It’s Champions League week this week, with Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester preparing to do battle against the crème de la crème of European football.
I can’t wait.
But it appears that Man City boss Pep Guardiola can. Following City’s victory over archrivals Manchester United on Saturday afternoon, Guardiola indicated that he didn’t think City were “ready” for the Champions League.
“Until now, in the Premier League it has been okay – but to compete against the best clubs in Europe, in this moment with the way we are playing, we are not able to,” Guardiola said.
“We have played, not all of the games, but part of most of the games at a high level, and of course we have to continue.
“If you ask me whether we are ready to compete in Europe, we are not ready. We create, but in front we need more.
“But, it is just two months together, so we have time to get better.”
Pep Guardiola is the first Manchester City manager in history to win his first 6 games in charge of the club. pic.twitter.com/kA5pv3LL73
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 10, 2016
Now, on one level, this quote makes sense. After all, as Guardiola points out, this particular City side has only been together for a couple of months, and it’s logical that they require time to gel and become accustomed to the manager’s methods.
On another level, it shows a real lack of ambition from the former Bayern boss. In case you weren’t aware, one of the principal reasons why Guardiola has been given the job in the first place is because of his supposed prowess in Europe (we’ll have to forget him taking Bayern backwards in the Champions League). This is a manager who is supposed to get teams firing in European competition.
And yet, with not even a ball kicked in anger, he already seems to be getting his excuses on.
— Sky Football ⚽️ (@SkyFootball) September 11, 2016
Now, just to be clear, City have been underachieving in Europe for quite some time. They’ve had the huge financial backing of the Abu Dhabi United Group for eight years, invested heavily, bought some of the best players in the world, and yet they’ve consistently and miserably failed to perform as expected on the Champions League stage.
It remains the one thing that eludes them. They’ve won domestic trophies, they’ve beat all of the best sides in England. But in Europe, they’re still struggling, and it seems clear to be that this is why Pep has been given the job – he’s been tasked with turning them into world beaters.
So for the Spaniard to turn around and start making excuses and limiting hope amongst City fans is…odd, to say the least.
Whether he’s trying to remove expectation so he can ‘overachieve’ or he’s doing some weird mind-game thing, he will be expected to do well in Europe. If he doesn’t, there’ll be a whole lot of scrutiny coming his way.