Sports / In-Depth
Tuesday, 16 May 2017 14:16 EATakipchumba@kenyafreepress.com
Baptism of fire. A slippery football terrain that recognizes nobody’s heyday or colourful start of a coaching career. In this planet of football, winners are like “Rugby ball.” They are simply unpredictable. In this land of cut-throat football competition, both pleasant and shocking surprises abound.
I am sure the current Manchester City coach, Mr Pep Guardiola, could be inwardly and silently nursing regrets over his decision to join England football clubs. Just imagine commencing your coaching career off to a flying start like the Spain-born football manager, only to end up straining every nerve to secure a place for the highly acclaimed Champions League.
True, man Pep began the season well. With top quality striking force, illustrious attacking and defensive midfielders and invincible defensive squad, he enjoyed a long streak of wins. These wins saw some football commentators and analysts dish out varied prognoses revolving around Pep Guardiola’s probability of cruising into victory or not.
To say that the Manchester City manager rested on his laurels while on top of the heap - though temporarily - would be an overstatement. Because the coach, in my opinion, didn’t leave any stone unturned. He put his best foot forward but…This is not Spain mister, where the real contest is between the two “horses”: the world-class Barcelona FC and highly-rated Real Madrid FC.
Just like the unpredictable world’s sole superpower (U.S.) President John Donald Trump, who roared into victory to the surprise of multitudes of political pundits and disgrace of opinion polling companies, forecasting the winner of the EPL barely before, during and towards the end of the return leg, or with about six matches remaining is almost, if not wholly, impossible.
The contest is stiff from the alpha and omega. In the Premier League contest, reversing tables is as easy as winking and doesn’t require some sort of miracles. The team that Pep is coaching is one of the first-rate teams in England. Man City won the much sought after league trophy (86 points) for the last time in 2013/14 season, just by a whisker. Merely two points ahead of the then second placed Liverpool (84 points).
Despite having coached some of the world’s towering football clubs like the splendid Barcelona and the record-holding Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich, and deservedly basking in the rare glory of bagging umpteenth major trophies, Mr Guardiola’s entry into Etihad Stadium appears to have “starved” the lofty expectations of the trophy-thirsty Manchester City fans. They thought he would deliver the trophy that has eluded the club, but all have gone up in dark-grey smoke!
But, hold on a bit. If you thought that Man City is assured of the top four, with Mr Guardiola at the helm, you really need to keep your cool. Failure to which you will probably be taken aback. Man City is three points ahead of Arsenal, which has one game in hand, and one point behind Liverpool (73 points). Man City fans would rather live with the reality of this popular dictum: ‘It’s not yet over until the fat lady sings.’
Why, you may ask. Because, if Arsene Wenger’s Boys pocket all the remaining points in the few matches left and Pep either draws or loses, by sheer misfortune, any of the few matches left for the season to come to be wrapped up, it means Man City will close the season at fifth place of the EPL table. Translating to the fact that Mr Pep Guardiola will have be ruled out of Champions League next season! A bitter pill to swallow for Guardiola and man City fans alike.
Mr Guardiola has ‘failed’ to meet the minimum threshold of City’s high expectations. Maybe the pressure is mounting around him now, with many fans still willing to give him room for improvement next season. Considering that this is his first time in the Premier League, the ‘smart’ coach will probably require more time to learn the ropes of English football.
Has he really learned some valuable lesson that will help him in his quest for the English Premier League title next season? Only time will tell.
In a nutshell, historical achievements won’t prevent a cow from drinking water, particularly in the England’s world of footballing. And if you think it can, ask Leicester City FC a question or two on how they won the trophy fair and square last season, and why they “vanished into the thin air” never to defend the cup again.
Therefore, for man Guardiola in this land of somewhat miraculous happenings of all shapes and sizes, winning a trophy is, with the certainty of a rising sun and surety of its setting, an uphill task. It’s difficult, in the actual sense of what I mean.
Kipchumba is a staff writer/columnist at the Kenya Free Press