The suggestion that players might ever lack desire is hard for fans to accept. After all, it’s not as if there’s a limited supply. Passion is supposed to pour out from within, something footballers secrete with the blood, sweat and tears they shed for whichever club is paying them.
Fans so often say, “As long as the players give their all, we’ll support them” only for the browbeating to begin as soon as results take a turn. We like to believe we are acting with moral superiority when we jeer just as the going gets tough and blaming passion gives us that excuse.
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The problem is that blaming passion usually covers up for the real problems. It’s a sort of God of the Gaps, a pliable but overly-simplistic explanation for defeat.
Manchester City players are being accused of lacking the stuff right now after their 4-2 loss at Old Trafford. “Sack the manager (the one who won the league less than a year ago), he hasn’t motivated the players! Where’s the passion?”. “Yaya Toure?! More like ApathyApathy Toure…”
But what really is passion, anyway? Can’t we want something but show it in different ways? Does it really have to be the same, tired old gestures? Running around frantically, flying into tackles, kissing the badge and applauding the fans?
It’s this approach to competition, the constant demand for “passion” on our terms, which holds English football back. As soon as we see something we don’t like it's because the players don’t want it enough.

The truth with Manchester City is that the squad is going stale, growing old together. They have the oldest squad of any major team in Europe and so, logically, many of their players have peaked.
If it was just two or three of them then the others could cover it up. Unfortunately it isn’t just two. Or three. When only one of your players in the starting XI is under 29 (the brilliant Sergio Aguero) then your performances will suffer, especially towards the end of a very draining season.
City’s main failing over these very successful last few years has been a failure to plan for the medium term. As Arsene Wenger said last week “When your main players get close to 30, you can't buy a 30-year-old player… if you buy another player of 30, they all die together."
City’s decline in 2015 has been rapid and, without major surgery over the summer, it’s only going to get worse.
They face a bigger problem too - they have to bring in these new younger players, who come at a heavy premium, in a time of Financial Fair Play restrictions.
However they do it, the fact is that the next three years will be much harder for City than the last three have been. When times get tough, and they will, will all of the fans understand the challenge ahead or will the players’ desire be questioned instead?
We already know the answer.
Maxwell Ward - @MGWardy
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