In a week where the title slipped out of Liverpool’s control and Ajax became the greatest team the world has ever seen, Joe Butterfield takes a look back at the major talking points.
Nick Harris knows more about City than you, so there
Manchester City won a game which took them top of the table over the weekend and, right on cue, this meant that there was a sudden new-found interest in Manchester City’s finances.
Of course, we all remember the initial outrage when the Der Spiegel revelations came out. Journalists and opposition fans read sensationalist headlines and one-sided, cartoonishly-written pieces from journalists in Germany who definitely don’t have a pre-determined narrative that they’re trying to spin and immediately decided that the only fitting punishment for Manchester City was for them to be put back at the bottom of the footballing pyramid, made to work their way back up using only profits from half-time pies and ticket sales. To be fair, the club only needs to sell about 20 half time pies to afford Kevin De Bruyne.
And, of course, what is a Manchester City FFP meltdown without the man whose Twitter handle embodies the term “irony”. I am talking, of course, about Nick Harris. I’m one of the few Manchester City fans yet to be blocked by him on Twitter and I’m unsure whether it’s a good or bad thing. On the one hand, I’m thoroughly entertained by the moral offence one man can take from the finances of a football club he has no affiliation with, yet on the other I’m infuriated by his inability to accept even the mildest of debate or questioning about the subject. Instead he opts to block everybody who offers a reasonable question, cherry-picking the aggressive and irrational and tarring City fans with this brush.
And now, the actual paperwork and correspondence the Spiegel stories are based upon. Remarkable. Man City could simply kill this story by saying these are fake. But they're not, so City can't.https://t.co/LYyh4Z2UOb
— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) March 2, 2019
I’m not going to go into the FFP issues themselves here (I may write something in the next week or two outside of A Week in the City covering that topic in more detail), however Nick isn’t the only one who’s been vocal about it. Jonathan Northcroft has taken aim at the club, though his issue seems to have been more that the club is refusing to deny anything (although for the club to comment on something which is so obviously legally sensitive beyond their initial statement back in November would be incredibly dumb) which means they therefore must be guilty of everything they’ve been accused of, which is apparently unfair to the fans. I’m flattered that you’re so offended on my behalf, Jonathan, but honestly, none of us are bothered.
Northcroft has at least engaged in debate on the topic, even doing so in a video on Man City Fan TV where he speaks to Colin Savage (@PrestwichBlue), a man who is far more clued up on FFP than any journalist I’m aware of.
Barry Glendenning, a regular on The Guardian Football Weekly podcast, had particularly scathing words, saying that City fans who don’t accept that their club are just out and out cheaters and that there are no questions to be asked of these revelations are “stupid, wilfully stupid or wilfully ignorant of what’s going on.”
I would hazard a guess that most of the City fans questioning Nick Harris know much more about the FFP situation and the Der Spiegel claims than Glendenning does and potentially more than Nick Harris does, who may have done some work in that part of the world but that doesn’t mean that he’s any more qualified to interpret the rules of Financial Fair Play than I am. This hasn’t hampered the mindset across the media that City fans who take issue with the idea that City are the undisputed Lord Voldemort of the footballing world are just tribalistic morons who are blinded by the glare from the many trophies they’ve won under the Abu Dhabi regime.
The glare is pretty bright, mind you. Those three Premier League trophies are awfully shiny.
Jürgen’s Klopp is a very bitter man
Ah, Jürgen Norbert Klopp. Yes, Norbert really is his middle name and, for the purpose of comedy, Norbert is how I shall refer to him hereon in.
Ah, Norbert. Der Gegenpresser. The normal one. Passion personified. With a flash of his teeth and a wink at the camera, he enamours the nation’s media. Journalists who work for media run by Tories swoon at Norbert’s socialist rhetoric. A true man of the people. He’d have never voted for Thatcher.
All is not as it seems. Behind his newly-whitened-toothed grin and jokey exterior lies a bitter manager who would be on the receiving end of much more criticism from the media were his name José Mourinho. Go back over any important game his Liverpool team have bottled (and there are many) and you will almost always find an excuse, usually a terrible one. From a pitch which is too dry to a pitch which is too snowy (even when the groundsmen have specifically removed the snow from the one half of the pitch Liverpool are attacking), from BT Sport to Premier League coaches, there’s little that Norbert can’t blame.
Klopp. A thread. pic.twitter.com/eW7zHcHl35
— the doctor (@ruiningfootball) January 31, 2019
It came as no surprise, then, that Liverpool’s 0-0 bore draw with Everton which saw Manchester City maintain their lead at the top of the table (only this time with no game in hand to save Norbert’s blushes) and will inevitably see the media narrative quickly switch from “the pressure is on Manchester City to keep on Liverpool’s heels” to “chasing will suit Liverpool better”, saw Norbert whip out the old faithful. His most trusty ally in times of hardship. I’m talking, of course, about the weather.
“I know people don’t like it when I say it, but the wind came from all directions.”
Here’s a hot tip, Norbert. If you know that everybody, your own fans included, is going to ridicule you for saying something then maybe you shouldn’t say that thing. This is at least the fourth time that the wind has been used as an excuse, with the first time going as far back as 2015 when he implied it was hampering the implementation of his philosophy.
This is the most confusing of his excuses because I’m at least 90% sure that wind exists in Germany and yet he managed to win the Bundesliga. Is English wind different to German wind? Does English wind go high and long erratically, whilst German wind applies pressure with precision?
I love how he considers it to be a valid excuse, as if Everton’s game isn’t largely based around Jordan Pickford being able to kick a ball very far, which I feel could be affected by the wind. Pickford’s kicking was terrible on Sunday by all accounts so it’s possible that Everton’s game plan was affected by this more than Liverpool’s.
“Who wants to be top of the table at the beginning of March? I watched Match of the Day last night and saw the celebrations of Man City, they had 900 chances and scored one goal – a shot with the wrong foot.”
Well, Norbert, one glance at this thread on a Liverpool forum will tell you that quite a lot of your own fans would quite like to be at the top of the table at the beginning of March. Quite rightly too, as in 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2011 and 2009 the team who has been top of the table after 29 games played has gone on to win the league. Just in case your maths isn’t great, Norbert, that means that 7 of the last 9 teams leading the league in March have gone on to win it.
Combine this with the idea that, with Manchester City in the lead, the pressure is now even more on a Liverpool team who have drawn 4 of their last 6 Premier League games (5 of 7 in all competitions) to make sure they win every single remaining game in order to be able to pounce on any slip-ups from their title rivals. You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe City are in the better position.
Let’s take a trip back to 3rd January, when Liverpool had a 7 point lead at the top of the table going into a game against City. A chance to effectively kill the title race and increase that lead to 10 points was left begging as they lost 2-1 and saw the gap drop to 4.
Let’s take a trip back to 30th January, when Liverpool’s lead remained at 4 points as City had suffered a shock defeat to Newcastle the day before and the chance to take the gap back up to 7 was ready for the taking. Instead they drew with Leicester and the gap only increased to 5 points, well within Manchester City’s reach.
Now here we are on 4th March and three more draws since that Leicester game have seen City now take a one point lead. One thing’s for sure, Norbert, your team’s no good at keeping a lead at the top of the table, so you’d better hope they’re better at chasing.
Stan Collymore is still a moron
It feels like we’ve not heard from Stan Collymore for quite some time. He comes in waves – emerging to talk about City only when he has something incredibly misinformed to say about them (that and he’s been on a sort of hiatus, using mental health as a shield against people repeatedly pointing out that he once beat up Ulrika Johnson). The opinions are partly informed by the fact that Pep Guardiola famously had no idea who he is, but mostly just informed by the fact that he’s an idiot.
My @MirrorFootball column on Virgil van Dyke. One way or the other he's going to win a lot of top level titles. Expect the Abu Dhabi, Madrid, Catalan or Parisian chequebooks to open.
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) March 4, 2019
Let’s ignore the fact that he’s spelt Dijk wrong. Now, as a former red, it’s no surprise to anybody that he believes Van Dijk is the greatest footballer to ever grace the planet. He’s been great this season, there’s no denying it. I wouldn’t even mind if he was given the Player of the Year award. What Stan goes on to suggest, however, is utter lunacy.
“I’d offer John Stones and Nicholas Otamendi and £150 million and I wouldn’t stop until Liverpool accepted my offer.”
Anybody who knows anything about Stan Collymore’s time at talkSPORT will know that this his basically his MO. He makes wild, irrational statements that get people talking, speaking only in superlatives and exaggerations to trigger people on all ends of the football fan spectrum. He’s like the starter evolution of the Pokemon that has now become Adrian Durham.
In this particular instance, it’s just a ridiculous way of Stan saying that Virgil Van Dijk is really good, only he’s gone too far and even Empire of the Kop are saying he’s being weird. And if scousers are telling you that your praise for one of their players is going too far then you’ve definitely gone too far.
Van Dijk is good. Great even. However, he’s kept up this form for approximately six months. Maybe a year if we’re counting the second half of last season too. Not exactly “let’s ditch the future of Manchester City’s, and England’s central defence and a £30 million player AND give Liverpool £150 million” material. It’s truly ridiculous stuff and symptomatic of the kind of hyperbole currently surrounding the Dutchman’s performances.
I don’t suspect there’s any chance he’ll ever come across this but if he does, judging by his most recent Twitter activity regarding a Football365 article written about his comments, he’ll probably cherry-pick my use of the words “lunacy” and “idiot” to claim that myself and City Xtra represent some kind of hatred towards mental health, because all criticism of Stan is now apparently voided by the fact he’s recently suffered with depression.
Stan, if you’re reading this, that is truly not my intent, nor do I think that your mental health is anything to be mocked. Nor do my personal views expressed here represent those of City Xtra as a whole. I just think your footballing opinions are about as reasonable as your decision to punch Ulrika.
You can follow Joe on Twitter: @joebutters
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