Manchester City Can Withstand Pep Guardiola Brain Freeze

June 30, 2023

The joke had become the only catch for every non-Manchester City fan out there. The joke was that Pep Guardiola would still excel in the Champions League and find a new creative way to blow for a team that probably should have won the trophy some time ago. The joke was certainly based on facts, whether it was his midfield play without a starter in the final in 2021, or Ilkay Gundogan as a winger in the quarterfinals in 2018, or the withdrawal of all his rude players 10 minutes ago against Madrid last season, Pep’s mind seemed to turn to the rainbow wheel at the worst and greatest moment.

But when City turned into a fully formed passed away star this season and showed everything they could do that they couldn’t do before, and all the things they could do better than everyone else, the rivals just wished Guardiola would come up with something, something that would somehow shorten it. Play Erling Haaland in goals or see how many defenders he could turn into midfielders at the same time, or try to get seven substitutes in the first half. And I had the feeling that a complete loss of meaning would be the extent necessary to undo this juggernaut of the city.

More worrying for everyone who wasn’t dressed in blue was how easy Pep had looked with city’s run in Europe. He hardly changed anything or even made a substitution when City broke up Munich and Madrid on the way to the final. Sure, they’ve bent over at times to take a more defensive and counter-striking approach, but they’ve rarely come out of the 3-2-4-1 formation, with John Stones switching from midfield to midfield with the ball. It was as if Pep finally realized that he had the most talented players, the best team and all he had to do was send them there to do what he had taught them throughout his tenure. They did, and no one came close to them.

Well, we almost got it.

One last breakdown for the road
It was not a big adjustment, and it is still unclear what Pep was so afraid of. After all, it was Inter Milan, the third best team in Italy, against their team that beat the best World Cup. It was not a team that Pep should have planned especially. After all, doing what City did had already turned Bayern and Real Madrid into ashes.

And yet, perhaps, it was the five defenders of Inter or their persistent midfielder who pushed Pep to push Stones even further forward, putting himself in possession of a 3-1-5-1 formation that stifled their own space. Stones can be many things, he is not a # 8. Since Gundogan performed mainly as a #10, Haaland did not really have room to fall to the front. Kevin de bruyne’s magic is based in part on how he ghosted in space when the defenders can’t find him and aren’t stationed there. Since Rodri was left alone right in front of the defense, and Inter dropped one of his two forwards to form a three-line in front of him, their only passing options were quite harmless. They could not change the angles or exchanges to cross the inter-lines, but only around them.

In the first half of the year, City produced only 0.47 xG and a total of 0.99, which is microscopic compared to what they usually do. Yes, Inter may be a persistent defensive team, but there were not a number of problems that needed to be solved as expected. It was pretty brutal, only Haaland’s shot gave Inter goalkeeper AndrĂ© Onana something to do.

But it’s still City, and they still contain an obscene amount of talent all over the field. Although the system and the instructions given to them were a bit strange and not exactly what got them there, Manuel akanji is still able to step in and hit a perfect ball to Bernardo Silva. And even if the center of the latter was cut off, it will still return to Rodri, who is used to crashing in a thunderclap from time to time, especially when City needs it.

And they have Ederson in goal, one of the best in the world, to save them when Inter were looking for an equalizer. Even if the forest structure has not been set up to maximize the cities, they still have more than enough to provide more than enough moments to win:

It’s like when Dark went on a trip to protect the passed away Star, he also shot Han and Luke, because he is also the best pilot.

And City have the highs. Regardless of what observers and history judge this era, and regardless of the decisions of the Premier League regarding their 115 matters of alleged financial misconduct to form this team, they still put this team together. Perhaps such a team can be assembled only by misconduct, but it is a team that needs to be seen, even if at some point everything will be considered cheating. Trophies can be deprived of the name, but not of the feeling. It was a team that could do everything it wanted, when it wanted, even if the driver froze. They occasionally played brilliant football, perhaps the most awesome we have ever seen. They could just be functional if they had to. They could be ruthless, stingy and smart from moment to moment.

When it becomes a symbol of what is wrong in sports, and many will say that this is already the matter, it always remains the ideal of what the game could be on the field. If sanctions one day tarnish or tarnish achievements on paper, we will always know what they have created in our minds.

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