WITH the whistle blown on 2018/19 now comes the definitive reckoning, a divvying up of who won what along with a considered perspective on which sides over-achieved, under-achieved and downright imploded.
With most Premier League clubs, this is easy to do. Liverpool won the Champions League and finished runner up domestically with 97 points. A successful season. Tottenham secured top four and enjoyed a European adventure while further down the pecking order Burnley and Bournemouth comfortably saw off the threat of relegation. Excellent campaigns all. Over at Old Trafford, their demotion to also-ran status among the elite is indisputably borne out by their league standing.
With Manchester City however, there is a complication, a bone of contention that remains despite the fact that every other aspect of these past ten months has been well and truly gnawed to death. To jumble idioms it is also an elephant in the room: it looks like a giant shiny fifty pence and it goes by the name of the Community Shield.
✅ Carabao Cup
✅ Premier League
✅ Community Shield
A BORN WINNER !!! pic.twitter.com/jUUv62NFR4
— BarcelonaBoy (@iBarcelonaBoy) August 5, 2018
Does it count? Does last August’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Wembley upgrade City’s trophy haul from a treble to a quad? Ask any Blue and the answer would be an emphatic no; indeed they have recently taken to referring to their season’s tally of silverware as ‘3+1’ which is perfect really. It includes the shield in the conversation but makes clear it is viewed as no more than a bonus.
Furthermore, in 2017 we all took great delight in mocking United’s insistence they had won a treble after lumping their Community Shield in with Carabao Cup and Europa League successes. To everybody’s estimation it smacked of desperation while photographs of Jose Mourinho urging his players to hold aloft three fingers seemed to encapsulate United’s fall from grace better than any other example. Where once they were so powerful as to take ordinary trinkets for granted now they hopelessly over-valued their worth. It was the putting up of a cheese sandwich on Instagram.
City have no need to seek such solace and that is written with a good deal of under-statement. It is they who now dine at the top table surrounded by so much silverware they go through a tin of Brasso a week. It is they who can head to Wembley under a summer sun and cheer as their team emerges victorious yet still ultimately perceive the achievement for what it really is: the winning of a glorified pre-season friendly.
Speak to Pep Guardiola however and he has an altogether different slant. In April the Catalan was mightily peeved when a journalist asked about the possibility of a quadruple when in his mind it was a quintuple that was still unfeasibly feasible.
“The Community Shield? In Spain and Germany it’s important. We have won two titles this season and have three to play (for). Why play if it doesn’t count? We could have longer holidays.”
️ Pep Guardiola on the Community Shield being overlooked:
"I would like an answer. In Spain and Germany it’s important, but we have won two titles this season and three to play but everyone says one. Why play if it doesn’t count, we will have longer holidays."#MCFC pic.twitter.com/aQEBXblHzG
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) April 8, 2019
On Wikipedia meanwhile – admittedly hardly a categorical source – it may interest you to learn that in 2009 Manchester United won a quad courtesy of a league title, League Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and, yes, a Community Shield.
Countering this even the FA’s official website refrains from calling the Community Shield a ‘trophy’ while two years ago Laurent Koscielny was cleared to play in it despite being banned from ‘competitive fixtures’.
The more research that is undertaken on this subject the more it confuses and to add to that confusion consider these two scenarios.
On August 14th Chelsea and Liverpool meet up in Istanbul for the UEFA Super Cup. It is a fixture that has exactly the same criteria as the Community Shield – the winners of two different competitions competing in a one-off game – yet you can bet your bottom dollar that the winners will include it on their honours list next year.
What about the following hypothetical though for balance: a team ‘only’ wins the league after having won the Community Shield at the season’s start. Would a supporter of that team get away with claiming they had completed a double? No, they would be laughed out of town.
It’s been confirmed, Liverpool will play Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup on August 14, in Istanbul.
— LiverpoolFF (@LiverpoolFF) June 2, 2019
It is precisely because of these conflicting takes why I believe it is perfectly okay to legitimately claim that Manchester City won a quadruple this season. There. I said it. It’s because the Community Shield’s worth has never properly been defined. It is instead interpretive. It is all things to all men.
With this in mind its fine for United supporters to say they won a treble in 2017, just as it’s equally fine for the rest of all to roll about laughing. It’s fine too if Blues upgrade their unprecedented treble to an unprecedented quad (despite what Wikipedia suggests) and if mockery follows who really cares because there is no definitive right or wrong here and nobody gets hurt.
Given the domestic dominance that Guardiola’s men enjoyed this campaign, it is absolutely fair to include the fourth domestic trophy they won in order to fully appreciate that dominance. Whereas on other occasions it is nothing short of daft to deem the Community Shield an actual trophy.
That is confusing as hell; there are no two ways about that. But I don’t make the rules.