Thursday, June 24 2021


A pep talk from the best

Update: May, 14/2021 - 07:48


MAIN MAN: Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola is one of the greatest managers the Premier League has ever seen. AFP Photo.

Paul Kennedy

I’ve been dreading yesterday for an awful long time. I knew the day was coming, I could see the writing on the wall from afar, but despite all this, it is still hurt doing what I had to do.

You see, since July 23, when Liverpool beat Chelsea by five goals to three at Anfield and were crowned champions after the match, my Facebook profile picture has been a photo of a beaming Jordan Henderson holding the Premiership trophy aloft.

Not now Manchester City have reclaimed their prize. Now it’s something completely different and I do wonder will I ever be able to post a similar photograph again.

Liverpool’s problems this season have been much talked about, especially by me. You could argue the empty stadiums had an effect, injuries to key players, particularly Virgil van Dijk, and a huge dip in form of players who were out of this world the season before.

All that is true, for sure, but in reality, Liverpool have simply not been good enough and don’t deserve to be anywhere near champions City this time around.

A dreadful run of games at the start of the year sapped all confidence from the team and they never recovered to threaten City.

But let’s face facts here. Manchester City this season have been simply breathtaking. This is now Pep Guardiola’s third title in four years, but for me, it’s been his best.

After their success in 2018-19, Pep needed a serious regroup. They won the league that year by the skin of their teeth and the likes of Vincent Kompany, a colossus of a defender, David Silva, one of the Premier League’s greatest ever imports, and all-time top scorer Sergio Aguero, were all the wrong side of 30 and on their way out.

Kompany left after that season, Silva played one more year at less than his best and Aguero stayed put for a few more seasons, but was never the same.

Pep never panicked, sure he spent a few quid, but a tweak here and there was all that was needed to turn his new side into champions again.

He was aided by the emergence of Phil Foden, his young English attacking midfielder and one of the best young players today.

The cynical among us, and yes, that includes me, could argue that the lack of supporters in stadiums had a lesser effect on City than others. Their fan base isn’t the best (sorry City fans) and playing without the benefit of a ‘twelfth man’ didn’t trouble Pep’s side as much as it would have done for say Liverpool.

And yes, while I’ve no doubt Spaniard Guardiola would have celebrated this week with a cheeky glass of Rioja or two, his season is far from complete.

On May 29 he takes his side to Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium (unless the venue is changed between now and then) for the Champions League final, a trophy that still eludes him since taking over the reins at City.

Standing in his way are Chelsea, a side rejuvenated since the arrival of German Thomas Tuchel. With two English clubs going head to head for Europe’s top prize I have a sneaky suspicion it won’t be the best of games, but I fancy City to edge a tight affair.

If City are victorious, then Pep will for me be one of the best managers to ever grace the Premier League and someone who can almost be talked about in the same breath as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. VNS

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