Either I’ve slipped into a parallel universe or I need to change my ‘meds’, but are Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City actually being praised by all and sundry at the moment?
Am I hallucinating or are City winning acclaim following a week of played three, won three, 15 goals scored, none conceded… and all achieved while serving up lashings of some of the most sumptuous football of recent times?
With the usually hostile media and pundits struggling to find any justification – or malicious falsehoods – to metaphorically insert sharp objects into Sky Blue 'flesh', City fans should take a step back and reflect on their club's good fortune and wealth of riches.
Each and every Blue knows the cliché, ‘titles aren’t won in September’, they’ve been here before. Last year after 10 games played and 10 games won, there was an outbreak of ‘Guardiola Giddiness’ as it appeared Pep would just waltz away with silverware. Sadly it wasn’t to be.
Similarly, it proved to be rank naivety when some daft commentators proclaimed Manuel Pellegrini’s City would, following five victories from five opening Premier League fixtures, have the title won by Christmas 2015. Not only was it idiocy, it was also mathematically impossible.
But here we are in 2017, with the hype and conjecture happening all over again, only this time based on inferior winning statistics.
Guardiola has served up five wins and a draw since the big kick off on August 12th but, perversely, there’s definitely more purpose, poise, style and substance to City this season.
The purists and the neutrals have been purring over the fashion in which Liverpool, Feyenoord and Watford have been dispatched, whereas those less well disposed to City STILL keep banging on about ‘Arab money’ and a record transfer spend.
City’s summer outlay of £210.1 this summer on Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva, Ederson Moraes, Danilo and Douglas Luiz is the largest by any club in any single transfer window…or so we’re told.
That criteria is somewhat ambiguous given that Paris Saint Germain splashed £200m on Neymar from Barcelona, with another £14.4m going on Real Sociedad’s Spanish left back Yuri Berchiche.
Either way, who cares?
The fact is City are undoubtedly one of the richest football clubs on the planet, thanks initially to Sheikh Mansour’s generous investment but, more latterly, on account of a sophisticated global business strategy, both on and off the field.
Commentators, opposing managers and pea-brained pundits bang on incessantly about City's money – often exaggerating the sums involved – but not once this summer have any of them seen fit to mention the £100m City recouped on incoming transfer deals, or the overall downsizing of the expenditure on player wages.
The traditional default position of City fans is one of anger when the talk is just about ‘money, money, money’, aligned to the baseless nonsense of City being a club with ‘no history’.
This agitated state needs to change with immediate effect.
The new ‘go to’ stance should be one of relaxing, smiling and reveling in every damn Dirham, Dollar, Pound and Penny!
City fans can delight in sights that other supporters dare only dream their club could emulate, as Aguero, Jesus, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane, Sterling, Bernardo, Mendy, Gundogan, Walker, Stones, Danilo, Ederson et al, go about their work.
It’s easy to understand the hatred and jealousy of others who despise the fact that Sheikh Mansour chose City and not them.
Those at the Etihad see it for the blatant hypocrisy it represents, knowing full well any club would’ve done exactly the same as City had they been given the chance.
The naked negativity and barely disguised anti-City bias, usually stems from those associated with the traditional ‘big clubs’ – those who nowadays fear the potent threat posed by City.
That said, Tony Pulis, the manager of WBA, City’s League Cup opponents tonight, is never one to miss a chance to mention City’s money.
Not that he’s bitter, or has his own agenda having seen City rain on his parade days at Wembley in his days at Gillingham and Stoke City – perish the thought.
Yes, you’ll always have the morons who chuck out jibes about the ‘Emptihad’, think themselves hilarious when labelling Pep as ‘Fraudiola’, but just ask yourselves, who’s going to be laughing last and laughing loudest in the years to come?
Never mind the History Channel subscribers with their tired ’20 x’ and ‘5x’ mantras, City are doing the doings in the present and will continue in the future.
Whilst welcome, the praise for City’s all-action attacking play needs to be contextualized. The more the critics build City up, the further City have to fall if, as many will be hoping, things go pear-shaped.
It’s hypothetical but compare and contrast the approach to Pep with that of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
Can you imagine if the roles were reversed and City had lost 5-0 to Liverpool, drawn at home to an unfancied Champions League opponent, drawn 1-1 at home to Burnley - despite having 35 shots at goal - and then dominated possession at Leicester, only to be knocked out of the League Cup 2-0?
The feeding frenzy calling for Pep's head would be all consuming, and yet good old Klipperty Klopp with is his big gormless smile, backed up by an empathetic Merseyside Media Mafia, gets off nigh on unscathed.
The comparison isn’t a personal attack on Klopp, simply a means of highlighting the disparity of the coverage that would inevitably come City’s way in similar circumstances.
As things stand Pep isn’t planning on opening up that editorial avenue anytime soon, even with the prospect of a much changed line up at the Hawthorns tonight.
The summer upgrade in the goalkeeping and full back slots, plus Bernardo’s addition to the attacking flair department, has given Guardiola greater continuity and stability in his team selections.
But the League Cup is the obvious competition to consider playing time for the likes of Phil Foden, Tosin Adarabioyo, Brahim Diaz, Claudio Bravo, Fabian Delph, Yaya Toure and Eliaquim Mangala, and yet still retain a more than realistic chance of progression.
Pep won’t be in any rush to see the media knives come out again and the best way to do that is blunt the Baggies tonight and shatter Roy Hodgson’s fragile Palace on Saturday.
By David Walker