Paradise for Guardiola
As the Paradise Papers expose the immoral dealings of Britain’s elite – perhaps expose is not the right word, for they simply reinforce what we already knew about the tax dodging nature of the richest – and illustrate the startling gulf between the wealthiest and poorest, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have created their very own unbridgable class fissure.
A tenuous link, perhaps, but the Premier League has always been built on the reputation of a competitive, unpredictable league; there is a pseudo-class structure if you like, but the underdogs – the metaphorical working class – can often claim a scalp against the ruling elites. Whereas in general British society, it is increasingly harder to traverse social and class distinctions as the richest get richer and the poorer get poorer, to employ a platitude. To continue to indulge in this metaphor, the Premier League has always been an example of an evident power structure, but one that can often be punctured. Huddersfield Town’s 2-1 victory over the multi-billion pound corporate behemoth Manchester United a pertinent, and most recent, example.
The Premier League: a sporting pillar of the fallibility of power, generally, then. Perhaps not anymore, as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have imposed dictatorial control over England’s top flight. They look, much to the frustration of the following pack, unbeatable. Slick movement; unselfish interchange; incisive and purposeful passing. It was the ideology that was not supposed to work in the Premier League – for a while, it did not. For a while, too, questions were raised over Guardiola’s ability as a manager. He had simply inherited two uber-talented squads at Bayern Munich and Barcelona, the narrative ran. Such opinions were lamentably ignorant.
“GUARDIOLA’S BRAVE COMmITTMENT TO HIS IDEOLOGY IS WHAT MAKES HIM SO APPEALING”
At Barcelona, Guardiola discarded the likes of Deco and Ronaldinho and invested the future of this Spanish giant on a 5’7 winger called Lionel Messi. Sure, it was clear the academy product had talent, but to move him from inverted wide-man to a spearhead of the attack was bold and daring. This is what is so appealing about the City boss – he is a brave believer in his ideology. Even when City stumbled, were exploited and looked meek last season, he continued to trust his decisions and his tactics.
That ardent trust in his ideology, despite a dazzling Kevin De Bruyne, a compact defence and a multi-faceted and dynamic forward line, is the main reason why City have created an ostensibly impenetrable class bracket atop of the Premier League. And so concludes this whimsical metaphor.
LA Rams & the birth of a new obsession
New to American Football, I decided to pick the underdog. The LA Rams were one of the worst performers in last year’s NFL season. Under Jeff Fisher, the Rams had stalled. A move from St. Louis back to LA had alienated the majority of their fan-base and 1st round pick Jared Goff was not the player the Rams’ hierarchy expected.
It was with a general acceptance that Fisher had taken the Rams as far he could that he was dismissed.
Once more, the motif of bravery appears in this column: Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in franchise history, aged 30 at time of appointment, was charged with the task of taking the Rams to new heights.
“written off before the season started, few would have seen what was to come”
The Rams were written off before the season started – this wasn’t an indictment on McVay, though some cited his inexperience, but rather reflective of the fashion in which the Rams performed last season.
Few saw what was to come. An invigorated and exhilarating Rams have taken the NFC by storm and are in firm contention for a playoff spot, via wild-card or automatic. They are a team predicated on attack and under McVay, the former Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator, the Rams are one of the most exciting teams to watch, averaging over 30 points per game, compared to 14 last season.
I was lucky enough to watch them when they came to London, where they professionally dispatched fierce divisional rivals the Arizona Cardinals 33-0. Jared Goff was composed, mature and exuded conviction; Todd Gurley – the running back – was electric; the defence was aggressive and solid, completing a rare shut-out.
I will not profess to know the ins and outs of American Football but one thing is clear: the Rams mean serious business this year and I can’t wait to follow their progression.