The esteemed Mark E Smith once stated ‘Fall Heads Roll.’ Three words that perhaps best describe what Manchester City’s squad will experience this summer…
To put it bluntly, The Blues European campaign this season can now be qualified as an abject failure aside of the Etihad fightbacks against Barcelona and our newfound UEFA nemesis Monaco. The reason is clear. We do not have an operational defence that is fit for sustained purpose at any level and for Pep Guardiola to declare that there is no defensive culpability for his vastly experienced side’s damp squib exit from the world’s elite club competition is utterly absurd.
City scored 24 goals overall in Europe this season, 6 of those coming without reply in the qualifiers against Steaua. The 18 goals scored in the 8 subsequent fixtures were countered by 16 against. Nobody is going to win the Champions League with that defensive record, let alone with the registering of only 1 clean sheet. Alarmingly, The Blues have shipped an average of 2 goals per game in Europe which is twice as many as the average under Manuel Pellegrini.
It’s not rocket science, though, is it? We could all see at Middlesbro last weekend the repeated free headers on goal that City offered up to the hapless Boro. It came as no surprise that City’s exit out of Europe came at the hands of a side who were more than capable of accepting such gift wrapped chances. It is simply not good enough at a level where there is no margin for error and yet at the same time the manner of Wednesday’s defeat should now finally precipitate the clear out Pep’s squad badly needs, rather than for a Stretfords-style scrape through to paper over widening cracks. This is further emphasised by the damning fact that City have actually exited Europe with the unwanted record of being the first ever Champions League team to be eliminated from the knock-out phases having scored 5 goals in the first leg. Ouch.
What galled me the most on 2 counts about ‘Monte Carlo gone bust’ this week was firstly how as was the case in last season’s semi-final against Real Madrid, inexplicably, City’s stellar line up chose not to compete and froze from the outset. Any battle hardened Blue will affirm how we can always accept defeat but can never accept a no show. Secondly, this was a clear and present missed opportunity thrown away. Monaco for all their dashing intent cannot physically sustain such a work rate for 90 minutes. They lasted 70 minutes at the Etihad then shipped 3 goals. They lasted 50 minutes at Stade Louis II before burning out such was the ferocity of their first half effort. In other words, they were there for the taking and City blew it spectacularly.
Game management is everything when the stakes are so high at the very top level but without a robust defence City are unable to see a winning position through to the final whistle and you certainly cannot legislate for the series of idiotic soft free kicks Kevin De Bruyne conceded which ultimately sealed our fate.
In other words, our ignominious European exit this week has confirmed that this City squad, for all it’s wealth of experience is NOT streetwise enough nor capable enough to deploy what is being asked of them against the stronger sides. The fixture list now dictates that our season, already pretty much defined, will now be reliant upon these same players beating the best teams in England if they are to achieve the results which will save this campaign from being deemed to be a write off. For that to happen Pep and City need to wise up, fast.
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