Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat to Lyon put paid to this season’s Champions League hopes, but is manager Pep Guardiola to blame for Man City’s Champions League exit?
Manchester City’s loss was a significant one.
Yes, a lot of things went against them, and I still find it hard to see how Lyon’s second goal was allowed to stand.
That can’t be used as an excuse to paper over the cracks at the Etihad though.
And these aren’t fresh cracks, they’ve been there for some time.
Quite simply, Pep hasn’t dealt with them.
Questions have to be ask of Pep’s role in Man City’s Champions League exit
On the night I though Pep picked the wrong team.
That said, the team selection also can’t be blamed for the defeat.
Had City taken just a fraction of the chances they created, they would be in the semi-finals.
And Pep would have been hailed as a tactical genius.
Individual errors like the astonishing miss by Raheem Sterling, and the handling error by the usually reliable Ederson on Lyon’s third goal aren’t down to Pep’s team selection, or tactics, either.
On any given day, these sort of mistakes can be made. And over the course of the season, would anybody criticise the contributions of Sterling or Ederson? I certainly wouldn’t.
Where I believe there is room for criticism is with the manager.
Pep is a realist, and he must surely know he has to take his share of the blame for Man City’s Champions League exit.
And for a number of reasons!
Now I’m not for a minute suggesting Pep should be sacked, or anything draconian like that.
But should Pep be above constructive criticism? No, he shouldn’t be!
It is okay to criticise Pep – but only a little bit!
Throughout the whole of the match. Pep had the right footed Cancelo operating down the left.
It didn’t take long for the Lyon players to switch onto the fact that he kept cutting inside onto his right foot.
He was doing it all match.
All the while there was Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko, both left footers, sitting on the City bench.
I’m obviously not party to tactics, or the fitness of the two men. But they were both sat on the City subs bench all night.
So one can only assume they were fit enough to play some part.
Then we seen central midfielder Fernandino, and 19 year old Eric Garcia playing in the back 3.
This while established centre backs John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi were also sitting on the bench.
I’m not singling anybody out here, it was a collective failure for City.
But the awful defending from Garcia for the second Lyon goal did play a huge part, as did a huge mistake by Laporte.
Now before anybody jumps on the fact that I’ve over looked the mistakes made by Sterling and Ederson in the same match, the point I’m trying to make is about the deficiencies in the City squad.
Pep clearly doesn’t trust certain squad members, but has allowed them to stay
In my view, Pep’s not trusted Mendy, Zinchenko, Stones and Otamendi for some period of time now, and has done nothing about it.
If he’d acted on his weaknesses down the left, he would have had an established left footer playing in that role by now.
And as for the weaknesses in the squad at centre back, how long has this problem being going on for?
A very long time, is the answer.
And to prefer a central midfielder, and a young inexperienced central defender to two established players, in a Champions League quarter-finals, is surely proof Pep has’t dealt with the problem.
Otamendi and Stones haven’t just lost Pep’s confidence over night. It’s been going on for ages.
To get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and be picking a makeshift defender, and the best of a bad bunch of centre-backs, at a club with the resources of City, surely means someone somewhere in recruitment has failed?
Even when Vincent Kompany was at the club, there was a problem in that position!
Kompany knew his own legs had gone, that’s probably why he left. And Pep was still picking him during a close title run-in back in 2019.
The manager simply hasn’t addressed the weaknesses in his squad. Of that there can surely be no debate.
And when you get to the latter stages of a Champions League, your weaknesses get exposed. As was perfectly highlighted in Lisbon on Saturday night.
I know City fans won’t like this, but Lyon may well have done them a favour. On current form, what might Munich have done to this City team?
Messi at the Etihad is surely the last thing City need?
And now we hear the ridiculous stories about Lionel Messi coming to the Etihad. I’m not a City fan, but I truly do hope they’re not true.
That said, as a footy fan, if he is at the Etihad next season, and I can get to a match. I would certainly like to see him play in the flesh!
As good as it would be to see the great Messi in the Premier League, I’m really not sure it’s what Manchester City currently need.
In the current financial environment, why would City want to be throwing resources at a 32 year old striker? As good as he is!
There are at least 3 or 4 players at the back, and down the left side that City need to be looking at. Not ageing strikers – who may well be past their best.
Not to mention the fact that David Silva needs replacing. As good as Phil Foden might be, he’s no David Silva.
The problems at the Etihad look to be growing, and Saturday night’s fiasco simply highlighted them.