Dear True Geordie - A Week in the City

What’s ga’an on, True Geordie? It’s me, Joe. A long-time subscriber since the FIFA rage days and avid podcast/The Kick Off watcher/listener.
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What’s ga’an on, True Geordie?

It’s me, Joe. A long-time subscriber since the FIFA rage days and avid podcast/The Kick Off watcher/listener.

After a video you posted in the aftermath of Pep Guardiola’s contract extension being announced called, “The Truth About Pep Guardiola’s 2 Year Contract”, which despite the use of the phrase “these are facts” multiple times throughout was very factually inaccurate, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I saw a highlight from The Kick Off in my subscriptions last week - a 20-minute video (yes, twenty) entitled “True Geordie RANT on Pep Guardiola’s Transfers”.

I took a shot of vodka to numb the pain which was inevitably incoming, braced myself for the well-researched (as I saw you came prepared) arguments which I was about to be hit with and pressed play. Here are just a few highlights of what you said (I could have picked a more flattering freeze-frame but this was much funnier):

“A lot of Pep’s instant success was made by players who weren’t bought by him, were ready-made and we knew how good they are. They’ve been in the Premier League already, they’ve won titles already.”

Our average starting XI in the 2017/18 season - Ederson (Pep), Walker (Pep), Kompany, Laporte (Pep), Delph (Pep made him a LB), Fernandinho, Silva, De Bruyne (all of which played their best football because of Pep’s system and coaching), Sterling, Aguero, Sané (Pep).

Throw in Bernardo who was integral to the 2018/19 title win and legitimately one of the best players in the world in his position for that season, Stones, whose partnership with Otamendi was integral to our 2017/18 season, Gabriel Jesus who has a great goals/game ratio and whose greatest crime is not being as good as Aguero, the statistically most efficient Premier League striker of all time, Gundogan who, despite a few injuries and frustrating many, walks into the starting XI of most of the Premier League.

Yes, there was still a good core of players which was already at the club which were a large part of his success in the short-term, but this is the same for most managers at top clubs. When you look at how the likes of De Bruyne, Sterling, Delph and Fernandinho were being used prior to Pep’s arrival, there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that Pep elevated all of their games to a level not seen at the club before. 

Even David Silva, one of the best midfielders in the history of the Premier League, played his best football under Pep. Delph and Zinchenko, two midfielders, being used as left-backs over the two seasons is the ultimate proof that Pep’s success at City wasn’t just as simple as turning up and picking eleven players.

“The owners don’t have the faith in him to give him a five year deal.”

Pep has literally never signed a five-year deal anywhere in his life. Even at his boyhood club, Barcelona, the club he’s still a fan of to this day, he signed contract extensions one year at a time. The fact that he will have been at City, should he see out his contract, for seven years after he didn’t stay beyond his initial three year deal at Bayern, is a pretty big deal in itself. Pep has shown throughout his career that he doesn’t do long contracts. If he did, he'd have one.

I know you’re from a part of the country where Alan Pardew can get an eight-year deal but I can assure you that this isn’t the norm. Even Jurgen Klopp only signed an extension for four-and-a-half-years - I reckon that must be a sign that Liverpool don’t have much faith in him if you ask me, otherwise they’d have given him at least five!

“Hart, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Kompany, Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya, De Bruyne, Sterling, Silva, Aguero are better than City are now. He’s spent £735 million since then (NET spend £434 million)... His greatest achievement was done with many players that he didn’t sign.”

Yes, if you’re going to put out prime Hart, prime Zabaleta, prime Kompany, prime Clichy and prime Yaya out against us then obviously that team makes the current City team in its current state look worse. But that’s not what Pep inherited. The City team Pep took over was very much at the end of its current cycle mentally and, in many cases, physically and had scraped 4th place on the final day of the season.

The full-backs in 2016/17 were a 32-year-old Pablo Zabaleta, who had all the heart in the world but not the legs. 33-year-old Bacary Sagna, who we’d picked up on a free only a few years earlier. 31-year-old Gael Clichy whose best years were well and truly behind him. 31-year-old Kolarov whose best years were also behind him, only he was being made to play centre-back because Kompany, who you name in your XI, made only 11 appearances in Pep's first season due to injury problems which were a mainstay of Kompany's latter career, which he was very much in when Pep arrived.

Yaya Toure was 33 years-old and, as a player whose best season came in 2013/14 when his physicality and technical ability perfectly combined, his often languid, lazy-looking style was less of a choice and more of a physical limitation by the time Pep took charge, plus he had absolutely no love for Guardiola, as his and his agent’s subsequent comments showed. Fernandinho was doing all the running for both of them and it made our midfield noticeably worse.

Kevin De Bruyne was a great midfielder but nowhere near the dominant, physical colossus he has become since playing under Guardiola. Sterling was still very much a talent which needed unlocking to consistently be the player he looked like he could become in Liverpool's SAS set-up, the player he has very much become.

If you’re going to put the peak versions of every single player you mentioned in that 2016 line-up out, including De Bruyne and Sterling who have experienced their peaks since Guardiola arrived at the club, then yes, they’d probably beat today’s City team. But that’s not what Pep had.

It’s also a large factor as to why the club has spent so much money since Guardiola’s arrival. Our bench in Pep’s first season, even with the additions of Stones, Sané and Gundogan, was made up of the likes of Fernando, Mangala, Iheanacho and Navas. Forget about the fact that he had to sign basically an entirely new defence, including an entire rotation of full-backs (he’s still only bought one true left-back in his time at the club) which will obviously not come cheap when you’re Manchester City, he had to sign the level of depth required to be a top team to compete on all fronts, which we unquestionably have done since he’s arrived, hence the eight trophies in three years after that first trophyless season. Obviously it’s not going to come cheap. Everybody knows how much money we have.

Not that it actually matters, seeing as Pep is responsible for neither the amount of money players cost and the club are willing to pay nor the amount that we manage to sell players for, but if you are going to lambast Pep for “spending” £735 million since he’s arrived then you have to give him appropriate praise for "selling" £301 million worth of players (a figure which you hilariously dismiss as “a little bit of money”).

The reality is that the responsibility for these sums of money comes from Txiki Begiristain, the Director of Football. If Pep is asked if he wants a certain position, and Pep provides the name of the player that he wants and the club agrees with that assessment, what happens in the negotiations between the two clubs is not Pep’s jurisdiction, and it has often resulted in Pep not getting the players he wants, as it has for every single manager.

You constantly give Mike Ashley torrents of abuse, rightly so, for the signings that have been made under his regime because, ultimately, he’s the man who pulls the trigger and makes the decisions when it comes to transfer market outlay. Yet with Manchester City the man who you focus all the attention on is the manager, not the higher-ups. Yes, the club has spent a lot of money, that’s what happens when you have to put together a top level squad which City has done due to the age and quality of the players Pep inherited, as I have already outlined.

United, Chelsea, Liverpool, they’re all spending similar amounts of money, and that’s before you start looking abroad at the likes of Madrid and Barcelona, yet in England it's only City who have actually won eight trophies in the last few years to show for it. Eight trophies. Not bad for a team which has supposedly been made worse over the last four years.

“At Barcelona he was handed the best team ever.”

The team he was handed at Barcelona was great, there’s no denying that, however if it was the treble-winning team that Pep made it in his first season at the club, would you care to explain how Barcelona finished 3rd in La Liga and got knocked out in the semi-finals of both the Champions League and Copa del Rey the season prior?

There’s no doubting that Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi is a once-in-a-generation spine of a team which, let’s be honest, is a bit like winning the lottery in managerial terms. But it’s not like Barcelona were sweeping everybody aside domestically or in Europe the season before Pep took charge, despite having a team which contained the likes of Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Thierry Henry, Yaya Touré and Deco surrounding that Barcelona core. It’s almost as if being “handed the best team ever” doesn’t automatically make you able to win things and that turning that team of individual players into serial winners isn’t as simple as you make it out.

Let’s contrast that team Pep arrived to at Barcelona in 2008 with the team he left behind in 2012, which won four trophies including a Club World Cup and a European Super Cup. Of the 27 players at the club when Pep was made manager, only Valdes, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and an aging Eric Abidal remained. A great spine, yes, but Pep still had to build the entire team around them which went on to win literally every trophy available to them over the course of his time at the club. Quite the achievement for a manager you go on to claim, on numerous occasions, “we’ve never seen build a team in the way Klopp has”.

That's all before we mention that Pep did so whilst, for the most part, curb-stomping a Real Madrid team which was spending £90 million on Cristiano Ronaldo, a player who is in the eyes of many better than Messi and is, at the very least, on his level in terms of goals ouput, as well as £65 million on Kaka and from 2010 was managed by José Mourinho in what was very much his prime having just won the treble with Inter. Yet Pep's Barca was still gathering points-records and plenty of other La Liga records for fun in the process.

I suppose you’ll no doubt claim that having Messi, Xavi, Iniesta is basically a cheat code, though it wouldn’t explain why Rijkaard in 2008, with those players as well as the superstar names I’ve mentioned prior, didn’t come close. It also wouldn’t really explain how Barcelona have only managed to win the Champions League once since Pep left, yet despite this the “Pep can’t win it without Messi” barb is thrown at him at every opportunity some people are given. At least Pep did win it with Messi, which is more than can be said for all but one of the managers that have followed him, and the only one to have done so had Suarez and Neymar alongside him at the time.

“Is there anyone who you can say been a great signing made by Pep Guardiola?”

Aymeric Laporte, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sané, Kyle Walker, Ederson, Ilkay Gundogan. You don’t win two back-to-back league titles with a combined 198 points by not making any great signings.

You can dispute some of those names but the opinions you’ve came out with so far are obviously the opinions of a man who watches City maybe five/six times per season, so your evaluation of our players is meaningless. 

This myth that you seem to perpetuate that Pep has no experience of building a team has already been debunked by the previous point regarding Barcelona but this should finish it off.

Each of these arguments is from the first three minutes of the video alone. I could have gone on and on about some of the ridiculous statements which emerged from around the table as you spoke to a United fan, a Chelsea fan and a Liverpool fan about Manchester City (with only Laurence offering the occasional counter-argument which was dismissed every single time).

I’m quite sure (or at least I’m certainly hoping) that a lot of the things you said in your 20-minute rant (yes, seriously, twenty) about City was exaggerated for effect, to appease the masses of Liverpool, Arsenal and United fans who are happy to watch criticism of Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. It’s the game. However, it’s the game that the mainstream media has been playing for the past five or six years and do you want to know how many of those articles I see floating around on City fans’ Twitter nowadays? None. Because fans are sick of ill-informed click-bait surrounding their club.

You constantly profess to be better than the mainstream media, you speak about them with a dismissiveness which, frankly, I think is entirely warranted. I’ve personally got no love for mainstream sports journalism, particularly because they speak about my club and the fans of my club with a level of disdain that no City fans can really stomach. We come to people on YouTube like yourself, the “fringe media” (though I don’t consider you to be fringe at all at this point), to get away from that, not to just be lambasted with the same thing but with more swearing and a Geordie accent.

You have multiple Chelsea representatives on your show over the course of a season. You have multiple Liverpool fans. Multiple United fans. Multiple Arsenal fans. Multiple Spurs fans. The only top team, and we are a top team, you don’t have represented on your show in the form of multiple people is Manchester City. You had our Carabao Cup final on your show in 2019 with Rory Jennings, a regular Chelsea fan, and a spare seat which rotates every week, and you chose to fill that empty spot with another Chelsea fan rather than provide the opposite side of the coin.

You have 'Buvey' on your show for a few of the Manchester City games you actually show on The Kick Off and, as much as I find him quite funny, his opinions on Manchester City don’t generally align with the many, many City fans that I come across and interact with. Which is fine, not every fan of a football club is going to have the same opinion on every issue at the club.

Esteemed Kompany, on the other hand, has nearly seven times the subscriber count of Buvey at 46,500 subscribers and has featured on your show only once, never to appear again. Natalie Pike, a presenter who works for Manchester City (and therefore obviously isn’t going to criticise the club when on a public platform, but is a City fan nonetheless) has featured on your show only once, never to appear again. Buvey is the sole representative of the City fanbase on The Kick Off, presumably because he’s your mate (and that’s fine, have your mates on if you like), but there’s nobody else. Nobody to offer a different voice.

Two City fans can have completely contrasting views on the situation at the club and Pep Guardiola himself, and there are legitimate issues that some amongst the fanbase have with our manager right now, none of which are the ones that you personally seem to have with him. Maybe if you had a bit of a wider range of City fan on you’d be a bit more informed about the obvious factual inaccuracies in your opinions on both the manager and the club, as you obviously have your finger on the pulse with the likes of Liverpool, United, Chelsea and Arsenal because you actually speak to fans (plural) of those clubs.

Obviously these are all ultimately your opinions and to get precious about them (he says at the end of a 2,900+ word article about them) is probably a bit silly, however you and your show is how hundreds of thousands of people consume their footballing media nowadays. People aren't listening to Robbie Savage and Jamie Carragher anymore, they're listening to you and your mates sitting round a table, yet when it comes to City you're no better informed than your average @FabulousFirmino Football Twitter account and it's those opinions which are just perpetuated around the general footballing fanbase.

At the end of the day, this meltdown you had about Guardiola and Manchester City is almost completely irrelevant anyway because, should City win their game in hand, they’ll only be three points behind Liverpool. Not bad for a manager who is apparently terrible at recruitment.

I’m still subscribed though. And if you want another Manchester City voice for The Kick Off, I’m available most weekends.




You can follow Joe on Twitter here: @joebutters

You can follow us for live City updates here: @City_Xtra