..

  2. Howard,

    I haven’t commented before, but I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed reading your blog this season. You and others like you help me feel as though I was actually at the game.


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