IT WAS at the end of a tough week for Pep Guardiola, I suppose.
Another heart-breaking exit from the competition he most covets (the Champions League) was still raking through his mind. Meanwhile, his nearest domestic rival had just qualified for the hallowed decider for the third time in four years, yet still refuses to back off in their pursuit of City's Premier League title. What he ended up uttering sounded like the rant of a poor little rich boy, at worst, a bit overly paranoid if one is generous.
After witnessing his side slam five goals past a hapless Newcastle United, securing their lead at the top of the Premier League table, many would assume that he would be in better form when he addressed the press. Instead, the Catalonian somehow felt it was the right time to express what sounded like a long-held grievance — that everyone in the country, including the media, supported Liverpool.
Pep claimed that people are biased against them (City). Referees, pundits, fans, neutrals, and journalists, all had it out for the Cityzen's and his pursuit of silverware.
It was a surprising outburst to include Liverpool in the context of a press conference discussing the comfortable win against an altogether different opponent.
So what of Pep's claims? Are Liverpool beneficiaries of a conspiracy across the football establishment, society, media and fans to get them over the quadruple line.
Let's start with the officiating claim. There is an internet trope of naming the Merseyside club LiVARpool for all the decisions that goes their way from the game's video technology.
Well, last season, Liverpool were the second most negatively affected by VAR in the Premier League bar relegated West Brom. This season has proved a lot more favourable so far for the Reds. They are only second to West Ham for favourable VAR decisions going their way. This resulted in a balance of four extra goals going their way. In comparison, City's mid-table net advantage from VAR with two goals. It resulted in a grand total of one extra point over City for Liverpool.
Hardly the grounds for an inquiry. As for refs being in favour of Liverpool? The most common hometown for referees among the 40 or so top officials in the FA? Greater Manchester.
Then there is the claim that the media are in favour of Liverpool. And here there may be something to Guardiola's claims, especially in TV broadcasts.
Anyone watching live football coverage will know well the pundits and analysts are overly represented by former Liverpool players. Jamie Carragher, Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Souness, Michael Owen, Peter Crouch, Danny Murphy and Steve McManaman litter the channels during match time. This is the logical consequence of a generation of successful players moving into the ranks of punditry after their playing careers. Successful former Man United players are slowly replacing these ranks and in time, they will be replaced by a generation of successful former City players when their time comes.
The situation for print journalists is a bit more nuanced. They are not ex-players on the whole but are, like me, a generation that grew up watching the great Liverpool sides of the 70s and 80s.
There are no hard figures to prove this, but a generation of writers fell in love with football when Liverpool were in their heyday, so it may not be a surprise that there is an affection for Liverpool now that they are back in form.
But even if the writers are not hidden Reds, there is a certain romanticism for writers to promote the idea of a side possibly creating the history of quadruple success. Like when Leicester fulfilled their own romantic tale of an unlikely Premier League triumph. No one complained when the print media waxed lyrical about the unlikeliest of unlikely events. There is something simply profound by the unprecedented for sportswriters. City winning the Premier League title, again, does not fill their soul with inspiration.
The most ludicrous of Pep's conspiracies is that football supporters outside of Liverpool are somehow backing Liverpool to win. It's preposterous to think Man United, Chelsea, Spurs and Everton fans want a Liverpool success. Anyone listening to the chants directed at Liverpool fans by their league opponents will know well that there is zero goodwill towards Liverpool's quadruple aspirations.
This was summed up best by Big Robbie from the Arsenal Fans TV YouTube Channel, where he said,
Maybe that's the real problem for Guardiola and City. Is that it's not so much that people are actively looking for ways to support Liverpool's drive for titles. It's that City hoovering up wins with their brilliant yet coldly manufactured side, does little to stimulate the imagination and pulse of the football fan or writer when there is no romance behind it.
The great Erling Haaland and his bank-busting wages are due in Eastlands next season, but even the arrival of this prodigious Norwiegen talent is unlikely to garner any more love for City among football's devotees.