This hasn’t been the greatest week for Manchester City. An underwhelming Premier League loss to West Ham under the shadow of what looks like yet more failure in Europe has made me a sad panda. City are so, so close to breaking into that crust of truly elite teams at the top of the football pie and need to prove it consistently at times like this. On and off the field the club need to step it up a gear.
The upcoming cup tie with Newcastle and the Manchester Derby this weekend are both must win games. In a world where the tabloids and the insane hordes of twitter feel obliged to roll crisis into crisis, vital turning points are declared so often as to become meaningless, but this is a definite turning point in City’s season.
Awarding the title to Chelsea at this stage is extremely premature, but there is a real danger of City losing all momentum and continuing to fall away. The players need to shake off the mental and physical lethargy which has been on display recently and put the next two games to bed. The team is staffed with world class players who need to start stepping up. The loss to West Ham featured misplaced passes and lost one on one battles which cannot continue. They need to break out of this malaise.
On the touchline, Manuel Pellegrini also needs to improve. The Premier League and League Cup winning manager is obviously a very talented man who is, in many ways, exactly what City need at this moment in time. However his flaws have become a common topic of conversation among the City fan base and he must address these areas of weakness.
For someone who is a qualified engineer, a man of science and data, he seems strangely reticent to compromise his most dearly held illusions in the face of reality. There’s no need to rehash all of these familiar talking points again, but if the players are unwilling or unable to take the initiative and put weaker teams away on the pitch or the stubborn adherence to 4-4-2 attacking football is not working then it becomes the manager’s responsibility to affect positive change from the sidelines. Pellegrini is capable of this but needs to show it regularly.
Off the pitch City need to make their voices heard a bit more forcefully. In an interview with Rob Pollard for the Blue Moon Podcast, Mark Ogden described how City are not box office for the newspapers in the way that others, such as Manchester United and Liverpool are.
Ogden goes on to state that the club are unusually closed when it comes to raising the profiles of its top players and strategists, not letting people such as Aguero, Silva or Soriano in front of the cameras as often as the press would like. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The dramas of the Tevez/Mancini/Balotelli times have been eliminated and the club looks much more #holistic and #together as a result.
In peace time when all is well this more reserved look conveys quiet dignity and respect, like and ex-Prime Minister or a Scorsese mafia boss. The way City’s owners do business, and indeed go about their lives, is a million miles away from the self interested businessmen and the human rights abuser who have previously run the place. It’s a relief, to be honest, to be governed by grown ups for once.
On the other hand, when things are going badly this inward looking attitude can be counterproductive. Instead of having player interviews or behind the scenes looks at, for instance, the new ‘best in the world’ training complex we have City fans on twitter, forums and blogs mulling over a tangible sense of disappointment. Instead of combating the sense of inertia we have a wall of omerta as the respectful silence is held onto like a 4-4-2 against an overloaded midfield.
It is not secret that City are not beloved anymore by the common fan or the media – note, there is not a conspiracy – and a lack of communication does not help this. Pandering to a fickle media is a path to destruction, but giving them nothing does not help either. There is a line to be walked. The club’s official website does an admirable job but no one who is not already invested in City reads that.
Manchester City Football Club don’t have the right to win anything no matter how much money is in the bank. On and off the pitch the club needs to be proactive and earn the victories and recognition of which it is capable.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter