If the Premier League champions aren’t too careful, they’re going to become known as Moan City.
Just witness the response to a PFA Premier League Team of the Year that was dominated by Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side taking six of the available 11 places compared to just three for Manchester City.
Aymeric Laporte was particularly aggrieved at his oversight, posting on Twitter the celebrated image of Jose Mourinho declaring “I prefer really not to speak” but then over on Instagram posting a series of statistics that underline the City centre-back having had a rather good season. Rarely has being silent actually said so much.
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Laporte was perhaps a bit unlucky, although there was strong opposition for the two central defensive roles in the PFA team. Certainly, few could overly argue with the inclusion of both Virgil van Dijk and departing Chelsea man Antonio Rudiger.
But the Spaniard’s sourness continued a theme that has been seeping out of the Etihad for some time which claims City aren’t sufficiently loved. That Liverpool – a team City boss Pep Guardiola infamously, before backtracking, claimed everyone in England supported – had twice as many players in the PFA team despite being beaten into second place in the Premier League title race will surely only intensify the irk.
Then there’s the fact Mohamed Salah – the Premier League Golden Boot winner and top assist provider, don’t forget – beat City talisman Kevin De Bruyne to both the PFA Player of the Year and Footballer of the Year awards.
We have, of course, been here before, Micah Richards having picked up the baton last month after his former team’s fourth championship in five years wasn’t met with the outpouring of adoration they had perhaps been expecting. “Right now it feels like Liverpool get all the love,” he said. There are reasons far deeper than the Reds’ often exhilarating style of play to explain why City just don’t stir the emotions in the same way, almost none of which have anything to do with their players.
With Van Dijk and Salah joined by Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara and Sadio Mane in the PFA team, it’s clear the Reds have the affection of their peers. And given Liverpool won a domestic cup double, totalled 92 Premier League points and were hardly outplayed when losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League final, each inclusion can be justified.
Would this reporter have placed Thiago in the Premier League Team of the Year? Probably not, even though the Spaniard has been outstanding since the turn of the year. The excellent Rodri did as much as anyone to help City edge out Liverpool to the title, not least his unpunished handball at Everton.
But then, journalists are not professional footballers. And those who play the game usually have a pretty good idea of what makes a talented opponent, the kind of player who does things that prompt admiration even from direct rivals. No reason, then, to overly criticise their choices, even if the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo being named ahead of Tottenham Hotspur duo Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane was a bit of a headscratcher.
The reality is those six Liverpool players would readily swap their place in the PFA team for the Premier League winners’ medal Laporte has tucked away at home. And it was only last year City had six players named in the XI, as they did in 2018/19. Their excellent play is regularly recognised.
No wonder Liverpool couldn’t quite nudge ahead of City this season, so well balanced is Guardiola’s team. After all, they appear to have a chip on both shoulders.
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