The awful weather at the King Power Stadium on Saturday mirrored the awful and inept performance by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Pep’s reputation at risk?
Pep Guardiola arrived at City with a stellar reputation. Deservedly the recipient of much praise for the titles he won at Barcelona and his three consecutive league successes with Bayern Munich his capture by Manchester City seemed a bit surreal. We have come a long way from the laughing stock the club had become in the days of three managers in just over a month in the mid-1990s. #ItBegins they club proclaimed. The initial signs exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic City fans – 10 wins in a row took everyone by surprise.
How different the landscape looks now. The consecutive winning streak a distant speck in the rear view mirror, two consecutive defeats with multiple goals conceded and a defence that to describe it as tissue paper thin would be an insult to the strength and resilience of kitchen paper towels. At least they can hold themselves together when they get really wet unlike the City ‘defence’ which simply dissolved against Leicester.
A seeming refusal to acknowledge or even comprehend what we had all witnessed in the first few minutes of the defeat at The King Power Stadium had me wondering whether he actually recognises the danger. His apparent treatment of each game as a test tube experiment in the Premier League Footballing Laboratory as he endeavours to discover the perfect football formula moment strikes me as flawed an approach as that adopted by alchemists. The Premier League is a brutal and hostile working environment. This season especially it offers zero respite and no time whatsoever to accommodate the multiple systems involving different players each of whom is subject to variable micro-management instructions about which square metre they should be occupying at any given moment during a match. In the confusion and disjointed nature of our recent performances we can see this. What is he seeing?
I can admire someone whom is determined, confident and willing to fight for their beliefs. That I get. But Pep’s comments after the game on Saturday have me fearing that his ardent and passionate belief in his footballing principles is bordering on becoming a serious risk to the success of the club and his reputation as a coach. There is a point at which such commitment and adherence to your beliefs can start to look like stubbornness. There may come a point beyond which if you appear to be unwilling to react or to adapt and evolve your approach to deal with the realities you face then you can be in danger of eroding the reputation which has been so hard earned.
He needs to take care or the Great Footballing Experiment is at risk of blowing up in his face and damage could be significant to the club and him personally.
The season is on a knife edge
The performance at the weekend has left many Blues stunned. Not just the defeat – as though that isn’t hard enough to swallow – but the nature of it. 2-0 down inside 5 minutes, a non-existent defence and zero threat up front until the dying minutes when Leicester took their foot of the gas. The net result after the weekend’s matches – 7 points behind the seemingly unstoppable league leaders; clinging on to 4th place based largely upon the balmy results of the early autumn – the title effectively gone and the possibility of finishing outside the top four places in the league a distinct reality.
City’s season appears to be on a knife edge. Three games into a pivotal eight game run has delivered a draw in a game which pretty much didn’t matter and two substantive defeats. Watford will be eager to get at us and Arsenal await at the weekend. Scoring goals for fun Wenger’s players will relish the prospect of facing a City side that appears confused, leaderless and unable to keep a clean sheet. I am not sure I will be able to watch as my patience is taken to the absolute limit. If we don’t get a grip soon we could be out of the top four before the year is out.
Possession without purpose is going nowhere
78% possession in a 4-2 defeat. 17 shots with only 3 on target.
Pep has insisted that he wants his sides to control a game but it takes more than just control to win one. It certainly didn’t feel like we controlled the game against Leicester. Having possession of the ball is certainly necessary but what you do with it when you have it is just as crucial. For all the possession we enjoyed against Leicester we got a pretty poor return and little sign that Pep is going to accept that sacrificing some control might be necessary in order to win matches. That doesn’t fit with his philosophy. Unfortunately it is in danger of being labelled Possession without Purpose unless it starts delivering some positive results.
Fans really don’t want to watch their players in possession of the ball all the time if all they do is endlessly recycle it back and forth effectively waiting for the moment when a pass will be misplaced or the opposition intercept the ball, break forward quickly and stick the ball in the City net. This pretty much appears to be the current pattern of play.
Just keeping the ball marking time until your opponent scores isn’t terribly enjoyable for the players I am sure. It certainly isn’t fun for the supporters. Unless the possession can be positively converted into outcomes some of it may need to be sacrificed – there are no prizes at the end of the season for the team that has the highest possession statistic.
Someone needs to tell Pep before it is too late.
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