Man City’s Domination Never Seen Before
No one could have foreseen, in the summer of 2008, just what a disruptive influence Manchester City and Abu Dhabi would become on football in the ensuing years. Liverpool go to the Etihad tomorrow to face a side that won the Treble last season. Fifteen years ago, City fans thought a treble was the stiff drink they needed after watching another shambolic performance by their team.
Living through this period in real time meant that it was hard to grasp the enormity of the changes. When Pep Guardiola’s team were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Newcastle United in September, the first response of many people across the game was a sigh of relief. “Thank God they now can’t win all four trophies this season,” a high-level executive told me. City are a powerhouse the likes of which we have never seen before.
Nothing compares to what we are watching now. Not us in the 1970s and 80s, not Manchester United in the 1990s. This is a different phenomenon.
Financial Charges, and Tighter Regulations
Almost everything that is happening in the game is coloured by City’s sky blue shadow. Everton’s 10-point deduction? The Premier League’s financial rules were tightened up after Football Leaks revealed the full extent of what was going on at the Etihad.
Abu Dhabi’s lawyers drove a truck through Uefa’s regulations and that informed the PL’s approach. The reason that there will be no quick resolution to the 115 charges is that some of the best litigators in the world are on the case. City maintain their innocence and say they have “irrefutable proof” but the Premier League are being forensic in their quest to close every loophole.
Drunk Destruction or Evil Genius?
What is unquestionably true is that City are brilliantly run, in an evil genius sort of way. Their executive strata is on a different level to most clubs. Not only have they got the money, they’ve used it very – very well. Like them or loathe them, you have to say they have an exceptional operation. Spending is no guarantee of success if you splash the cash like a drunken sailor – just ask Everton and United.
In 2008, we had our own problems. Even if foresight was possible and we could have grasped the existential threat to competition that state ownership of football clubs presented, we were too busy with Gillett and Hicks. United fans were conducting their on-off battle with the Glazers (Motto: Green and gold until we win trophies). It took a while for everyone – other clubs, the football authorities, fans – to grasp what was going on. Eight years ago I had a conversation with someone connected with City. I suggested they could be the first team to win the title five years in a row. The answer astounded me. “We’re building for 10.”
Well, without Jurgen Klopp’s mighty reds, City would be on six and counting. No team has won four consecutive titles in the history of the English game. That could change next May.
In this environment, Liverpool go to the Etihad. No other team has challenged the Mancunian-Arab juggernaut. The rest of football should be cheering us on. United, Arsenal, Chelsea and the rest have khazied it. Without us, competition would be dead and buried by now.
FSG over Royal Rancid Regimes
So what’s at stake at the Etihad? Three points and the leadership of the Premier League, for sure. But this is a wider philosophical battle. Fenway Sports Group are not the most perfect owners but they sure beat a sportwashing royal dynasty using a football club as a political arm of a rancid regime.
Fifteen years ago, it would have been laughable to suggest that Liverpool would ever be the underdogs against City. Yet that’s what’s happened. In another 15 years Klopp’s achievements will resonate even more than they do now. To go toe-to-toe with City in the league on three occasions and emerge victorious on one of them is a breathtaking feat. Twice Guardiola’s men came out on top by a single point. History will ask: How was it even so close?
In the spring, there was a feeling at the Etihad that Liverpool’s challenge might have blown itself out. Arsenal were the next team off the rack. That notion has been proved wrong – at least so far. The battle for supremacy looks likely to again take place in the north west.
Even understanding all this, it’s too easy to backslide into a pre-2008 mindset. Back then, beating United and Everton provided the most satisfaction. These are deeply ingrained rivalries and, even now, memories of blow-up bananas, “feed the Goat” chants and excursions into the lower divisions pop up to obscure what the modern City have become. Don’t be fooled.
Rivals come and go. Only arl arses care about Nottingham Forest. Chelsea were like shit on your shoe: infuriating for a brief time but quickly forgotten after it’s been rinsed away. City are not like that. They are in for the long haul.
To be the best, Liverpool will have to face down the team from the Etihad. We are a decade and a half in but the long war has only just begun. Rise to the challenge, Reds. Rise to the challenge.
International Duty Frustrates and Inspires
Let’s hope Alexis Mac Allister doesn’t have jet lag – at least not like he had it at Wolves after the September international break. There are games when Wataru Endo would be a good option but the Japanese hasn’t shown enough to be risked in the cauldron that will be the midfield at the Etihad.
Still, the Argentina midfielder should still be pulsing with adrenaline after beating Brazil 1-0 in the Maracana. He needs to ride that feeling into Manchester.
No one likes the international hiatus but this one hasn’t been bad for Liverpool – for once. Darwin Nunez has been rampaging for Uruguay. Luis Diaz celebrated his dad’s release by banging them in for Colombia. Dominik Szoboszlai was necking shorts in the stands after guiding Hungary to Euro qualification. And no injuries. We could come to like breaks like these.