As it stands, City are still fighting on all fronts. With the Carabao Cup secured and the FA Cup final with Watford waiting at the end of the season, the Blues are still on course for their unprecedented ‘quadruple’, a feat that every man and his dog seems to be talking about at the moment and one that hasn’t been achieved before in the English top flight.
The long, hard-fought season is now firmly in what is known as ‘The Business End’. Where titles are won and lost, dreams are made or crushed, players are made to be heroes or villains. The season couldn’t be any more finely balanced for Pep Guardiola’s band of merry superstars.
For me, I find this part excruciatingly painful. I find myself willing the next game on straight on the back of every 90 minutes, wanting to come to a conclusion and an end point as soon as possible. Whether it’s my natural pessimism, or my willingness and excitement for every game, time will only tell.
With the finishing line in sight, the final straight can, for some, feel like a drawn-out process. But the most important thing in my mind is to savour every kick and every tackle of this awe-inducing season. What City have done this season is stupendous (an adjective close to many a Blue heart), particularly having coming off the back of a record-breaking, double-winning season last year, plus seeing a plethora of its stars head off to Russia for the World Cup.
Given last season’s escapades and the summer without rest, for the players to go this deep into the season, still fighting for all trophies is a testament to their fight, determination, and willingness to go all the way. You could of perhaps forgave them if they slowly faded this season as it looked they might after the horrible winter period. Alas, the players are fit, fighting and in remarkable form, picking off teams with clinical efficiency.
However, as the media and social media will have you believe, City are going to have to win everything in order to be considered a great team. Apparently, City need to prove their worth even further because a 100-point, record-breaking, swash-buckling season filled with the most wins, goals and points isn’t good enough for most.
The nature of the way City have achieved success often means the club has to fight harder to change perceptions.
“Pep could only do it with money, why doesn’t he manage Macclesfield and prove he’s a good manager?”, “City haven’t faced anyone decent yet”, and my personal favourite which was spouted to my face by a disgruntled, sour Brighton fan last weekend on the steps to Wembley Park tube station, “DIRTY ARAB MONEY!”.
City’s resources are impressive and the investment in the club means we are able to compete for all these trophies, but that shouldn’t mean we have to do the impossible in order to prove our worth. No matter what happens this season, this has been an incredible one and we should all relish in the journey that’s got us to this point.
City could conceivably end this season with one trophy (not counting the Community Shield – sorry Pep!). Is that a failure? Is it success? Nobody can bloody tell anymore with the impact social media and the 24/7 news cycle has had on footballing reporting and the success of teams and managers.
If Pep fails to win the Premier League to an incredible Liverpool side by a point, nobody will praise the man, or the club, for the fight back from almost 10 points behind. The cries of “FRUADIOLA” and “Bald Fraud!!” will reverberate through social media from the always on-the-money intellectuals like @SalahSZN and @Elite_Pogba.
The way football has changed in modern times, success isn’t just simply being one of the best teams in Europe anymore, you have to prove your worth by winning it all. Realistically, City could end the season with both domestic cups and miss out on the Premier League and Champions League and to the masses, the season will be a failure. I’d love to fail like that every year with two trophies to my name. Does anyone remember the number of trophies Sacchi’s Milan won? Me neither. Does anyone remember how many Cruyff’s Ajax won? Me neither.
Success in football is now too often based off statistics. Stats are now the battering ram of social media warriors battering to knock down the towers of other teams. Bernardo Silva’s numbers this season aren’t indicative of being a world-class player, but many a City fan know he is a front-runner for the club’s player of the season. We’re all quick to demand success just because it’s now a way to brag and defend your club on social media.
The increasingly toxic nature of social media makes it a near-impossible platform to enjoy football and football content anymore. Anything other than a win causes mass panic and overreactions galore (myself included) with everyone now expecting the club to win every single game that it plays – such is the incredibly high expectations of this remarkable side.
The influence of social media can now skew mainstream media and the wider discourse around football. If the idiots of Twitter speak it enough, the inevitable talkSPORT bogeyman will appear, with rallying cries of “Empty Seats!” and “Plastics Fans!” ringing out of the mouths of useless ex-pros and presenters who live to trigger football fans for all eternity.
Whether we end up with all four trophies or just the one, we’ve been on a hell of a journey this season. We’ve had ups and downs, highs and lows, and even John Stones at DM. With an incredibly tough game at Palace on Sunday before a rescue mission against Spurs, City’s season could well be over by this time next week.
Whatever happens, enjoy the ride, enjoy the football and relish the pressure. It’s not very often our club will be in positions so let’s support the lads and see what can happen.
Either way, I’ll see you on the 18th May to either secure a treble or to salvage a season. Onwards.
You can follow the author on Twitter here: @DavidHartley21
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