What about plan B Pep?

Published: Thursday, 16 March 2017

Well the hysteria of the original tie is long since forgotten eh? Not by me. I remember well all the headlines lauding Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. At last - Guardiola had found the formula. This is how football should be played. What an exhibition. City swept Monaco aside.  Nothing could stop Guardiola now. Er - yes it could. And yes it has.

I agree, the 5-3 at The Etihad was a fantastic exhibition, but that's all it was. It wasn't really a step towards the quarter finals. For me, it was the very reason why City wouldn't make the quarter-finals. You can't play football like that against the big boys and hope to succeed. It was suicide.

I admire Guardiola and his record tells us he one of the very best. One of..... Everybody that knows him tells me he's a nice guy. That he's fastidious in his work. That he BELIEVES in what he does. All fine - but I've said it before - how often is a man's greatest strength also his greatest weakness? Guardiola won't change - but in order to succeed at City he's going to have to.

He doesn't have the best three players in the world in his team anymore - as he did at Barcelona. He doesn't have the best two wide men and the best centre-forward and goalkeeper in the world anymore - as he did at Bayern. Other than Aguero, who he doesn't want, he hasn't got anything like the best in any position anymore. What he appears to me to have is 'plan A' and only 'plan A'. He wants to play - all the time - with a belief that if the opposition get three - City will get five. Oh, wait a minute..... 

There is NO 'right way' to play football. Leicester proved that last season. They played 'their way' and had success with it. They played 'realistic' football - based on the personnel they had. They're doing it again and frightening teams to death. Zidane said this week that they all want to avoid them. I'm not surprised - check back and you'll find that I said last season that I thought they would've blown away both City and Madrid in that semi-final. Don't rule them out this season.

John Stones came in for a lot of stick again after the game in Monaco. Oh how he must wish he'd gone to Chelsea to learn how to become a defender. He'll never learn that skill at City. They say he's new Rio Ferdinand. No he's not. Yes, Rio could 'play', but first and foremost he could defend. He could do what it said on the tin. He played in front of terrific goalkeepers, who could do that job - keep goal - and behind top class mid-field players, who knew how to protect him. He could step out of his position knowing  somebody would fill it. Stones can't do that. He's like everybody else in the City back line - frightened to death of what's behind him - and in front of him. I've got a lot of sympathy for him - but only to a point. If he really wants to become top class he's got to recognise this himself and demand more. I would question whether he wants it enough. He simply hasn't got any better since he went to City. Nor will he unless something gives.

So City crash and burn in The CL  again. I wonder if they'd have won this trophy by now had they stuck with the man who found a cure to 'City-itis' - Roberto Mancini?

As an aside - I noticed a line this week suggesting that Real Madrid have told David de Gea that it's 'make your mind up' time or they'll look elsewhere. Where will they look? I told you that at least three months ago - they'll look to Thibaut Courtois. He'd make the move in an instant. What then? I told you at least three months ago - Joe Hart to Chelsea - and the London club would make a massive profit on the deal. Guardiola has savaged the price City will get for Hart because everybody knows that he doesn't want him. Hart will be next summer's transfer bargain. It's not a done deal yet - it all depends on de Gea, but the clock is ticking. Let's wait and see if I've got another one right!

I'm told Madrid don't often move for a player that's spent time with Atletico, which is a major stumbling block on any deal for Aguero, but we live in changing times!