Man City have had a flying start to the season and there is every reason for optimism. However, they made an even better start last season before the wheels came off. Glass-half-fullers like me are looking for anything that could indicate a difference this time around. One noticeable difference is the improvement in team spirit.
City have had an influx of stars who look happy on and off pitch. Benjamin Mendy is already approaching cult hero status as a prolific and hilarious Tweeter. Bernardo Silva revealed that Mendy’s antics are even worse in the changing room. Walker has been on the receiving end of the Frenchman’s banter, but is also giving some back. Danilo is humble, hard-working and has the look of a guy with something to prove. New goalkeeper Ederson almost had his head kicked off and can still smile about it!
The new players have had a noticeable effect on City’s existing stars too. Jesus never looks to be in good spirits but is a persistent goal threat. Agüero is warming to their new strike partnership despite being benched at Bournemouth. KDB has elevated his game to another level and is more trusting of those around him. John Stones, surely a future club captain, is growing in stature before our very eyes.
Why are they even on Twitter?
It might be that I’m reading too much into the tweets, pictures and videos that are coming out of the club each day. Footballers’ use of social media seems to cut both ways. When the team are winning, it gives fans an increased sense of connection to these otherwise unrelatable megastars. However, when things go awry we start hearing about KDB’s parenting troubles, Arsenal’s obsession with selfies and Pogba the dab merchant. The biggest window into team spirit suddenly becomes a stick with which to beat the players.
Was team spirit ever a concern?
I wrote many times about the squad’s mentality issues last year. The big players tended to overplay in tricky moments rather than believing in team and the system. With no obvious leaders on the pitch, in Vinny’s absence, confidence was low and communication was lacking. The doom and gloom increased with every missed chance and every abysmal refereeing decision and it clearly affected the players. The hope now is that there are enough encouraging voices in the squad to keep everyone heading in the right direction. We’ll find out when they hit the inevitable rough patch that comes with England’s gruelling fixture list.
If and when things get tough, the atmosphere within the squad needs to be relaxed enough to allow for risk taking and mistakes. Influential figures such as de Bruyne and Stones appear to have the trust and friendship of their teammates. They must use their voices to address any collective failings head-on, in a constructive way, rather than letting heads drop.
Does team spirit actually matter?
There are plenty of examples of superb team spirit being the key ingredient for success. Leicester’s incredible title win, England’s 2005 Ashes success, Great Britain’s 100m sprint relay gold in Athens, and the list goes on. City clearly have the talent, and it’s been mentioned once or twice that they’ve spent the money. With Pep’s unconditional public backing and a positive collective attitude, the sky really is the limit for this squad. Keep smiling, Blues.
Image from Goal.com