City don’t make life easy for themselves. Not in Europe, not in the league, not even in pre-season friendlies!
City’s team spirit should never really be in question at this point. But it always is. It’s always about whether they lack the leadership of Vincent Kompany when he’s not there, whether they have a cutting edge without Sergio Aguero when he’s not there, whether Yaya Toure is more lazy heap than midfield general.
They’re fair questions sometimes. Any team would miss Kompany’s leadership or his defensive skills. Any team would miss Sergio Aguero’s goal threat. Sometimes Yaya is a lazy so and so.
But City seem to have this remarkable ability to turn it on when it matters.
Losing to Liverpool and Juventus was tough to take. They simply didn’t show up against a Liverpool side who did show up – and who showed up very quickly indeed every time a City player got the ball! Against Juventus it almost seemed as if they were resigned to second spot and Barcelona in the last 16 again.
[ffc-gal cat=”manchester-city” no=”5″]
Even against Moenchengladbach at home this week everything seemed lost almost before going into the game. City could have won the game 10-0 and still finished second in the group.
Yet when news filtered through in the second half that Sevilla had scored, City seemed to realise their job. They seemed to remember that they are a team with a special ability to pull together and turn things around late on in games.
After the match, when Raheem Sterling talked to the press at the post-match interview, he told the reporter that the team showed character.
Initially I thought he’d spent too much time with Brendan Rodgers, and that it was lucky that he got out when he did. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the perfect word to use in this particular context.
It was a characterful performance to be outplayed in the first half and come out and play so well in the second half, especially since Gladbach were hell bent on getting that Europa League spot and Juventus weren’t losing in Seville. In the end, they did more than enough.
Going forward that’s a very important thing for Manchester City. If the rumours are to be believed, City will grab their chance to appoint Pep Guardiola this summer, at the expense of Manuel Pellegrini. It would be one of those ‘Sorry Manuel, you’ve done nothing wrong… but Pep!’ moments.
When you’re with another partner and you have the chance to be with the love of your life, then you have to try to take the chance.
But whether Pep takes over or not, City’s ability to turn darkness into light will be hugely important in the years to come.
And that’s why character is such a good word to use here. It’s a character trait that puts City into these positions. It’s a character trait that means City blow it so often, but it’s become a character trait that means City find a way to claw it back too. Even last season, City won their final six games, they conceded the title and almost even conceded a top four spot.
They even equalled their club record of consecutive wins during that run which encompassed part of this season too. The record had stood from 1913 when City were certain to be relegated only to win eight and draw one of their last nine games, winning some more games the next season to set the record.
That survival instinct kicked in back then, and it kicked in last season too. Typical City has been around a long time, and it’s not always a bad thing.
It kicked in against Gladbach, too. And now City may have an easier last 16 draw than they might otherwise have faced – unless, of course, typical City draw PSG. Peak typical City.
Pundits may question City, and that won’t change with a change of manager. So despite the fundamental failing of Pellegrini’s side so far – that is, their lack of comfort on the ball when being pressed – City are still finding a way to claw it back.
It’s ominous for everyone. Because no matter how much we question their performances without Kompany, without Aguero, or without Toure, they are still capable of the typical City comeback. But if you’re so good at that, then why bother making life easy for yourself?