Wednesday, 23 November 2011

We Have To Drop The Knee Jerk Reactions...

It is worth remembering that when the draw was made for our Champions League group Napoli were seeded 4th, the powers that be at UEFA had deemed they were one of the weakest 8 teams in the competition.  Villareal who currently sit bottom in the group with 0 points were seeded 2nd, this was never going to be an ordinary group, and although the term 'group of death' is sometimes thrown about unnecessarily, it was definitely appropriate in our case.

We currently sit on 7 points with one game to play with Napoli one point ahead in 2nd.  The simple facts are this, if we beat Bayern Munich in their final game, and they fail to beat Villareal in Spain we will qualify, that however seems to be somewhat of a pipe dream.  The way Napoli attack, and considering the lifeless fight the Spanish team put up against us, it is more or less impossible to imagine anything other than a victory for the Italian team meaning whatever we manage against Bayern is inconsequential.  

Victory over Munich would leave us on 10 points, and should Napoli get the win they need we would finish in 3rd and become the first team in the history of the competition to fail to escape the group stage with that points hall.  When we began this process Roberto Mancini himself stated that 10 points was our aim and that it would be enough to see us progress.  That underlines that our European campaign has been in no way a disaster, we can stand back and say that to only take a point at home to Napoli was disappointing, and that our performance in Munich was poor, but should we get victory in our final game I think we can be fairly satisfied with our work overall.

There were a few things wrong last night, I don't think Mancini got it right in the full back region again and he also left his substitutions until too late in the day but ultimately we were beaten by a team who played better than we did, the Italians were superb.

We have not been as dreadful in the Champions League as the reaction from some fans would have you believe, and in fact my biggest frustration last night and this morning was because of the negativity from the clubs supporters as opposed to the actual result.  I would never criticise City fans, they have been loyal through thick and thin, but the knee jerk reactions from some last night was not good to see.  I wrote at the start of the season about the importance of keeping our feet on the ground, but that is hard to do when you are enjoying the high quality of football we have been playing this season, but it remains extremely important.

We do not have a divine right to win every game, we used to criticise Manchester United fans for possessing that attitude and now we are demonstrating it ourselves.  In the last 10 years we have come a long way, the changes have been exciting and thrilling, and this is just the start, but let's not forget where we are coming from.  So we are probably out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, is it such a big deal? Of course it isn't.

If you just take our league form into account, the expectation level amongst some supporters is too high, I have seen comments such as "Oh well, out of the Champions League, but now we will go and batter Liverpool", now, we might beat Liverpool comfortably, but I highly doubt it, and I would take a point.  Some may call it negativity, I choose to call it realism.  We have been superb this term, but there is going to be bumps in the road, there will be a rocky spell, there is a chance we won't win the league, after-all it is only November, will I mind if we finish 2nd? Maybe for a short time, but it won't last, we will have finished as runners up in the Premier League, if you were offered that at the start of the season you would have taken it happily!

Some City fans expect us to win the league now, they say the only acceptable end to the season after crashing out of the Champions League is to win the domestic title.  I cannot understand that mindset, I admire the confidence and positivity, but I also worry that our explosive start to the season has created waves of false confidence to spread amongst our supporters.  If we lose to Liverpool on Sunday, will people be saying we've blown it and that we are having a poor season, will the few numpties calling for Mancini to go pipe up again?  I hope not, but I suspect there will be a whole new wave of knee jerk over the top reactions.

To use the old adage, Rome wasn't built in a day, we are making great progress, and playing some fantastic football, would finishing second and not winning a trophy be the worst thing?  It obviously wouldn't, lets not get greedy and expect it all to fall into place right away, lets just enjoy the ride, we know where we are going and there is no hurry to get there!

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