Pep Guardiola fumes as Manchester City lose ground in title race

Manchester City missed the chance to close the gap to Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield after the video assistant referee once again providing the narrative for such an important fixture.

Liverpool took the lead through Fabinho after just six minutes when the Brazilian’s 25-yard strike nestled its way past Claudio Bravo. It wasn’t until VAR checked for a handball against Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold in the build-up. After consultation, the goal was given, to Pep Guardiola’s distain. Continue reading

Pep Guardiola happy with patient attacking display against Southampton

Manchester City are just manage to keep Liverpool in their sights after Kyle Walker’s late winner against Southampton on Saturday, meaning the reigning champions are just six points behind Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Unlike last season, City are being made to work for their wins this season while manager Pep Guardiola praised their patience and attacking intensity after training to an early James Ward-Prouse goal. Continue reading

Will January additions ease Man City’s defensive crisis?

As soon as Aymeric Laporte hobbled off injured during Manchester City’s 4-0 home win over Brighton in late August projections were made over how it would affect the defending Premier League champions. Amid all the doom and gloom, nobody expected that Laporte’s absence would be so costly.

Only eight games of the 2019/20 Premier League season have been played, but Liverpool already hold an eight point lead over Pep Guardiola’s side. City have suffered collapses against Norwich City and Wolves with their defence especially vulnerable following the injury to John Stones.

Guardiola has so far failed to find a suitable solution to ease Man City’s problems at the back. The Catalan has used Fernandinho as a centre back in Laporte and Stones’ absence. This is designed to keep the link between City’s defence and midfield intact, with the Brazilian key to bringing the ball out from the back.

However, Fernandinho isn’t a defender and that has been obvious in the games he has played at centre back. And so talk has started over who City could target in the January transfer window. The Etihad Stadium outfit might spend their way out of trouble.

Ruben Dias has most recently been linked with a move to the Premier League champions. This isn’t the first time that the Benfica defender has been linked with a move to England, with Manchester United also reported to be interested in the Portuguese international. He would be a shrewd addition for either team.

Guardiola does have a centre back that he has only used off the bench during this injury crisis. Eric Garcia is highly rated as a young defender, but the Man City boss has so far been overlooked in favour of square pegs in round holes. Another expensive signing like Dias would only underline how Guardiola hasn’t yet held up his end of the bargain as an advocate of youth.

However, it’s true that City needed a new centre back before the injuries to Laporte and Stones even hit. Vincent Kompany left them short of options in defence, leaving the Etihad Stadium for Anderlecht. Nicolas Otamendi isn’t a player Man City can depend on, as has been demonstrated over the past few weeks. Rather than fixing new problems, the signing of someone like Dias would patch things up that date back to the summer.

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Are Manchester City vulnerable?

Manchester City suffered their second Premier League defeat of the season after a brace from Adama Traore in the final 10 minutes put the reigning champions eight points behind leaders Liverpool. Dropping five points from their opening four home games, it’s only the second time City have failed to find the in 45 league games. Injuries have certainly caught up with Pep Guardiola’s side, and it’s making them look vulnerable.  Continue reading

West Ham- the surprise team of the Premier League so far

Not many pundits or fans would have predicted that West Ham would be in 4th position in the Premier League after 7 games but that is exactly where they are, and they still have room for improvement.

It started off so badly in the league for the Hammers, who were literally hammered at home by champions Manchester City 5-0. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up against the champions and a loss is a loss. But it was the manner in which West Ham gave up and complete with a toothless performance which led many to think that Manuel Pellegrini’s team could struggle this season, not so.

That loss has been the only one so far for the Irons who have gone on to win 3 and draw 3. They have now gone 6 games unbeaten, with the best of the bunch result arguably being against Manchester United where the club won 2-0.

The winning feels great but any fan will tell you they have seen much better, even in recent seasons and there is a sense that the Hammers aren’t playing great football, but are getting the positive results.

This is all fantastic news for a club that usually have to step back into the shadows when it comes to the big London teams of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. But as it stands West Ham are proving their worth.

A lot of credit needs to go down to manager Manuel Pellegrini, who has taken his time with a squad that have faced many long term injuries last season. One such player was Andriy Yarmolenko who missed almost the entire season. Well he has already bagged a few goals this term and is turning into somewhat of a cult hero. Good times are here at West Ham, and perhaps they deserve it after all of the problems they have been through.

The club play Crystal Palace at home next weekend and then Everton away followed by Sheffield United at home. One could expect at least 6 points from those games.

There are still the question marks, like for example how can a team who dream of finishing high up and then to play in Europe justify losing to Oxford United 4-0 and get knocked out of the Carabao Cup. True Pellegrini did make 9 changes but even so, there was plenty of quality on the field.

It was a huge loss, and maybe the only way to chase those demons is to watch again in a few years. Finally Pellegrini seems to have the team he wants and he is implementing perfectly. The game should be a classic.

 

 

Defensive woes as Pep Guardiola says Manchester City won’t spent

Manchester City were made to work hard for their 3-1 win against a resilient Everton on Saturday afternoon. Their performance put them five points behind Manchester City but problems within the side was still evident. Had it have not been for Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, Pep Guardiola could well have been looking at a different scoreline. Continue reading

City’s Champions League group stage cakewalks are harming them

Quite literally, Manchester City had been there before. Just 12 months before, actually. Indeed, City and Shakhtar Donetsk know each other well having met each other three times in the past year. Pep Guardiola knows them even better – he has been paired against the Ukrainian team in seven of his 11 Champions League campaigns as a manager.

The Shakhtar Donetsk side the Catalan coach came up against on Wednesday night was not a vintage one, though. Indeed, the Premier League champions had no trouble in brushing them aside, claiming a comprehensive 3-0 away victory to start their Champions League group stage campaign with three points.

This was the toughest test Man City are likely to face in this season’s Champions League group stage, with Guardiola’s team also drawn against Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb. This has become a common occurrence in recent years. It’s true that City have had more than their fair share of luck with group draws.

But these easy groups aren’t helping Man City in their quest to become European champions. It has meant that by the time they reach the latter rounds, they are caught cold by the high calibre opponents they have been kept away from earlier on in the tournament. This has happened more than once.

It’s similar to a tennis player arriving in the latter rounds of a Grand Slam tournament without dropping a set. Elite athletes need obstacles to hurdle before they can reach the heights of their ability. The same goes for a team unit. City have lost to teams in the Champions League that should have beaten in recent years and one wonders if a lack of competition earlier in the competition has been a factor.

Guardiola is under pressure to deliver in Europe this season. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was hired to bring the Champions League title to the Etihad Stadium. Three years on from his appointment and Guardiola has yet to take City past the quarter final stage. For context, his predecessor Manuel Pellegrini reached the semi finals of the Champions League.

The Premier League champions could have forgiven for breathing a sight of relief when the group stage draw was made. They could have been handed a much tougher group, that’s for sure. But an easy group doesn’t do them any favours either.

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Pep Guardiola needs Champions League results this season

Manchester City knew who they wanted to lead them into a new era. They’d known for quite some time, even tailoring certain aspects of the club to ready themselves for the eventual arrival of their chosen one. Indeed, City’s pursuit of Pep Guardiola can be traced back years before his actual appointment.

There were a number of reasons they wanted Guardiola. The Catalan coach brought with him his famed philosophy has since turned Man City into the most dynamic, exciting team in the Premier League. But they also wanted Guardiola because of his European record.

Guardiola is a two-time Champions League winner and so when the time came for City to identify the man who could establish them as a true European force, they settled on the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. Three years have passed since then, though, and Guardiola hasn’t been able to deliver the title the club’s ownership wants more than any other.

In fact, Guardiola hasn’t been able to take City past the quarter finals of the Champions League. They reached the semi finals the season before Guardiola took over. For all that the Catalan has undoubtedly developed and progressed the Etihad Stadium side, his European failures stand out.

The Champions League is the final frontier for both City and Guardiola. As things stand, there’s an argument to be made that they are the greatest Premier League team of all time, collecting 198 points over the past two seasons, but they have still to make a real impression in Europe, even after the best part of a £1 billion investment in the squad over a decade.

Guardiola needs Champions League results this season. City should have beaten Tottenham in the competition’s quarter finals last season and they should have beaten Liverpool the season before that and Monaco in the round of 16 the season before that. Guardiola still has a point to prove in Europe as City manager.

A kind group stage draw, which saw the Premier League champions drawn with Shakhtar Donetsk, Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb, will give City a platform to build a challenge upon, but it’s in the knockout rounds where they must demonstrate progress. Otherwise Guardiola’s astonishing success at the Etihad Stadium will come with an asterisk alongside. With every season the Champions League trophy isn’t delivered, it gets bigger.

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