Football Media Watch: Fans jeering – was Pep wrong to complain?

MANCHESTER CITY proved they can turn it on when they need to, even if they have to go in at half-time two goals down to a team like Tottenham to get going. City were jeered off at half-time by the fans, which didn’t go down well with coach Pep Guardiola, who implied the home support might be becoming a little complacent. He was not impressed.

The Daily Mirror’s Andy Dunn, wasn’t singing from the same songsheet as Guardiola. “You are reading this correctly, they jeered Pep Guardiola. Home fans, that is. Home fans booed the genius. Our at least, booed Pep’s team, which us just as unforgivable.”

Guardiola said the fans were silent for 45 minutes, but they booed because they were losing, not because City were playing bad. He then went on to say that his team lacked guts, passion and a desire to win from minute one. “We’ve lost our fire,” he fumed, but they found it after half-time.

Guardiola should be familiar with the concept of supporters expressing their dissatisfaction; he is from Spain where they wave white hankerchiefs and let the teams know if they are not being entertained. If City’s players are complacent and the fans too used to winning, then what about Guardiola? His record over the past decade suggests he too is unused to failure and, by the way, he also does his share of moaning.

Fans are entitled to show displeasure, as long as it is civil and harmless. They pay a lot of money to watch their team so why not let the team know they feel they are being short-changed? Loyal support is one thing, but blind loyalty is foolhardy – the margins in the game are so narrow that it is precarious to put all your emotional chips on winning every game. Even Manchester City cannot win every game, and neither should they. The problem is, football is often a case of “you’re either with us, or against us”, the sort of devotion that has long since become unfashionable elsewhere. People should be encouraged to question the status quo, even if that has bought the club countless pieces of silverware. What other area of commercial life is complaining met with such indifference and occasional outrage? Have you ever noticed that when the fans behind a goal start to get angry, more hi-vis jackets suddenly appear?

Guardiola also has to appreciate that Manchester City’s modern day status means they have far more supporters than in the past and therefore many do not have the club ingrained in their DNA. Even when City won the league title in 1968, they averaged 37,000 at old Maine Road. Now they get 53,000 and there will be many “new” followers to accompany the legacy fans. In other words, there will be many fans who simply don’t know what it is like to support a mediocre, under-performing side. Every successful club will have fans who feel entitled.

Guardiola told Spanish newspaper AS: “When you have won a lot, you complain more, but in reality, you have to work. I want a reaction from everyone, our fans have to push us, ask us for more.” And yet, barracking and pleas like “Come on, City,” are meant to be motivational. What do they want, banners urging the players to “just do your best”?

Sources: Independent, Marca, AS, Guardian, Manchester Evening News, Daily Mirror.

Premier showdown: High quality but still guessing

SO IT is official, Manchester City and Liverpool are streets ahead of the other 18 teams in the Premier League: intense, skilful, well organised and determined. There’s little between them in what was a classic “game of two halves”. This is just the start of a period that could see the two rivals play each other twice more, starting with the FA Cup semi-final on April 16 at Wembley.

A draw was more suited to City as they are still a point ahead of Liverpool. A defeat would have swung the pendulum towards the Mersey, but a victory would have given City a four-point lead that would have been difficult to retrieve. For the time being, the battle goes on, with each team anxiously watching the other for signs of a slip. At this precise moment, City and Liverpool are operating at full throttle and it is difficult to see who might beat them. However, title races do not always go with the form guide and there will be a setback somewhere, but for whom?

So often, big games disappoint, but both teams were set on gaining an advantage by attacking, rather than opting for a preservative approach. First blood went to City, a deflected shot by Kevin De Bruyne after just five minutes, which suggested that Pep Guardiola was looking to kill Liverpool off early. This was a test for the visitors but they responded well and Diogo Jota slid the ball home after a superb assist by Trent Alexander-Arnold after 14 minutes.

City regained the lead in the 37th minute, Gabriel Jesus, who has become something of a forgotten man at the Etihad, arrived at the far post to finish off a João Cancelo cross. City dominated the first half, but failed to press home their superiority. They were made to pay for it less than a minute into the second period, Sadio Mané marking his 30th birthday with the equaliser. The quality rarely dropped for the remainder of the game.

The result underlined there is little between these two teams, as evidenced by two richly entertaining 2-2 draws this season. They’ve now got seven games remaining, both of them due to face Newcastle, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Of the other four fixtures, Manchester City arguably have an easier time. City are at home to Brighton and Watford and away to Leeds and West Ham. Liverpool have home games against Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham and are away to Southampton.

Both could go all the way in the Champions League, Liverpool have a 3-1 advantage over Benfica from the first leg of the quarter-final, while City holding a narrow 1-0 lead over Atlético Madrid when they travel to the Wanda Metropolitano for the second leg.

Who came out of this riveting contest feeling they had got what they were looking for? Pep Guardiola felt his side missed an opportunity, while Jürgen Klopp, refusing to sound disappointed, gave some hint of the way he felt in believing it was a result Liverpool had to live with.

City should have won as they had more possession (55%-45%) and more shots on goal (11-6). They also had the best player on the pitch in De Bruyne, although Jota was very productive, although his striking partner, Mo Salah, was not at his best for most of the game.

Advantage City? Not really, but they are still in command and Liverpool have to depend on somebody upsetting Guardiola’s men if they are to win their second Premier title. Both will surely end the campaign with more silverware (Liverpool have already had a glimpse), but who wins what is still a mystery. We are no nearer discovering the truth.