Individual errors are costing City, but is there real cause for concern?
Being a City is often described as a roller coaster journey; despite enjoying recent success we’re yet to amass the glut of silverware our rivals across town managed to during the modern football era, and there are plenty of clubs in the division that have held consecutive top flight status for longer than City have.
Recent years have brought trophies to the Blue three quarters of Manchester, but being a City fan has become a self inflicted rollercoaster ride in recent months. Ten games in and the quadruple was in the bag, and if you didn’t believe it, all the Sunday morning red tops were at hand to validate the claim.
Corazon De Zaba 21 not only looked at Pep Guardiola etch the outline of his piece de resistance in John Stones, but we focussed on how this particular masterpiece may only be a finite project in terms of time invested by the Catalan. Guardiola gave an early indication, during Friday’s press conference ahead of Southampton’s visit that his time in Manchester could be limited, his time spent at Barca and Bayern being three years, similar to his contract here at City.
So who is driving the white knuckle ride? It’s not Pep. The press conference about the upcoming game against Southampton had an unbalanced amount of questions regarding the Barcelona result weaved in to it (considering the manager addressed them post match in Spain).The fourth estate as well as fans on social media wasted no time taking the display at Camp Nou as well as the tactics employed to shreds during the days that followed.
No centre forward, the continuation of the ball playing Claudio Bravo are the headline two, but its since become apparent the game plan was to dominate and exhaust with the late introduction of Sergio Aguero. Pep knows what he’s doing, but he can’t always legislate for his players – Bravo’s mis-pass was an embarrassment. The goalkeeper remains an unanswered question; one the man himself nor the manager are able to answer.
On the one hand Bravo admitted he was the unlucky one, but he can hardly come out and concede he’s not up to the task or point the finger at the manager for following express instructions. Equally Guardiola is so honest it is borderline frustrating.
The passion, the humility, the transparency are admirable – but the case so far suggests City are deploying a goalkeeper that doesn’t possess the skill set he was supposedly signed for. The jury remains out, and will do for a long time.
It not an obvious time to benchmark the campaign against last years, or any other for that matter, but whilst Guardiola acknowledges his first three months has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride, he’s keen to under plays City’s recent indifferent form whilst fans exaggerate there is any issue at hand.
Results (the colours of the home kit) and goal difference (the third kit colours) are fairly consistent when compared to Manuel Pellegrini’s start to last season – we also have league position (the away kit colours), whereby City are still perched at the top of Premier League, despite two further dropped points at home to Southampton, and are still in the box seat to qualify for Europe’s last 16. So why all the noise then?
Is it results that are the problem, or the frustration that the only way we seem to be consistent is through self-inflicted individual errors. The trouble started in Glasgow with Aleks Kolorov’s own goals, and again at White Heart Lane. City then missed out on victory through two missed penalties against Everton, one a piece from Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, who seems to have lost the knack for it from the spot. The bad run of form has hopefully culminated with Bravo’s Globetrotter’s audition and a pass from John Stones so bad it will be hard to tell him apart from most 15 years old around town, he’s be incognito buried deep beneath his cagoule hood.
Granted, last season can be considered an under performance in the domestic league, but the brand of football Guardiola has brought to City will see results improve, not just on the last four weeks but on the last four seasons.
No Plan B? Plan A for the most part is working just fine. The narrow fullback have allowed City to dominate possession and continue to create chances, the same amount on average as last season. This is early days, and those figures will improve.
Sterling has licence to dribble and has given a whole range of full backs a 90 minute headache from Bournemouth’s Simon Francis to Jordi Alba. Kevin De Bruyne has slotted in to a more central role and somehow still looks a better player than the one we signed last year, that didn’t look possible, and the Belgian could and should surpass his goals/assists total of 25.
Guardiola’s biggest gamble was to drop Sergio Aguero for the Champions League fixture in Barcelona, and after Bravo was shown a red card for handling outside the box, we’ll never know if the plan would have worked. It was on track though, that’s for sure.
Treading with caution as a Manchester City fan is warranted, but the days of considering taking the Monday off work after a Derby weekend are ancient history; there’s an expectation from some to win those games, along with all the big matches.
Pep’s right – three months in to the job with an inferior squad, City were never going to go to Barcelona and roll them over 4-0. Cut out the mistakes; the handball, Gundogan’s misplaced pass along with how stretched the team became when down to ten men, and we’ve have watched a different story unfold.
The new style is in motion; at times versus Manchester United, against Gladbach, Stoke (more games) it has been football from another planet. The priority now is eradicating the momentary concentration lapses, restrict teams from creating chances and Pep’s plan will come to fruition. Just give it time, and enjoy the ride.