Mikel Arteta did not view Pep Guardiola's touchline ban as an excuse for Manchester City's listless 2-1 Champions League defeat to Lyon and he was not about to cite chucks of empty seats at the Etihad Stadium as a factor.
Nevertheless, it was hard not to detect a hint of weariness over the situation being familiar. City were some bookmakers' favourites for a tournament their fans struggle to view with similar enthusiasm.
"We had this type of crowd in the Champions League before and we were able to win the game," first-team coach Arteta told a news conference after 40,111 attended the match at a 55,000 capacity stadium.
"The ideal scenario is to have a full stadium every time and have people supporting the team like crazy. Some weeks that doesn't happen but I don't think it's an excuse."
When established international footballers such as Fabian Delph, Fernandinho and Kyle Walker are among those making clanging mistakes, directly blaming fans who decided not to come is clearly absurd. But if a dearth of atmosphere is not an excuse, it certainly does not help.
Plenty of those who were there for kick-off against Lyon ensured the competition anthem, in all its pomp and bombast, was again greeted with boos.
Ill-feeling towards UEFA from City supporters is generally pinned on the spending restrictions and fine the club were slapped with under Financial Fair Play laws in 2014.
In the wake of Sheikh Mansour's horizon-shifting takeover at the Etihad Stadium in 2008, FFP was viewed – not unreasonably – as a hasty attempt to pull up the drawbridge, driven by Europe's established elite.
However, the fiasco of some CSKA Moscow fans attending a match against the English side that was supposed to be played behind closed doors in the Russian capital, following instances of racism, proved a tipping point that prompted City's unusual pre-match tradition. UEFA's brief and farcical threat of disciplinary action over the booing hardly helped.
During his first season at the helm, Guardiola asked fans to respect the anthem to no avail and backed away from that position, taking a freedom-of-expression line last term. It could be time for him to force the issue again because the antipathy feels increasingly misplaced.
Surely the best way stick it to UEFA would be to see captain Vincent Kompany hoist their big trophy above his head, roaring him and his team-mates on every step of the way?
Financial fair play for fans?
It should be remembered watching elite football in England is not cheap, with City among the offenders by hitting fans with annual price rises on season-tickets. In doing so, they arguably shoulder the burden of the empty seats with UEFA
But prices for their Champions League group games in 2018 are very reasonable. The cheapest general sale prices against Lyon were £22.50 for adults and £10 for juniors, with further reductions for seasoncard holders. A three-ticket bundle including the round-robin matches against Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffenheim could be secured for £52.50 and £15 respectively.
This all adds up and eats into every supporter's budget for a busy season, although it probably does not explain a 14,000 drop from City's average Premier League attendance by itself.
Something more intangible and deeper running is also at play. After the takeover happened 10 years ago, City went from being many people's second favourite club and purveyors of a particular sky-blue brand of tragicomedy to the team ruining football, the embodiment of all that was wrong with the modern game.
That is a disorientating switch for any fan to absorb as it confronts them in countless conversations, articles, phone-ins and podcasts, and cuts to the heart of being a football supporter. It is a matter of identity – who are this team I bind my emotions to, why do I love them, what do they mean and how do I relate to them?
In the early years of the takeover City clattered giddily onwards domestically, playing the same teams they always had in England - just beating them most of the time and winning titles like their great team of the late 1960s and early 1970s did. The Champions League was a clear point of difference, making it harder for fans to merrily accept a new reality that felt like home to rivals.
It was the competition Manchester United won while City were slogging their way out of English football's third tier in 1999. Liverpool's "special" Anfield nights always refer back to a familiar past and a sense of belonging, something a semi-final appearance, victories over Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, and the appointment of Europe's most celebrated modern coach have failed to engender at City.
Despite last season's stunning achievements, Guardiola's tenure and a remarkable period in City's history will be judged to a large extent over whether he can breach the final frontier in Europe.
The Catalan frequently talks about needing to address the "small details" to avoid reverses such as their slip-up against Lyon. He is talking in terms of tactics and performance, but the knowledge that vociferous backing from the stands can, every now and then, drive a team on during big matches and key moments is a small detail that gives rich meaning to the often-futile act of following a football club.
City's loyal support was their lifeblood 20 years ago and helped to nudge them out of the darkness. The gap between Division Two and Champions League might be hard to reconcile but everyone pulling in the same direction can have a galvanising effect at all levels of the sport. Through initiatives such as "City Matters" - newly established quarterly meetings between the hierarchy and elected fan representatives – nurturing an affinity for Champions League matches should be a top priority.
Mansour's reference to City being "half way up our Everest" in an open letter last week hinted at an obvious target. It might only be a small detail but the ascent to Champions League success would be a little more straightforward if the club was being propelled by its supporters, not dragging them reluctantly along.
18 de octubre 2018
|Mayweather should come back to fight me - Alvarez|
|Goerges battles past Vekic, Kasatkina wins all-Russian tie|
|Ask 32,000 Gibraltarians if the Nations League is meaningless - Styche|
|They´re going to speak about it for years - Azhar reflects on comical run-out|
|Garcia in the mix as weather hits Andalucia Valderrama Masters|
|From lacking a ´football brain´ to signing a new contract – the Mourinho-Shaw saga|
|Alonso teases Indy 500 return as Hamilton reveals NASCAR temptation|
|Guptill ruled out of Black Caps´ UAE tour|
|UEFA investigating PSG-Red Star fan clashes|
|Just ´another weekend´ for champion-elect Hamilton|
|G League will offer $125K to top prospects in lieu of NCAA one-and-done route|
|Chargers defensive end Bosa ´a few weeks´ away from return, says father|
|Bale back in full Real Madrid training|
|Roma supporter found not guilty of inflicting GBH on Liverpool fan Sean Cox|
|´Fantastic´ Neuer will prove he´s still the best, says Lloris|
|Perez secures Force India stay|
|Australia wait on Khawaja scan|
|Shaw signs Manchester United extension|
|Jones lays down challenge to snubbed England star Cipriani|
|West Ham´s Pellegrini rejects Dzeko speculation|
|Emery fails to assure Ramsey of Arsenal future|
|Pakistan on course for victory after Babar 99 and farcical run out|
|Canelo ready to leave comfort zone to face Fielding|
|Eriksen ready for Tottenham return, Pochettino confirms|
|Titans coach rocked by Hurrell´s Rhinos switch|
|Rubin Kazan suspended from UEFA competition for FFP breach|
|Real Madrid could sack Lopetegui if results don´t improve, says Essien|
|On-court coaching would add to drama - Mouratoglou|
|Babbel lauds ´top class´ Ronaldo after Juventus switch|
|Carmelo Anthony: Rockets bench role challenging mentally|
|Maqsood preferred to Amir in Pakistan T20 squad|
|Make Ramsey Arsenal captain, don´t let him leave – Wilshere|
|Kaneria admits guilt in spot-fixing case|
|No coach can work miracles – Ibrahimovic defends under-fire Mourinho|
|Morgan earns England recall, Cipriani overlooked|
|Reavie leads CJ Cup, solid start from Koepka|
|Juventus kicked me out to sign Ronaldo – Higuain|
|England forward Hughes given six-week ban|
|Injured Halep withdraws from WTA Finals|
|Ronaldo exit makes all the difference for Real Madrid – Luxemburgo|
|Manchester United´s Chelsea Blues and other one-sided rivalries|
|Babbel fears for Kovac´s Bayern future|
|Bradley homers again, Red Sox take 3-1 lead over Astros|
|Ayton, Doncic shine on NBA debuts|
|Leonard focusing on future after Raptors debut|
|MLS Review: Rooney stunner seals DC win, Sounders clinch play-off spot|
|Pochettino ´proud´ of Dier for Ramos tackle|
|Wallabies name three uncapped players for All Blacks clash|
|Lakers coach Walton will monitor LeBron´s minutes, plans to use deep rotation|
|Lloris: United´s Pogba unfairly judged because of transfer fee|
|´Phenomenon´ Mbappe deserves Ballon d´Or, says Buffon|
|Dodgers on cusp of World Series after beating Brewers|
|Mata braced for ´difficult month´ at Man United|
|WATCH: Rooney scores wonderful free-kick for DC United|
|Kaino handed five-week ban for striking Roberts|
|Bears star Khalil Mack ´day-to-day´ with ankle injury|
|Anthony has ´a clearer understanding´ of his role with Rockets|
|Brewers remove Miley after one batter against Dodgers|
|Rams rule out Kupp for 49ers game|
|Giants owner Mara to talk with Beckham Jr|
|Bamberg battle back to claim Champions League win|
|MLB investigated alleged Astros sign stealing, found no wrongdoing|
|Timberwolves star Wiggins to donate $22 for every point this NBA season|
|Red Sox´s Sale won´t start game five of ALCS|
|Tsitsipas and Shapovalov advance at Stockholm Open|
|Witsel to Dortmund is signing of the season - Martinez|
|Pique confident Nadal will play in 2019 Davis Cup|
17 de octubre 2018
|Seeds suffer in Moscow and Luxembourg|
|Johnstone grabs hat-trick as England ease past France|
|Pogba and Mourinho disagreement over Instagram video, confirms Pereira|