Watching the team you support, a big team competing for titles and trophies, lose a game of great importance in a crucial moment is a teeny tiny bit like losing a loved one. Hear me out, I’m not being overly dramatic. Okay, maybe I am and maybe I’m about to roll out a very loose analogy, but stick with me.
In the aftermath of a loved one’s death, your emotions range from the logical to the emotional at the drop of a hat. One minute, you can be going about your day as normal, talking about the incident in a very cold, matter of fact way. It happens. Move on. Then within half an hour, you can find yourself struggling to hold back tears as you find yourself lost in the emotion of the situation.
So maybe there’s a slight difference in severity between the two. But a defeat in a big game can often involve the same range in emotion in the days that follow. One minute, you’re pragmatically talking about how Spurs weren’t that much more impressive than we were, that there’s another leg still to be played, that we’re probably the favourites to turn them over at our place. Then you see a couple of stats about Fabian Delph and you’re immediately flying off at the deep end. Why are City so garbage? We’ve properly bottled the quadruple now we’ve lost this first leg. We’ll probably lose the Premier League now as well. Watford will end up doing a Wigan in the FA Cup final too. Pep really is a bald fraud.
If you’re looking for some top quality analytical insight into a game of football in the heat of the moment following a defeat, then I have just the thing for you. It’s a little-known website called Twitter, where the greatest minds in the world share their thoughts on current events. You have to pass an IQ test to make it onto the sight to begin with, not just anybody can post there, so you know it’s going to be quality content!
Just kidding, Twitter is precisely the opposite. It’s a place where the emotional knee-jerkers (like me) prevail and the intellectuals scoff at the masses. Look at all of these plebs saying Pep got the tactics wrong, they don’t know about football!
Now, I fully understand people being irritated with the majority of Twitter after a defeat. The last thing many people want to do after a big defeat is surround themselves in a swell of negative opinion. I must admit that I, personally, am a huge sucker for catharsis. I look forward to the City fan podcasts after defeats, I enjoy hearing people verbalise the feelings of immense frustration and anger that I’m experiencing. I like watching people angrily put my own thoughts into 240 characters in a more articulate way than I’m able. It’s bloody great.
What irritates me beyond all measure, however, is fans who get holier-than-thou about the responses of other fans. I’m sure that I’m not alone in seeing numerous people on Twitter complain about the angry, irrational hot-takes to Tuesday night’s game. Don’t get me wrong, some hot-takes have been so spectacularly hot that I’ve had to fan myself to cool off just at the mere sight of them, but ultimately that’s what Twitter is for. I only ever use Twitter when I’m venting or spewing out a stream of consciousness that I’m pretty certain nobody actually cares about or reads. It’s just where people go to tell the world what they’re thinking and make accounts for “No Context <insert football club>”. The point is, if hot-takes and knee-jerk reactions aren’t your thing, then neither is Twitter.
Apparently, “proper fans” don’t criticise Pep’s team selection from the game.
“True fans” don’t wonder why Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sané’s introductions were saved until there was less than 5 minutes of normal time to be played.
“Real fans” don’t look at the fact that Spurs only need to score once at the Etihad next week and the tie is effectively over unless City score three.
No, the “legitimate fans” apparently ignore any negatives which may be thrown our way, they simply tweet “WE NEVER WIN AT HOME AND WE NEVER WIN AWAY #CTID” and scathingly criticise those who have something to say about what’s gone wrong or why. Did you know we were playing in The Championship less than twenty years ago?
Now, I want to preface this by saying that this isn’t to suggest that there’s no light at the end of the Champions League tunnel after Tuesday. We’re more than capable of beating Spurs by a two-goal margin. In the end, it’s not the most disastrous outcome possible, not in a two-legged affair. I want to make it very clear that I don’t rationally believe that this tie is over.
However, I do think that City were, to put it politely, piss-poor. That’s on the entire squad, including Pep. To start with, as Pep put it, “two holding midfielders” against a team that’s lost four of their last seven prior to this week, with a draw making up one of the remaining three, is pitiful. A team of City’s quality, a team which has given Spurs a comfortable beating in the last three meetings between the two, should not be coming up against Tottenham “we put the pressure on” Hotspur and being worried about keeping it tight.
Fabian Delph has proved, once again, that Duncan Castles might have been right all those times he pointed out that the Yorkshireman was being caught out at various moments last season and that he’s now actually regressed to the mean after riding the highest crest of the highest of waves that was City’s centurion season. If I have to start conceding the possibility that Duncan Castles might have been right about something, then I’m understandably going to be rather annoyed.
Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sané looked more dangerous in the comically little amount of time on the pitch they were given than Mahrez and David Silva had looked for the entire game. If Kevin De Bruyne was only fit to start one game between the Brighton semi-final and the Spurs quarter-final, why was the game against Brighton the priority?
Gabriel Jesus looked terrible off the bench and not for the first time this season. He was probably caught offside more times in the last 20 minutes of the game than the rest of the team was in the previous 70. He gave us nothing and it’s becoming a worrying trend.
Why am I not allowed to point these things out? Why does doing this make me a worse fan than anybody else? Some people just don’t enjoy the idea of any factor of their club being criticised. I ultimately want the team to succeed and support them; I go to the Etihad whenever the team plays there to do exactly that, but I can still acknowledge very obvious errors when they’re made and that, as a team which is competing at the highest level, these errors are far more costly than they are for other clubs.
For example, earlier this week I put out an article in which I criticised Benjamin Mendy for breaking club rules by going out night-clubbing until at least 3:30am the day before he had a recovery session for his recent injury. Immediately, I had a response telling me that I should get behind the team and that matters like this can wait until the end of the season. Why? What’s the logic behind not being able to call a misbehaving player a misbehaving player?
Is the reaction this week over the top? Yeah, probably. I’ll be the first to admit it – the reactions (this article included) are probably a bit much considering we’ve only lost one game against Spurs in a two-legged Champions League tie. This time next week we could have beat Crystal Palace while Liverpool dropped points to Chelsea, we could have beaten Spurs 3-0 at our place and we could be in Candy Land, snorting lines of sherbert off a jelly baby’s arse, by a chocolate lake beneath a gumdrop sky. If this turns out to be the case, I’ll have some strawberry sherbert please.
However, for those who find themselves annoyed by the reactions to defeats, you’re just going to have to learn to either live with it or avoid social media in the 48 hours following a result like Spurs. No matter how much you remember the days when City were plucky underdogs at Maine Road, pulling crowds of 30,000 in the bottom tier of English football, that’s not who we are anymore.
We’re a team who are potentially six weeks away from winning a quadruple. We’re in a title race which could potentially see us get 95 points and still come second. Those are the standards we’re held to, which means that fans are going to be annoyed when thoroughly frustrating results like Tuesday put one of our chances at silverware in jeopardy.
There is a very clear and obvious difference between saying something in the heat of the moment and legitimately believing those things in the cold light of day. Just sit in a stadium on match day and you’ll hear all sorts of crap.
Knee-jerk reactions are fine. If you can’t accept that then you’re probably going to hate watching football.
You can follow the author on Twitter here: @joebutters
You can follow us on Twitter for more Manchester City content: @City_Xtra