Well done City - but boy that was close.

Published: Monday, 23 May 2022

What a day. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it. I’m not just talking about the title - but the race for 4th/6th and relegation. Eight of the 10 final day games had something riding on them and we showed all 10 on beINSPORTS - including unique split screen coverage as the drama unfolded at City and Liverpool. It was quite something.

It was also the 28th season that Andy and I had seen to a conclusion. We had an enforced two year absence of course - but I wouldn’t have missed that time at TalkSPORT for the world.

Congrats to City. The table doesn’t lie - unless VAR f***s up and doesn’t award Everton a pen that Mike Riley later issued an official apology for getting wrong! If Everton score - City come up two points short.

But we shouldn’t concentrate on that. It would’ve been a travesty if City had finished without a trophy. At times their football has been mesmeric. De Bruyne has been sensational week after week. So I’m glad they won it - but my goodness - Guardiola did his best to ‘overthink’ it again.

He started with the wrong team. What on earth was going through his mind when he named Fernandinho at centre-back and Stones at right-back? Fernandinho was responsible for Villa’s first goal - going far too deep because he was concerned about his lack of pace. He could also have gone for his foul on Watkins. I promise you - at the other end Mings goes for a challenge like that on Jesus.

Guardiola changed it at half time - bringing Zinchenko on - sending Cancelo to right back and restoring Stones on the middle. Was he brave to change it - or badly wrong to start as he did?

Putting Gundogan wasn’t ‘one of the great PL substitutions’. By the 70th minute Guardiola was desperate and had to throw everything at it. He didn’t have a choice. But it worked and it gave us some wonderful drama.

In 24 previous PL seasons Liverpool’s total would’ve been enough to win it. That gives you some idea of how good City have had to be. But - I guarantee you they’d swap places with Liverpool if they could. The one they want - they really really want - is the CL.

Domestic success for City (spend £1b under Guardiola) Bayern, Real or Barca, and until this season Juve, is taken as a given. It’s no longer enough. The real success for all the big teams is in Europe. That’s what a coach is ultimately judged on. Bayern have won 10 successive domestic titles, but as Nagelsmann found out this season - that’s not enough. That’s expected.

City will have to wait another year and maybe Haaland will be the difference, although it does concern me that Guardiola is already saying that he’ll need time to settle. Why? He was born in England. He speaks perfect English. He knows the culture. He’ll be surrounded by good players. It didn’t take Luis Diaz any time at all to settle at Anfield. 🤷‍♂️

I guess Guardiola is readying us just in case - with Jack Grealish no doubt on his mind. If I were Grealish I wouldn’t be making a fool of myself leading City’s celebrations. I’d have a glass or two and then start asking myself why I contributed so little so far.

Grealish doesn’t get into City’s best team. He didn’t get on the pitch Sunday. He started only 22 PL games this season - scoring three goals and making three assists. The goals came against Norwich, Leeds in a 7-0 thrashing and West Ham. For £100m it’s not very good is it? At any other club serious questions would’ve been asked by now of the coach - the money spent - and the player.

What a job Conte did at Spurs. Daniel Levy doesn’t get it right all the time (often!) but he got this one spot on. I hope Conte stays - but he doesn’t seem too sure. Perhaps it’s another stand-off in order to get what he wants again? The problem is Spurs have little or nothing to spend. It’s all going on the stadium.  

I can’t pretend I wasn’t gutted for David Moyes. He knows his team threw away a Europe League place at Brighton. Watching the final this past week must’ve hurt everyone at West Ham, because they know they should’ve been in it. I thought it might be a motivator for them, but sadly the opposite was true.

What unwanted stat did United achieve on the last day? They were the only team, along with Norwich, not to score. Ten Haag’s face at Palace told me he didn’t realise how bad it actually is.

I was pleased Leeds made it. It was too soon to lose them again. I’m certain they’d have gone had Bielsa been left in charge so the change was both smart and needed. Bielsa had run that squad ragged. They were shot.

I’m looking forward to finding out a lot more about Jesse Marsch. Now we’ll get to see what he’s really made of. Is he Ted Lasso or is he about to blaze a trail for other American coaches?

I got two of the bottom three correct in my pre-season predictions - but it wasn’t hard. Norwich and Watford were relegated before a ball was kicked. Unless either comeback with more ambition than just making up the numbers I hope we don’t see them back any time soon. It’s someone else’s turn.

Burnley are the architects of their own downfall. Sean Dyche called it. They didn’t invest last summer and now they’ve paid the heaviest price of all. With the takeover terms as they are Burnley are in big trouble. I can’t see Vinny Kompany wanting it now.

In conclusion - it’s been fun again. Our guys at beIN were sensational Sunday. I was proud of them - and proud also to have fronted another ground breaking programme. To our many many millions of viewers in MENA thanks for watching us. Andy and I will see you next Saturday for the CL final - and then it’s WC season when we’re back in August. That’s what we all came for. We can touch it now. It’s going to be a blast. I can’t wait.