Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City – how Pep Guardiola got it wrong


“I don’t feel we played badly, we created chances and we controlled the game,” said Pep Guardiola post Manchester City’s Champions League defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Yes, perhaps the Premier League leaders did have 59% possession of the ball but with 10 shots at goal and just two on target, Tuesday night’s performance is just the latest that shows Manchester City aren’t just as clinical as they shown previously. Guardiola’s side have scored 23 fewer league goals this season and with just six Premier League games remaining, it’s unlikely they’ll beat last season’s EPL tally of 106.

They’re inability to finish chances was yet again evident on Tuesday night against Tottenham Hotspur and perhaps Guardiola’s cautious starting XI proved a contributing factor. Of course, they were away from home and had less time to prepare for this quarter-final fixture but Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham certainly weren’t at their best.

Guardiola had called Manchester City’s performance “incredible” but it’s extremely difficult to see why. They never looked like scoring and with both Leroy Sane and Kevin de Bruyne on the bench, Guardiola was perhaps a little too cautious. Their defence looked porous at times, allowing Tottenham Hotspur numerous chances and had they been on form, Pochettino’s side could well have netted two or three on the night, putting the tie to bed before a return trip to the Etihad Stadium.

Out of form, Sergio Aguero missed from 12 yards after well respected Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers consulted VAR after Danny Rose deemed to have handled the ball. Perhaps a little harsh on the Englishman, who was deflecting a Raheem Sterling effort, Rose & Co. certainly delighted after Hugo Lloris denied Aguero – the Argentine never looked like scoring.

Perhaps Manchester City’s performance was yet another example of Pep Guardiola being over-cautious in the Champions League. It’s a competition that’s eluded the Spaniard since being appointed as City manager and a competition that he was tasked with bringing to Manchester.

As the Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson put it in his post-match piece, “Tuesday was the 10th straight away game in the Champions League quarter- or semi-final that Guardiola has failed to win,” while “there is a danger of oversimplification.” Guardiola has shown time and time again that he has the credentials as one of the most highly-thought of coaches. He knows what it takes to win the Champions League and maybe that’s why many expect him to succeed but he needs to stop over-simplifying matters.

Perhaps Kevin de Bruyne wasn’t fully fit, but a bizarre starting XI that didn’t even include Leroy Sane – two stars this season – was always going to raise eyebrows. Pep Guardiola will be rueing missed opportunities with his Manchester City side needing a result in the return fixture. Whether they win the Premier League title, Guardiola’s performance this season will no doubt be analysed on their Champions League performances, a competition that the Spaniard would have hoped to have lifted by now with the Citizens with next week’s tie perhaps his last opportunity.

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