Manchester City are doomed! In crisis! Going to finish the season trophyless! Their squad's as thin as a paper napkin soaked in acid! You know, just like how a fortnight ago they had one hand on the title, thanks to their brilliant squad depth and number of top-class options in every position on the pitch?
With every passing season, it seems like peaks and troughs in form are played for more and more importance. A run of wins means that a team is on a charge to the title, but a single draw means that the run has ended, they've been found out, they'll be lucky to finish in the top four... You know the deal.
City are just the latest victims of the non-stop chat that comes with the vast majority of football fans being connected to the internet 24/7. Everyone needs things to read, which means they need things to read about, which means that people need things to write about. And so, everything is a story.
Manuel Pellegrini eats a cheese sandwich instead of a ham roll for lunch? Clearly a sign that he's thinking about changing his long-established plans, maybe he's about to drop Yaya Toure. There's an impassioned 800-word defence of Yaya just waiting to be written, two more pieces inspired by that asking if Yaya's washed up, a couple of articles covering the 'furious speculation' surrounding the City man, and finally a statement from Pellegrini the next day saying that no, obviously he isn't dropping the Premier League's best midfielder.
Then everybody focuses on the 'best midfielder in the league' part of that, and there's another two days' content in the can.
It's important to note: this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Speculation is fun and it's fine to be a bit silly, but for the love of all that's holy stop taking everything quite so seriously. This is basically a public service announcement: Take everything you read with a pinch of salt. You're sat on... a train? In the office? On the toilet? You need something to read, so read away.
Social media helps with this. Football fans have always been a panicky bunch, and they've never had a better way to express it than they do now on Twitter, Facebook and... Instagram? Myspace? .... Friendster?
Places like Twitter especially and the prevalence of self-published blogs, blur the line between journalist and fan. It's done an awful lot for breaking down the barriers between the pros and the plebs, which is a good thing in so many ways. It's made reading about football more accessible than ever, and there's a place to go for absolutely any kind of writing you want. But it does lend itself to exaggerating a little bit while writing.
It's not all wild speculation and overreactions, obviously - there's probably more really good football writing around than ever. Places like Iain Macintosh's new(ish) website The Set Pieces is a shining example of all that's brilliant in football writing, and there's a lot like it around. But there's a place for both that and the mountains of other writers making dubious points with hyperbolic conviction (to borrow a phrase), and they're both worth reading.
Let's strip back the exaggeration for a minute though, just for the sake of doing some actual football analysis rather than going all 'inside baseball' on the minutiae of football writing. What's actually happened at City over the last fortnight is far from a crisis.
The first defeat came against an inspired Juventus comeback, as the result of some slightly dodgy tactics. The second, an inspired goalkeeping performance from the returning Adrian held City in a game that they had approximately seven thousand chances to win.
Then, Spurs. Saturday's game will have been a massive shock to the system for the title favourites, but there's a reason their defence looked so shaky. Joe Hart out, Vincent Kompany out, a centre-back pairing of Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi with Willy Caballero in goal? In so many ways, Saturday's result was a one-off. City fans, don't panic.
In a way, the massive, headline grabbing scoreline makes the match itself even more meaningless. It sets a precedent for absolutely nothing. Spurs aren't going to beat another title contender 4-1 this season, and while it'd certainly open things up if City got thrashed like that again, it's not going to happen either.
So sit back and enjoy reading the panic. In among even the most outrageous of baseless rants, there might be a gem. Avoid Andy Gray's columns, obviously, but you can pretty much go wild on everything else. Just... exercise some critical thought when you're doing it, yeah?
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