PEP GUARDIOLA’S brilliance as a manager is also his weakness.
The Spaniard has transformed football with his philosophy. Any supporter of the game has to admire watching a Guardiola team.
The Manchester City manager believes in winning the beautiful way and although it has brought him lots of success it has also cost him. The former Barcelona manager believes in his players and never seems to worry about the opposition.
Guardiola is more concerned about his team doing the right things rather than how they can stop the opposition from hurting them. With City, the English champions approach every game in the same manner.
Their game plan is to keep possession of the ball and wear teams down and out of position, win the ball as high up the pitch as they can. That’s all well and good against weaker sides who won’t have the bravery to make two or three passes to beat City’s press and will more often than not, aimlessly lump the ball up the pitch.
Better sides will be able to make those passes and expose City defensively. Manchester United showed just how weak City are defensively in their 2-1 win over their neighbours last weekend and United should have scored more.
City have been defensively poor this season. The departure of Vincent Kompany from the club and the loss of Aymeric Laporte for the majority of the season through injury has left City vulnerable at the back.
Fernandinho has operated at centre-back in the absence of Laporte but that has caused City to be weaker in midfielder and teams are playing through City easier. Guardiola knows that City’s weakness is their defence but rather than address it and alter his tactics to be better defensively, he believes his side should still win every game if they stick to their usual approach. The City manager needs to learn that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Guardiola was arrogant with his tactics against United. Everyone knows that United’s strength is playing counter-attaching football.
In Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James, Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s side have probably the quickest front three in world football, yet rather than sit deep against United, Guardiola instructed his defence to play a high line and allow United’s front three the space in behind that they wanted.
It’s hard to argue with Guardiola’s methods considering all he has achieved in the game but sometimes managers have to sacrifice their beliefs to nullify the treat of the opposition.
Arsene Wenger was often criticised during his time as Arsenal manager because of his stubbornness to change and the same can now be said about Guardiola.
Wenger believed that no matter who the Gunners faced, that they would win the game if they stuck to their game plan of trying to outplay the opposition.
The Frenchman was successful at the beginning but his belief was his downfall and Guardiola should learn from the new Chief of Global Football Development at FIFA past mistakes.
The 48-year-old is even starting to sound like Wenger with his bewildering comments claiming that City may “not be able now to compete” with Liverpool, United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.
This coming from a man who has won back-to-back league titles and has spent over €700 million during his three-and-a-half years at the club. If he his trying to convince people that City can’t compete with those clubs then he should try again.
It hasn’t helped Guardiola that his players seemed to have downed tools in the league. After back-to-back titles maybe the City players don’t have the hunger to win three-in-a-row.
Also, Liverpool’s remarkable results in the league will dishearten the City players and they probably don’t think there is much point in wasting their energy in the league when Jurgen Klopp’s side look unstoppable. Success in the League is important but City were always going to be judged this season on their success or failure in the Champions League and it seems the players are saving their energy to land the trophy the club are so desperate for.
Guardiola has won 27 trophies as a manager yet there will always be question marks about him as long as he fails to win another Champions League. He won the competition twice during his time as Barcelona manager but that was with the greatest team ever to play the game. He failed to get past the semi-finals with Bayern Munich and so far, has only reached the quarter-finals with City. There’s no doubt, Guardiola was appointed City manager to win the Champions League and pressure is on him to do so.
The Spaniard must do two things if City have a chance of winning the Champions League. He must adapt to the way the opposition play and accept his team can’t be always win playing one way.
Guardiola also needs to convince his board to spend big again in the January transfer market by recruiting Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. City have been reluctant to over spend on players – most notably Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire – but the English Champions should fork out the cash to secure Koulibaly.
The Napoli player’s signature coinciding with the return of Laporte should solve City’s defensive issues and give them a better chance of winning Europe’s elite competition because right now, they are no where near good enough to win it.