“Reality check”

Two posts about football in a row? Well, this one’s fairly brief, so just bear with me.

Yesterday, my team, Manchester City, were comprehensively beaten by Everton at Goodison Park. I’ve no complaints about the result; Everton played much better than we did and thoroughly deserved their win. I did have a bit of a grumble at the penalty decision which made it 2-0 and eventually killed the game off – City’s Micah Richards pulling Louis Saha’s shirt in the box in first-half injury time – mainly because it’s the sort of penalty you simply never see given. But it was silly of Richards, and it was to all extents and purposes foul play. Even if the offence initially took place outside the area. It was one of many decisions that went Everton’s way, but no-one could deny that they were well worth their win.

After the game, ESPN’s pundits were all talking about it being a “reality check” for City’s apparent title ambitions. Yet few people, if anyone, at the club genuinely believed we were title contenders this season. After the 4-1 win against Blackburn in our previous game propelled us to fourth place, manager Roberto Mancini insisted he’d be quite happy for the season to finish then. He would, after all, have fulfilled his remit – that of achieving a slot in next year’s Champions League.  No, instead it was the media talking us up for a tilt at the Premier League crown, apparently satisfied that four wins on the trot against sides much lower in the table meant we should be taken seriously. Seemingly forgotten was the abject 3-0 surrender away to Spurs which ultimately decided previous boss Mark Hughes’ fate. Sure, we’d looked more solid at the back under Mancini, and seemed to have a plan B when things weren’t going well, but for long periods of the second half against Blackburn we were second best, and had Sam Allardyce’s side had anything approaching a cutting edge, they might have run us very close.

The match reports in most papers the following day made pretty surprising reading for anyone who’d witnessed the game – Blackburn were pretty much universally derided, described in more than one publication as ‘awful’, while City were apparently excellent, proving they had what it took to mount a serious title challenge. The reality, of course, was somewhat different.

So that “reality check”, then, should be for the media themselves; those who so often paint events in black and white, ignoring all the shades of grey in between. Yet I’m sure when I pick up the papers tomorrow I’ll be hearing plenty of how City have no chance of even finishing fourth at this rate, and how Mancini needs to bring new faces in immediately. What a difference a game makes, eh?

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