Manchester City, like the shadow of a doubt
Despite results that hold water, Manchester City, which receives Leipzig in 8e final return of the Champions League this Tuesday (9 p.m.), appears less sovereign.
“Phew”, certainly sighed Pep Guardiola on Saturday, after the painful victory of Manchester City (0-1) on the lawn of the modest Crystal Palace, zero victory in its last eleven matches. From a late penalty (78e), Erling Haaland relieved a club with honest results this season, but with dismal performances, even bland when you think of the delicious dishes that chef Guardiola is used to preparing.
The feeling is clear and shared by the press across the Channel. “Another flat, jarring performance that ends in a skimpy success that would have been a flamboyant victory in recent seasons“, described the Guardian After the match against Newcastle ten days ago (2-0).
Facing Palace, City were not “very fluid» and has «lacked dynamism in his offensive combinations“, noted the British newspaper. “I don’t recognize my team, before we had the passion and the desire to run“, railed Guardiola himself after a comeback against Tottenham on January 19 (4-2).
Leipzig dominated the proceedings for 45 minutes in the first leg
Dysfunctions that (almost) do not affect the results. City is 2nd in Premier League 5 points behind Arsenal, leaders. With 2.25 pts / game, the Skyblues are at their level: it is the Gunners who do better. City are still in contention in the FA Cup and, of course, the Champions League. But the round of 16 first leg at Leipzig, February 22 (1-1), cemented him in doubt. Dominating in the first period, the Citizens did not have possession of the ball after the break (51% to 49%), which is rare. They especially conceded the equalizer by Josko Gvardiol (70e). The worst ? She was logical.
“They were better and bothered us“In the second half, had recognized, bitter, Riyad Mahrez after the meeting. Guardiola was trying hard to see the glass half full. “The coach told us: calm down, there is nothing, it’s a draw, there are 90 minutes left“confided the Algerian. The Catalan tactician is however not unaware of the shortcomings of his flock, nor probably their origins. The problem is that they seem to find their source in what must make the new strength of City: Erling Haaland.
Haaland, the problem and the solution?
Nobody disputes the efficiency of Haaland, author of 34 goals in 35 appearances for City this season. But with a game more suited to their star centre-forward, the kind of profile the English club never had under Guardiola, the team’s collective expression suffers. “He’s a killer, but City won championships without him, and City without him were more unpredictable“, judged Thierry Henry on the set of CBS Sports.
“I understand what Titi means, Guardiola replied at a press conference. We send balls directly to Haaland, but being predictable does not depend on Haaland. […] We need more runs when we get to the final third of the field. More runs from De Bruyne, Gündogan, wingers…»
“No matter what I do, I will fail”, quips Guardiola
Now the sky of the Skyblues is darkening: has the recruitment of Haaland brought City closer to the European grail, after which it has been chasing for a decade? The ambient skepticism does not escape Guardiola, in office since 2016, who is living his 7e Champions League campaign with English sauce.
“I feel like despite what I’ve done in the past, no matter what I do, I’m going to fail. That nothing will be enough“, noted a month ago the legendary coach, victim of a requirement for which he himself is responsible, as his teams (Barcelona, Bayern Munich, etc.) have illuminated, even revolutionized football.
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There is cause for concern in Manchester City, where insurance is lacking at the dawn of the matches which will decide whether the season is successful or not. City receives Burnley in the quarter-final of the FA Cup this Saturday (6:45 p.m.). A trophy that would save him a white season, because it is badly embarked in the Premier League where Liverpool are waiting for him on the 1st.er April, after the truce. And a fiasco in 8e final return of C1, against Leipzig on Tuesday, is not excluded from the equation.