Pep Guardiola was on the pitch on Wednesday night at the end, engaging vigorously with his team in characteristic fashion: eyes bulging, fists pumping, the speech delivered in animated fashion.
It was only afterwards we learned that he was commending his team. With Pep you never quite know. He has the same passionate wild-eyed look whether he’s angry or happy. He only has one setting for emotion, there isn’t nuance.
Guardiola was telling his team to get their heads up. ‘Why are your heads down?’ he asked them. ‘Heads up! If people don’t like it, it doesn’t matter. You played the game you needed to play.’ With that he directed them over to the City fans for a prolonged moment of mutual applause.
Their heads were down, however, because they had seen enough in the second half to know that the familiar City flaws were beginning to show. Like a niggling muscle injury, which can lie dormant much of the year yet rears its ugly head when the intensity of training steps up, City are approaching that stage in the Champions League when weaknesses that go untested in the Premier League are exposed.
At half-time they were cruising. The stat doing the rounds was that City had completed 403 of their 426 passes, an accuracy rate of 95.4per cent, surpassed only in this competition by Barcelona in 2012, the side built by Guardiola and at that stage coached by Tito Vilanova, his immediate successor at the club.
Manchester City players were despondent after drawing 1-1 at RB Leipzig on Wednesday night
Pep Guardiola (second left) tried to raise their spirits on the pitch at full-time with a pep talk
Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol scored the all-important equaliser for Leipzig on the night
Guardiola had gone with a back three, with Kyle Walker virtually right wing and Riyad Mahrez allowed the freedom to drift inside when he wished. It meant they dominated midfield even if Erling Haaland still looks a spare part when they play like this, like an expensive super fan, albeit one with 26 Premier League goals, who has won a raffle ticket to play in the team but who no one bothers to pass to.
City are so good like this they can do it whilst ignoring Haaland. His job seemed to be to tie up Josko Gvardiol and run around. He had five touches in the first half, none in the box.
Come the second half, RB Leipzig coach Marco Rose took Pep on at his own game. On came right back Benjamin Henrichs and he played an aggressive role similar to Walker’s. RB Leipzig were on the front foot and constantly getting in behind City.
When you’re dominant it looks fine to play a back three with Jack Grealish roaming, no left back in sight and Kyle Walker freed from defensive duties. But when a side begins to press, win the ball back and play, there’s so much space in behind where those full backs should be.
So Marcel Halstenberg, from left back, was charging on, finding space behind Walker. Suddenly City’s back three were stretched, the distances between them and Rodri irregular, so Dominik Szoboszlai and Andre Silva were also having joy in the inside channels, the former playing in Henrichs on 55 minutes, who came running in from space down the right where the left back should have been and skewed his shot wide when clean through.
Nathan Ake by now had the fear in the eyes, the alarmed look when the system demands you cover three men and your head knows you can’t. Ilkay Gundogan wasn’t protecting him and nor was Grealish.
Andre Silva then robbed Walker, cut inside and should also have scored. The goal, when it came, from a corner was as much a result of City’s minds being scrambled by preceding 20 minutes, given that Ruben Dias didn’t even seem to bother challenging Gvardiol for the header.
This wasn’t a full-on Guardiola tactical meltdown. He usually saves those for the semi-final or final of this competition. But it did give a hint of how those issues manifest themselves in the latter stages of this competition.
Kyle Walker had the freedom to attack in the first half but that changed when Leipzig caught on
Nathan Ake (left) was left overrun as he had a lack of protection in front of him after half-time
In layman’s terms, City are too open. They’re solid when in possession, as the system is regulated and hard to penetrate. Yet when a disruptor comes along and they end up on the back foot, the system doesn’t adjust. Really good teams exploit this.
Perhaps the side that City should fear most is Napoli, who live for this kind of game. But Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, with quick incisive wingers and aggressive full backs, will also thrive.
The good news for City is there won’t be a Premier League threat this season. The two teams closest to them aren’t even in the competition.
Guardiola insists that we’re viewing all of this from the wrong end of the telescope. ‘There is a missed concept in football when people say: “Why were you bad in the second half?” Why can they not think Leipzig is a good team? We always talk about how bad. Why don’t we talk how good the other one is?’
And he’s right. It’s Champions League football, where the elite go be tested. That said, it shouldn’t be quite to easy to disrupt City.
If RB Leipzig, with a wage bill approximately one third of City’s can do it, then more illustrious teams in Europe will certainly manage to do so.
Guardiola’s side are too open to play against and they’ll get exploited against better teams
Source of data and images: dailymail
The post Man City: Pep Guardiola didn’t have a full tactical meltdown at RB Leipzig but they’re too open first appeared on Elrisala.
Pep Guardiola was on the pitch on Wednesday night at the end, engaging vigorously with his team in characteristic fashion: eyes bulging, fists pumping, the speech delivered in animated fashion. It was only afterwards we learned that he was commending his team. With Pep you never quite know. He has the same passionate wild-eyed look …
The post Man City: Pep Guardiola didn’t have a full tactical meltdown at RB Leipzig but they’re too open first appeared on Elrisala. Sports – Elrisala