The top six teams in the Premier league are a long way ahead of the remaining fourteen. It is just as if there are two competitions. The points difference is vast, as is the revenue that they generate. The quality of footballer from all over the world that the top six teams are able to attract means that the others just cannot compete. Sure, the top teams do have off days and suffer the occasional defeat to one of the lesser teams, but that happens rarely these days. And when it does happen, the manager of the lesser team usually manages to come up with a plan to stop the big team playing. If they are frustrated for long enough, and if they are having an off-day, then the big team can lose. But just take a look at the league table. It tells the whole story of how money influences football these days. And the Financial Fair Play rules don’t help either.
But what about last season I hear you say? Little Leicester broke the mould and romped away with the title. Yes, I have to admit that was the case, but I believe it was the combination of three outstanding players (Kante, Mahrez and Vardy) hitting a purple streak of form, the other players in the team all playing above themselves for a long period, and the top teams all having an off-season at the same time. I don’t think we will ever see it happen again. Well perhaps there may be another freak year, but I honestly don’t expect to see it. And look where Leicester are now. Just a couple of points above the drop zone in the second half of the following season. Normal service has been resumed.
The rich clubs are getting richer, and the gap from the others is widening all the time. It would take the injection of serious money into one of the teams outside of this elite to give them any sort of chance of competing. Our current owners are very rich men by British standards, but are not in the same league as the foreign owners of the top teams. I’m not knocking them, and I am grateful that they came in when they did. They do their best and they are fans. But while they are in charge we will not be able to bridge the gap; a fact that they themselves have admitted in that they say they will only sell to mega-rich buyers who can inject the sort of money that they cannot, to take us to another level.
Geoff summed up the game perfectly in his article Five Observations From City Humiliation. Unfortunately, positives from the game were few and far between. Carroll lacked any real support, although Antonio covered every blade of grass in an attempt to help him up front. Randolph couldn’t be faulted for any of the goals conceded, Reid had a steady game, and Snodgrass looked lively when he came on.
Most of the others had poor games. Obiang has been excellent lately and I will excuse him on this one, although his poor pass led directly to their third goal. Not that it really mattered by then. I don’t know what has happened to Cresswell this season. His performances have generally been very poor and his two memorable contributions last night were a woeful pass that led to the first goal, and then missing the target by miles when put through by Carroll for our only clear opening in the game. I cannot see him getting anywhere near future England squads if he continues as he has for most of this season.
When you play against teams such as Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham or Chelsea, who all move the ball at pace, you have to develop a method of competing. One thing you cannot do is gift them the ball in midfield to set up a swift attack which invariably leads to a goal. If you can frustrate them for long enough, they can sometimes go off the boil. The one thing you must not do is concede sloppy goals. But I am afraid that is exactly what we were guilty of once again.
Although a season ticket holder I couldn’t get to the game so I had to endure the BT Sport coverage. I’m afraid that in my opinion it doesn’t come close to that provided by Sky Sports. Commentator Ian Darke should stick to boxing, and Glenn Hoddle and Owen Hargreaves were poor (a bit like us really!), as well as being factually inaccurate at times. More than once Hoddle described the pitch as vast, and said that we should reduce its size because of the way we play. Well firstly, the pitch is the regulation size that all Premier League clubs should have, provided their ground allows for it, and secondly we are not allowed to reduce it. In fact it is the same width as Upton Park and just over four metres longer. But this is just one example of some of the (in my opinion) nonsense that came from the mouths of the co-commentators and pundits on the programme.
I watched the game through to the end, unlike many thousands at the stadium who decided that they had seen enough long before the final whistle, and were trudging off to Stratford station in their droves. I felt quite deflated at our performance, but realistically it is not a competitive game when we are playing against a team who can have a player of the calibre of Aguero sitting on the bench (well, padded seat). We are nowhere near the top teams, and the best we can hope for is to play for a place in the top half, and even try to emulate last season’s seventh place finish. Even that looks unlikely with Everton too far ahead.
I’m not sure that Bilic has the tactical nous for the job, even though a large number of fans love him. It was interesting to see Roberto Mancini sitting in with the directors. I wonder if he was a guest of Manchester City who had sacked him a few seasons ago, or perhaps even a guest of our own board?
Nevertheless, ever the optimist, and a fan of almost sixty years who has seen it all before, I will take my seat for the next home game against a West Brom team on Saturday week, who, much to my surprise, Pulis has inspired to punch above their weight this season. Before then we visit Southampton this weekend, to face another of the teams aiming for seventh place, which in effect is the competition to finish top of the second tier of the Premier League.