There was a proper sense of anticipation and open-hearted optimism among Manchester City most faithful last season as the Citizens opened their arms to welcome arguable the most celebrated coach in football.
As Premier League rivals moved on to terrify one another by appointing nothing but the best there was in the managerial world – Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho leading the way for Chelsea and Manchester United – it was the arrival of Pep Guardiola that made the biggest shockwave on the island as Manchester City owners envisaged an era of domination with former Barcelona and Bayern Munich man on the helm.
They ended up getting much more than they bargained for with Citizens currently getting scrambled up for a finish in the top four, without a single trophy to boast with.
Sky was supposed to be the limit for Guardiola and his men, some of which are well overpaid in their inability to deliver nothing but disappointment for the Citizens supporters. The barren year adds irritation to collective pride of the club that invested great deal of money, only to see its dream shattered in a frustrating fashion.
Manchester City have long surrendered in the Premier League race, whereas the League Cup got carelessly tossed away, while the lights of the Champions League and FA Cup fade in the distance.
And for a man who won silverware in each of his seven previous seasons – six of which were league titles – the debut season could with City might as well come as arguably his worst yet.
Struggle is real for Pep Guardiola and his men, who face an agonising race to finish the season above Manchester United for fourth place and a place in the Champions League next year. Fears are real as Manchester City prepare to host their feared neighbours, who on their own part head into the match without pressure after Mourinho openly stated his team will not pursue the top 4 finish, which is possibly their biggest strength against Citizens.
Guardiola’s men are one point ahead of Red Devils in fourth, with two games in hand on Liverpool in third, which is why Manchester Derby is the match that needs to be won.
With glides of grace and balance which ushered the new dawn to the Etihad last August against Sunderland long gone and sufferings of heavy legs and endless passes pushing Manchester City into ever-decreasing circles of underachievement this season, it is Pep Guardiola who bears the greatest load on his shoulders.
Where did it go wrong for Guardiola?
The Arsenal FA Cup defeat summed it up perfectly. Pep Guardiola got off to a wrongfully conceived start at Manchester City disrupting team atmosphere with Joe Hart treatment and Yaya Toure feud, which went on to lay the foundations in a bad manner for Citizens.
The team struggled to absorb the sudden changes in the playing style as well, as they did their best to reinvent themselves to Guardiola’s liking. Time ended up being Guardiola’s enemy as the Spaniard ended up failing to insert the lethal edge in his team’s performances.
There were plenty of aspects that went beyond Guardiola’s control, such as Vincent Kompany’s injury, but the captain’s absence cannot serve as an excuse or alibi for City – not finishing opportunities ahead of them at one end and – conceding too many error goals on the opposite side of the pitch.
The absence of Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus, however, make the alibi valid to great extent.
Injuries continue to test Guardiola’s patience as it is now evident that Manchester City will be sweating over the fitness of Sergio Aguero and David Silva ahead of the Manchester Derby, but the Spanish tactician needs to do more in order to make sure glimpses of promise turn into a brightly burning beacon of hope next term.
He will need to tweak his team and sort out the dwindling section of players which were here long before Guardiola even remotely thought of Manchester City as a club he could end up leading.
Time, as it was said, remains Guardiola’s biggest issue.
The Spaniard himself conceded that getting used to the new surrounding took more than he had hoped for and the very sense of inability must have been enhanced while coming to terms with Antonio Conte’s instant impact which will have come as a dagger through Spaniard’s success-beating heart might as well gotten to hard to process.
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