You see, there’s this constant battle in my head…
Since this new English Premier League season kicked off, I’ve had this “secret love affair” with Manchester City.
Not that my admiration for the club doesn’t date back to the ages where I watched names like Stephen Ireland in midfield, Richards in defense, SWP and C. Tevez don the sky blue jersey. No.
I’ve been in love with the Citizens since the first time I was opportuned to fully understand the goings-on in the almighty Premier League. Of course, I have that HITV coup on DSTV to thank.
But Liverpool and Manchester United were all struggling for my attention. At the time, I was seeking an English football club as a second love to my dear AC Milan. The EPL was always in my face. Better to choose one and get it over with.
The “noisy neighbours” caught my attention and I picked interest in them, especially when those Arab Boys with their “Arab Money” *in Puff Daddy’s voice* came to town. Alas! The one team I chose to support started winning stuff, and attracting big names… names like Josep “Pep” Guardiola.
When Pep was announced as new manager of the Cityzens in February 2016, I had mixed feelings. “A legend is coming to a club whose history isn’t as trophy-laden as its cross-town rivals’,” I thought to myself. “What will he bring to this English table?” “And how about Granpa Pellegrini?” I had already taken to this South American and his approach. He was old but he was good.
At this time, my love for this Kompany of Blues residing in Manchester, was at an all-time high. I’d be caught at viewing centres, playing the lone wolf, screaming in support of this Mancunian side. Of course other Nigerians found it weird (this is a norm if you’re a Nigerian and you’re not a fan of either Abrahamovic’s Blues or the Gunners or Chelsea or the Reds or the Red Devils or Barca or Real Madrid. Some Rossoneris & Juve faithfuls still find life hard).
“This has got to be the farthest a man can go, as regards loving a football club,” I thought. But I didn’t know (or expect) what the Philosopher was bringing along with him.
Of course I was well acquainted with his Catalan achievements. I saw a little of his exploits in Germany; the tinkering with formations, player positions and all. But I wasn’t well prepared for what happened after his arrival, even though I knew what he was capable of.
From his first game-in-charge, it was obvious this one has changed the whole system; turned it upside down! The new kids shone brightly, Tasende and co. The goalkeepers now preferred passing the ball to the nearest man, instead of shooting the ball.
New football season, even more changes. The mesmerizers retained their titles; Silva and Kevin de Bruyne were still as slick as ever. But Fernandinho had stopped being the kind of player Yaya Toure used to be. No bombing foward. He was a full time defensive midfielder now. What?
Aguero was now more terrifying. Sterling came alive again. An aggressive Nolito joined the fray. Joe Hart was all of a sudden the third-choice goalie. Yaya Toure disappeared. Names like Nasri, Mangala, Bony became surplus to requirements.
Obviously Pep was more interested in building his own team. This of course irked my curiousity. His first EPL game against Sunderland almost ended in a disaster. And I remember watching Man. City like I’ve never seen the team play before. ALL THE PLAYERS PLAYED STRANGELY! It was so confusing!
That sense of urgency, familiar with Pellegrini’s side was gone. No more counter-attacks. There were now more short passes and a three-man backline. Yaya and Kompany were ably replaced. But no shots from outside the opponent’s 18-yard box.
Now, this is where the constant battle happens: After watching for a while, a team that has been overly dependent on Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, “outside” shots, a poor Sterling, sharp counter, it has been a pleasant surprise, disruptive too, to see how much has changed, and how fast they’ve changed!
It still makes my head swirl, Sterling’s newly-installed positioning system. Though I’m still unfazed by Aguero’s lazy man-marking techniques, Kevin de Bruyne’s new-found technical abilities and Kolarov’s flexibility has been overwhelming! What’s more: Pep’s unpredictability just brings even more surprises every matchday.
You see, there’s this constant battle in my head… a battle between the old Manchester City and this new Manchester City. The old one made me fall deeper in love. This new one has had me curiously finding even better ways to love a football club.
Pep’s report card, for now, has a 10/10 score on it. He hasn’t even drawn any competitive game so far, not to talk of losing one. He has been that good. And when you’re that good, everybody gets bored fast, and quickly start looking forward to the day you’ll drop points.
I’m looking forward to it too!
But until then, Pep Guardiola has started a battle in my head. And it may take a while before one-side will defeat the other. As for my dear head, well, I’m not so sure. This may be the one battle that’ll deepen my love for Manchester City.
City! City!! Manchester City!!!
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav