Good grief. I mean, seriously, wow. The over reaction to Manchester City’s performance at The Emirates is unbelievable. A football team went to another stadium and played for a point and that’s it. You’d think they’d started a nuclear war, or been involved in an international drug smuggling scam, or put a cat in a bin, or something. Maybe that’s a slight over reaction, too, but, heigh ho, what’s good for the goose and all that.
I find it very amusing, more than anything, when the accusation of ‘anti-football’ is branded about. I have slated our own supporters for this when moaning about teams parking the bus. It’s a term of snobbery of the highest order and only cracked out of the cliché cupboard when a side has been dominant and failed to win. City fans did it when Birmingham came to Eastlands.
And now Arsenal fans are doing it when City went to The Emirates. You know, like it’s City’s fault Arsenal didn’t (couldn’t) score. It wasn’t Birmingham’s job to let City score, just as it wasn’t City’s job to let Arsenal score. If you have 68% of the possession, but only manage five shots on target, you only have yourselves to blame.
Defending is just as much a part of football as attacking is. City did the former very well and the latter took a back seat. It’s almost as if playing for a draw at one of the best clubs in the league is a crime. In fact, I was rather forcefully told by an Arsenal fan after the game that “even f*cking Blackpool came here and attacked” and, in fairness, he’s right, they did. And look what it got them: -6 in the Goal Difference column.
Does Arsenal’s FA Cup victory over Manchester United in 2005 mean less because they defended for 120 minutes and then won on penalties? Of course it doesn’t.
It seems though, of the comments (mainly on Twitter) from Arsenal fans I’ve seen about City’s choice of style for Wednesday’s fixture, most, if not all, have missed the point entirely. It’s all well and good saying things like “if that’s what £200m buys you, they you are welcome to non-football” or “Man City are the most boring side in the Premiership!” or “spending £300m+ and only getting a point, if I was a City fan I would be furious” or “I’m disgusted I paid £72.50 to watch Man Sh*tty park the bus”.
One fan went as far to say City played 12-0-0 because of the goalposts. I assume he forgot that the size of the goal doesn’t change each week and that putting the ball in-between the posts instead of onto them is a job for the attacking team?
The point is, though, (aside from the fact that the later the evening went on, the total City had spent on the team rose, it seemed, until it peaked at about £1bn – seriously), City don’t park the bus in front of their goal every week. In fact, it’s happened twice this season: Wednesday evening and in the first half at White Hart Lane. City may have the best defensive record in the league so far this season, but they have also scored more than, for example, Tottenham and, somehow, it’s Tottenham who are being portrayed as the free-scoring saints and City as the smash-and-grab merchants.
All good teams are built from the back; it’s the first thing a good manager gets right. Roberto Mancini seems to be getting it very right indeed and that the attack (with one or two exceptions) is coming along nicely too is the added bonus.
City, like Arsenal, have put on some fine attacking displays this season. And they will put on some more as the season goes by. So they had to defend like beavers in order to secure a point at The Emirates. Off the back of four games in ten days, ten out of twelve points is a good haul, especially as the final game was the toughest of the fixtures. Total football was never going to be on the agenda; City have saved and will continue to save that for the teams it will be most successful against.
I also re-iterate the point that it’s not solely City’s fault that Arsenal didn’t score. Paying £72.50 for a ticket to a football match is obscene, but that’s not because your team didn’t break my team down. It’s because £72.50 to watch any game of football is obscene. And if you’re disgusted with anyone, it should be your own team for not putting one of their chances in the net. And for setting the price that high.
It’s not the away team’s job to entertain the home fans.
Hearing Arsenal fans complain about City’s style last Wednesday does feel somewhat hypocritical. It would be pertinent to consider their own club’s history of grinding out 1-0 victories by shutting the shop, pulling the shutters down and setting the alarm when having taken the lead before criticising.
I have been impressed with City’s defensive record this season. I’m not used to it; we’re more than halfway through the season and I’m yet to fully appreciate that, if City are under pressure with ten minutes to go, the chances are they won’t concede. For a City team to be playing keep-ball for the last five minutes while leading by one goal is unnerving. I’m far too used to panic stations, hoof it anywhere and defending deeper than a military submarine on manoeuvres.
If truth be told, I’m neither disgusted nor disappointed that City drew 0-0 at The Emirates. I would have taken it, if offered, at the start of the day. The manner of the draw doesn’t matter: it’s a dangerous game to play, because it could have been a disaster if Arsenal had scored. But they didn’t (couldn’t), so it wasn’t.
In fact, I was more disappointed with the result of the reverse fixture. City played some good football that day and were very harshly done to by a team that had a man more for 87 minutes. I didn’t blame Arsenal for getting Boyata sent off in that game because he got himself sent off. I didn’t blame Arsenal for taking advantage because I’d expect City to do the same. But I doubt it would have been such a clear cut victory had Boyata stayed on: it wasn’t exactly easy for them even with the man advantage and City could have scored on several occasions before the second goal went in.
At no point this season have City claimed to be title contenders, in fact, quite the opposite. When asked, both management and players alike have played down City’s title ambitions. It’s the fans and the media that have played it up. Sure enough, come mid-April if they are still where they are now, then they are very much in the mix, but right now they still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. Spending hundreds of millions assembling a team isn’t like playing Football Manager. Players won’t settle, high numbers of players in and out makes it difficult to gel a team, managers don’t know their best combinations… But, most importantly, throwing money at a club won’t win you the Premier League title. There’s much more to it.
Arsenal have been there and done it. City haven’t.
Least, not for a long time, at any rate.
Just because X number of millions have been spent on a team doesn’t mean that they will suddenly go out and dominate. It’s taken a long time for some City fans to learn this lesson (and some still haven’t, judging by the people that sit near me – I’m looking at you Angry Lady). City are a work in progress. A work in progress that won a well-earned and hard fought point away from home on Wednesday evening.
It’s very easy to say that City won’t be title contenders because no title contender would park the bus at an away game. However, it is also worth considering that an entirely different title contender would break down a stubborn defence when playing at home.
Don’t blame the opposition when you don’t score.