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Why Pep Guardiola continues to criticise Man City’s home crowd

Fresh from stuffing the ball into the bottom corner to equalise for Liverpool at the home of the reigning champions, Trent Alexander-Arnold couldn’t resist placing one finger in front of his lips.

Yet, there wasn’t much noise to shush at the Etihad Stadium – according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola at least.

For a meeting between the Premier League‘s top two at the time, the latest edition of the defining rivalry of modern English football, it did seem somewhat subdued. On numerous occasions throughout the contest, Guardiola turned away from the pitch and towards the stands filled with 53,289 quiet souls, pointing at his ears and flapping his arms.

This is not the first time Guardiola has played the role of an exasperated conductor.

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola was much more happy with his players than the fans on Saturday / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Despite lacking the control that he craves, Guardiola was effusive in his praise of City’s players. “It was an excellent performance,” he said with a hollow tone that didn’t inspire great confidence in his words. “It was really, really, really good. We always made the right decisions,” Guardiola reviewed, before adding: “Yes, we missed a bit of spark.”

The Catalan coach was fiercely cagey when the topic of his scuffle with Darwin Nunez was raised post-game but proved far more willing to pile in on his own supporters. When quizzed on why he had repeatedly gestured towards the crowd, Guardiola simply explained that he wanted “some more noise”.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had bemoaned the lunchtime kick off immediately after an international break given the limited training time it afforded each squad. Guardiola also had an issue with the scheduling. “It’s 12.30, we were still in the sheets, sleeping,” he sniped. “I like noise against Liverpool but it didn’t happen. When it doesn’t happen, you have to play better to make the crowd follow us.”

Josep 'Pep' Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has turned on City’s fans before / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages

The sight of Guardiola spinning towards the stands is nothing new. Sometimes the crowd responds to his demand for more decibels – take the 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal last April as a prime example – and on other occasions, Guardiola’s shouts are the loudest in the ground – as was the case when West Ham United came to the Etihad in May.

Guardiola has voiced his disdain for the din – or lack thereof – publicly on numerous occasions. Most notably, City’s home crowd fell under Guardiola’s ire after a 4-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in January. City’s players were not spared in the Catalan’s extraordinary tirade against his “happy flowers” team as the barbs rained down.

“Our fans were silent for 45 minutes. I want my fans back,” Guardiola fumed. “I want my fans that are here – not my away fans, they are the best – but my fans here to support every corner and every action.”

City had been booed off at half-time during that particular fixture while trailing 2-0. “Maybe it’s like our team,” Guardiola pointedly mused. “Maybe they are so comfortable winning four Premier Leagues in five years.”

Yet, Guardiola isn’t averse to a bit of dissent. “If we don’t play good, I want our fans to demand the maximum,” he explained. “I prefer they boo than don’t say anything because when they are with this energy, the players feel it and together we are stronger.”

Manchester City v Nottingham Forest - Premier League

Manchester City’s fans have not always earned praise from Guardiola / George Wood/GettyImages

Guardiola had actually begun the 2022/23 campaign by praising City’s fanbase. “It has changed compared to previous seasons and definitely my first seasons here,” the coach remarked in August 2022. “The noise is louder, they are closer, it is always full, and it is a joy to play in the Etihad right now.”

City‘s relentlessly successful coach has previously clashed with fans over the attendance figures at the Etihad. Guardiola called on spectators to make sure the stadium is “full, full, full” at the start of 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic put everything behind closed doors. Once public venues had reopened, he again demanded more footfall in September 2021.

Unlike the calls for more noise, fans did not take kindly to Guardiola’s comments which fed into the unflattering nickname for City’s home ground: ‘the Emptyhad’.

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol  - Liga BBVA

Barcelona’s fans serenaded Guardiola upon his departure / David Ramos/GettyImages

Bayern Munich’s fans once booed Guardiola during pre-season in 2015 as he refused to rule out a move to City but the infamously rapturous German support generally lived up to their lofty reputation.

At Guardiola’s lowest ebb as Barcelona manager, the Camp Nou crowd was at its loudest.

The Catalan giants had just been knocked out of the 2012 Champions League semi-finals at home to Chelsea and were consigned to second place in La Liga behind eternal rivals Real Madrid. Yet a roar swept around the vast concrete bowl. “Ser del Barca es el millor que hi ha!” Being Barca fans is the best thing there is!

With that level of dedication as Guardiola’s baseline, no wonder City’s fans fall short.

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