Tag Archives: Pep Guardiola

What’s Up With City?

Manchester City hit another bump in the road on Sunday as they slipped to a second defeat of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Two late Adama Traore goals gave Wolves all three points at the Etihad.

In the skewed reality of this latest iteration of the Premier League, where Liverpool and City are essentially both gunning for record breaking points tallies, every dropped point by the two runaway leaders is infinitely more drastic. 

It means that Liverpool’s eight point lead early in the season feels like a cavernous gap – the Merseyside tectonic plate shifting away from the East Manchester one. So what exactly is going wrong for City?

Their latest defeat against Wolves was an example of something that has been heralded as a weakness throughout Pep Guardiola’s managerial career: counter-attacks. 

It’s common to see just City’s centre-backs not joining the attack, leaving them exposed to teams adept at transitioning quickly up the pitch on the counter.

And Wolves are a side that specialise in hitting the opposition in such a way, as shown by their excellent record against the ‘big six’ since their promotion back to the Premier League. 

Nuno Espirito Santo had his Wanderers side play a wonderful counter-attacking game on Sunday. Part of this was, of course, through excellent defending. They were able to funnel City wide and force them to go wide and cross the ball – playing straight into the hands (foreheads) of Willy Boly, Connor Coady and 13th minute substitute Ryan Bennett. 

Their defensive organisation was supreme, and further drew in City to leave them more vulnerable at the back for when Wanderers did strike. And when they did, they did so with excellently. 

Raul Jimenez terrified Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho with his dribbling ability, and should probably have given Wolves the lead in the first half. But City clung on, and it was Santo’s tactical shift that helped bring about Wolves’ two late strikes. 

In January of last season, Wanderers fell 3-0 against City at the Etihad Stadium after Boly’s first half red card. At half time, Traore was brought on to offer a direct counter-attacking threat with his pace in behind.

Although it didn’t work out then – Wolves were down to 10 men and completely pinned in by City – Santo used this tactic again on Sunday in far more positive circumstances. 

In the 68th minute, Matt Doherty was brought on for Patrick Cutrone. The Irishman took up his usual slot at right wing-back, with Traore moving up front alongside Jimenez. 

The Mexican frontman again terrified Otamendi and Fernandinho with his dribbling on the counter, and this time had Traore haring up the pitch with him to finish.

Counter-attacking isn’t the only way to exploit City. Set pieces are a well known weakness, and generally getting at their centre-backs can cause real trouble. Especially with Otamendi the most experienced available player in that position, with his sudden decisions to forget how to be a footballer. 

Norwich were able to target City’s weaknesses in devastating fashion with their victory at Carrow Road earlier this season. 

The Canaries opened the scoring with a set piece goal, before continuing to cause City problems with their boldness in playing out from the back. 

It was the style that saw Norwich promoted last season as champions, and they showed that if you can break the Citizen’s initial press and go at their centre-backs, City are vulnerable – as proved with Norwich’s second.

Otamendi got himself in a pickle, while at full-back Kyle Walker sat far too deep to play Teemu Pukki onside. For the third goal, Otamendi was caught in possession as he made one of his sudden decisions to forget how to be a footballer. 

Of course, there are some mitigating circumstances. The centre of City’s defence is a key issue, which is somewhat understandable considering the injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, as well as the departure of the ageing Vincent Kompany. 

There is also some transition in midfield, with Rodri still adapting to his role at the base of midfield in front of the defence. Kevin de Bruyne is also a huge loss in the middle of the park. 

But these weaknesses also seem to be systematic, and it looks like Premier League sides are starting to target them more and more. 

Guardiola has adapted before upon his arrivals in Germany and England. Now, it is looking like he must continue to evolve his City side to tend to their weaknesses, before Liverpool build up an even healthier lead at the top of the table.

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Pep Guardiola admits Gabriel Jesus dilemma ahead of trip to Everton

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confessed that he is struggling to keep Gabriel Jesus happy at the club.

The Brazilian centre-forward has this week revealed that he is growing increasingly “impatient” with a lack of game time.

Jesus, now 22, signed for the Manchester club in 2017 but still finds himself as second-choice to Sergio Aguero – City’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Despite Jesus starting two of Man City’s last three matches, and scoring in both, Aguero is set to lead the attack away at Everton on Saturday evening.

And Guardiola has admitted that he is finding it difficult to keep Jesus happy.

“He’s special,” said Guardolia. “Of course he wants to play. He’s the No.9 for Brazil. I understand completely.

“All the players want to play all the games. It’s normal. No player will be happy if they don’t play regularly.

“He’s happy when he plays, not happy when he doesn’t.

“They have different qualities. Sergio is one of the most outstanding players I’ve seen in the small spaces.

“But I try to let them both play as much as possible. There are little details that make the difference.

“In some games, Gabriel gives me something Sergio can’t – and also the other way around.

“But both guys are incredible. Sergio is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, a top player, a legend, incredibly humble and a funny guy.

“They’re upset if they don’t play, of course. How can they be happy? It’s impossible. All I can say is that I’m sorry.

“The same happened in the midfield, with Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne or Phil Foden. I have to choose. We have many games and everyone is necessary.”

City go into the match on the back of three straight wins, scoring 14 goals and conceding none.

Their opponents have struggled of late in the Premier League, winning just one of their previous four matches, and two of those losses coming against newly-promoted sides.

Despite a lack of form for the Toffees, Guardiola still expects a tough match against Marco Silva’s team.  

“They are an incredible team with a top manager,” said Guardiola. “Goodison Park is one of the toughest games you can play and we know it. We’ve prepared for that and the players know how difficult it is.”

Expected line-ups

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, D Silva; B Silva, Aguero, Sterling.

Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Delph, Schneiderlin; Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Iwobi; Calvert-Lewin.

Who is Man City’s most important player?

Manchester City are arguably one of the best teams in Europe at the moment, if not the best. With Pep Guardiola at the club, the Spaniard has managed to create one of the greatest squads ever assembled and Fabian Delph still get’s the nod when fit. A squad filled an army of world-class talent that isn’t afraid to get down and got to war when needed to.

With players such as David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and so many more it’s incredibly hard to single out one player as Manchester City’s most important player but for me, it can only be one man.

I nearly went for Fernandinho and I wouldn’t be wrong if I did as he is the anchor for The Cityzens and when he doesn’t play the club do suffer as his role is so hard to fill. When Fernandinho has been injured this season it has been very noticeable that he hasn’t played.

However, the player that I have opted for in terms of Manchester City’s most important player is Portuguese playmaker Bernardo Silva. Signed last season from Monaco for 42 million pounds not many knew what Pep was getting from the man nicknamed ‘Bubblegum’. Silva didn’t take to life instantly at the Etihad initially struggling to get into the team ahead of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. Towards the end of last season, we got glimpses of just how special he was but the 18/19 campaign was destined for Bernardo to officially announce himself.

Knee injuries for De Bruyne allowed Silva to establish himself in the starting XI in his preferred central position and it was evident he offered something different for City in terms of his work rate. This is highlighted perfectly is his performance against Liverpool in a 2-1 win at The Etihad. Bernardo covered a staggering 13.7 kilometres in the game which was the highest from any player so far this season and he probably still could’ve carried on.

Silva has eight goals and eight assists so far this season and his first touch is absolutely outstanding. Should Man City continue to fight on all fronts then Bernardo Silva will be at the centre of it all as he is for Man City’s most important player.

Who do you think Man City’s most important player is? Let us know below.

How to solve a problem like Fernandinho? 3 possible replacements

The clock is ticking at Manchester City, not on their time as a trophy-collecting force but on their time to replace maybe the most important cog in the city machine, Fernandinho

The Brazilian Dynamo, now 33, won’t have too many seasons left at the top level and the race is on to find a successor to the defensive midfielder’s throne, City will sincerely miss what he brings to the team and a replacement search is underway.

The Premier League champions seemingly have a world-class alternative in every position apart from the defensive midfield slot occupied by Fernandinho. His part in breaking up plays and starting lightning quick attacks can’t be underestimated and is sorely missed when he is absent from the side. Manager Pep Guardiola has used Fabian Delph and even John Stones in the position to limited success.

So who could City turn to? We look at 3 possible replacements for the Brazilian

  1. Ruben Neves

The most heavily linked player and with good reason, his displays in the Championship last season were very impressive and it’s thought that City assessed Neves in the summer but was maybe hesitant to pull the trigger and needed to see how he fared in the Premier League this season. Well, his season so far wouldn’t dissuade Pep from thinking he could fit into his incredible side, his passing from midfield and also his ability to read the game and break up play is kin to Fernandinho. Neves is also not shy to shoot from outside the box to devastating effect thus adding another facet to City’s already formidable attack. The Portuguese has experience of the Premier League and also the Champions League in his time with Porto, at 21 he has time to adapt to the role if needed. Neves’ signature will no doubt come with a hefty price tag but Manchester City’s power in the transfer market should be able to make any deal happen.

2. Tanguy Ndombele

The French midfielder 22, has caught the eye of every top club in Europe with dazzling displays in Ligue 1 and the Champions League with Lyon, the latter of which saw him come face to face with Manchester City in the group stage where Guardiola had a front row seat to see a possible replacement for the defensive midfield position.

Over the two ties Ndombele was a powerful force in the Lyon midfield, handling his role excellently against the Premier League juggernauts, he moved out of midfield with power and pace, set up chances and was named man of the match by Sky Sports in the 2-2 second fixture. City has been rumoured to have made contact with the French club about a possible move but will need to fight cross-city rivals Manchester United and Italian champions Juventus for the Frenchman’s signature.

3. Douglas Luiz/Ante Palaversa

Could the heir to Fernandinho be closer to home? 2 young talents on loan at Girona and Hadjuk Split respectively have been highly rated by Guardiola and with the Spaniard’s skill at player development, it could save City a lot of money and time if they could fill the role.

Douglas Luiz 20, joined City from Brazilian Giants Vasco Da Gama last season for £10.8m and was a part of Citys pre-season squad before being sent out on loan to Girona in La Liga due to not being able to gain a work permit Much to Guardiola’s displeasure

The manager from Brazil [Tite] and myself know more than the guys who decide he is not able to play. I am so sad and disappointed for Douglas because he could help us, play with us. He has shown many good things in training sessions and the reason why we spent a lot of money to buy him [£10.7m] is because he is a player with a huge capacity to play for us.

Luiz has put in some great displays for Girona, most notably against Real Madrid, his attributes include his physicality and great technical ability along with his reading of the game which makes Douglas a good fit. Should Luiz obtain a work permit Guardiola could give the young Brazilian the chance he will be looking for.

Also in the City ranks is 18-year-old Croatian Ante Palaversa, signed on deadline day in January for £4.3m from Hadjuk Split, the youngster came through the ranks from the youth team at Hadjuk, and is also a Croatian u19 player and captain. At 6″1, size is on his side, he can play in the defensive midfield position and also further forward making him versatile. Ante also has an eye for goal and is strong in the tackle giving the Croatian familiar qualities needed to play the Fernandinho role. Upon being signed in January Palaversa was immediately loaned straight back to Hadjuk Split for the remainder of this season and all of the 2019/20 season so he may be one for the future.

Whoever Manchester City decide to succeed Fernandinho, they have very big shoes to fill, but with Guardiola’s coaching ability and City’s track record in transfers it’s likely they will make the right decision.

Wayne Edge

 

 

Should we have a winter break in England?

It has been announced that the FA and the Premier League have agreed to have a two-week winter break in February of the 2019/20 season.

All of the other top leagues: Spanish, French, German, Italian, even Scottish have a winter break. So surely this is a step forward for English football?

Well, all that can be seen from this decision is that the English game is losing its heritage and tradition.

It maybe a stupid or a tiny tradition, or not even a tradition, just a thing that hasn’t changed, but it’s our little tradition.

Pep Guardiola said it was killing the players not having a winter break and José Mourinho says it is why English clubs don’t win the Champions League.

But the Champions League is a competition in which English clubs have the second best winning record behind Spain, a country from which only two clubs have won, whereas five English clubs have.

Pep may be one of, if not the best manager at the top level of European football. However, this isn’t the only time he has spoken out against the English game and its traditions.

Guardiola’s Barcelona and the rest of La Liga, their style of play tradition is passing from the back, keeping the ball, etc etc.

However, the English tradition in football is to two-foot the person with the ball and the crowd go mental for it. But Pep, not so much.

If a foreign player wants to play in England, they need to get used to a snowy St James’ Park and brace themselves for the tackles flying in.

And it isn’t even like the introduction of a winter break will have positives for fans to make the game more interactive with supporters.

The FA Cup Fifth Round is to be played midweek. So forget about the Plymouth Argyle fans who are drawn away at Newcastle, because English traditions need to be destroyed and a winter break is necessary for that.

The top bosses in football don’t ask themselves “Fans don’t see the FA Cup as beautiful and magical as what it was, I wonder why?”

It’s got nothing to do with the fact that the rules keep changing: moving the semi-final to Wembley, picking which rounds they want replays for, making games midweek and not putting fans first.

Also, Premier League clubs will have two weeks minimum without a match. There’s already enough stick on social media and everywhere when everyone only has England to watch, never mind no football at all.

So, the winter break is likely to be introduced in the 2019/20 season. It may be a good thing, it may not be. Only time will tell. (It’s not, it’s definitely not).