Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Did Guardiola get his team wrong for Tottenham defeat?

David Nugent in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 10 Apr 2019

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It seems almost comical to question the decisions of one of the greatest football managers of the modern era. However, did Pep Guardiola get his team wrong for Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat at Tottenham in the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday night?

One goal second-half goal from Heung-Min Son was enough to seal the victory after Hugo Lloris had saved a first-half penalty kick from Sergio Aguero. In reality, though City never looked like scoring an equaliser, on a very rare off day for the Citizens.

Where was De Bruyne and Sane?

People will say that Manchester City have got strength-in-depth, so any team that plays should produce a quality performance. There is also the reasoning that the Citizens have a lot of games to come, as they chase an unprecedented quadruple.

However, Guardiola’s selection for Tuesday’s game did not make sense. A trip to Tottenham, especially now they are in their new shiny home was always going to be a difficult one. That means City should have started their strongest eleven.

Guardiola decided to leave star central midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and winger Leroy Sane on the substitutes bench until late, too late in fact. For me, both players should have started the game. Guardiola’s decision to play Ilkay Gundogan instead of De Bruyne in central midfield was based on wanting a more defence-minded approach.

However, City’s best form of defence has been to attack under the Catalan boss. The decision to chose Riyad Mahrez ahead of Sane was a strange one for me.

The Algerian was brilliant at Leicester in their title-winning season, scoring some vital goals for the Foxes. However, since his move to City, he has struggled to really hit the same heights, especially in big games. He was once again ineffective for the Citizens against Spurs.

I am sure if the City fans would have had their choice, it would have been Sane starting the game and not Mahrez.

Delph struggled at left-back

Manchester City were almost forced into playing Fabian Delph at left-back on Tuesday night by the absence of Benjamin Mendy and Oleksander Zinchenko due to injury. The midfielder has played in the position very successfully in the past but struggled against Tottenham.

It would be harsh to criticise Delph too much for his display, considering his relative lack of first team football of late. However, he could definitely have done better on the winning goal.

Guardiola’s only other real option would have been to play Aymeric Laporte at full-back, with John Stones or Vincent Kompany starting at centre-back. In retrospect that looked like it may have worked better, but hindsight is a tremendous thing.

City still one of the favourites to win the Champions League

Despite the first leg defeat at Tottenham in the quarter-finals, Manchester City are still joint-favourites at odds of 3/1 to win the Champions League this season.

The Citizens were unusually flat going forward in north London, which is a very rare occurrence. Guardiola’s side are unlikely to produce such a tepid display in the second leg next week at the Etihad Stadium.

For many Pep Guardiola is the greatest coach that football has ever seen. However, he is only human and has a habit of making strange changes to his team, especially in the Champions League.

In previous quarter-final ties, the Catalan boss has made fatal changes to his teams’ line-ups against the likes of Real Madrid and Liverpool last season. I love Guardiola as a coach, but sometimes I believe he tries to overcomplicate football.

His tactician’s mind is a blessing and a curse at the same time. He is brilliant, but his ego often makes him think he has to something extraordinary. However, maybe he will learn from Tuesday nights defeat that just playing attractive football and winning is enough.

Did Guardiola get his team wrong for Tottenham defeat?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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