Manchester City fans should prepare for the journalistic silly season

It’s interesting to see how journalists set the stage for the creation of stories, issues and controversies out of little or nothing. The Manchester Evening News ran an article today entitled “Sergio Aguero could seek January move after Alexis Sanchez arrival”. It didn’t claim to get any information from any sources. It was pure speculation.

It suggested that Aguero who might face stiff competition from Sanchez and who is already facing stiff competition from Gabriel Jesus would not tolerate falling lower than these players in the pecking order, especially because it would affect his chances of playing at the World Cup.

This is not news. We don’t know Aguero’s thoughts nor do we know Guardiola’s tactical plans. It is conjecture. And it is very clever. By creating the premise that Aguero will not be able to tolerate his competition being selected ahead of him the article has provided a platform from which future stories can be launched using this theme. Every time Aguero is left on the bench an alarm can be sounded that he has become “Pep Guardiola’s fall guy”. Journalists did the same thing last season creating continuous speculation about his future until it became clear at the beginning of summer that the Argentine was staying.

By making a negative assumption about Aguero’s reaction to competition the question can now be asked again this year. Will he stay or will he go? Is Pep Guardiola doing the right thing to leave a fan favourite on the bench? Uncertainty breeds anxiety. Anxiety feeds stories. Controversy pulls readers and if you raise the possibility that Aguero might leave and the fans won’t like it, then the next thing to do is to assign blame. Guardiola’s every decision concerning Aguero can then be scrutinized more than it would normally be.

If Gabriel Jesus or Alexis Sanchez fail to deliver when they start ahead of Aguero in matches then the coach and club will be held responsible every single time it happens. When a story has controversy and anxiety as its base then exaggerated blame games, finger pointing and speculation can take place without the readers knowing they are being played.

Unfortunately, this is how news works these days. It is no longer about bringing you information, facts and even opinions. It’s about bringing you sensation, controversy and the story of the moment. The purpose of this is to attract your clicks so that news media can go to their advertisers and show how many people viewed their pages.

Sergio Aguero may well be concerned about his place in the squad. Competition is indeed coming. But is it a story, yet? Is it a bit early to be speculating about outcomes to situations that may or may not exist? Of course not! If the media did otherwise that would be very poor marketing even though it would be responsible journalism.

Manchester City is the perfect target for news organizations that want to “sell” news. It is a club made for sensational stories. Hundreds of millions have been spent on players over the years. This means that every draw or loss can be sensationalized. “How could City lose to that team who only spent a fraction of what City spent on their squad”? If you’re a City fan you will be familiar with hearing that line of reasoning so many times it makes you nauseous.

Then there are the stories that exploit the coach. If Guardiola has won almost everything there is to win then why did he lose to whatever side City may have lost to. You have heard the answers. He is a fraud. He can’t manage the Premier League. He is too arrogant to adapt.

It’s not about whether these arguments may be wrong or right. It’s that they are overplayed. They repeat their themes like stuck records. But they never become boring to many readers because at the heart of these arguments lie controversy, sensation or sometimes just petty spite and jealousy. Such ingredients never fail to deliver reactions no matter how many times they are used.

We are at the beginning of the Premier League season and this means we are also at the start of yet another journalistic silly season. Manchester City fans would be well-advised to prepare as usual for all manner of stories created to make as much money as possible for the “news” media. Some themes will make us nervous while other themes that use our success and strength to question our failures will annoy us. Again, when done reasonably this is fair play. But when it comes to making money things are very rarely done within reason, including journalism.

This will become tiresome if we allow it to lead us about. So don’t buy into everything you read City fans. For your own peace of mind don’t but into all of it. For the sake of the club and the players take everything you read with more than a grain of salt. For the sake of reason and good judgement don’t let exaggerated journalistic themes lead you astray. When it comes to believing in your club and cheering on the players don’t let them rain on your parade.