Tuesday 19 December 2017 / 03:52 AM

PRESSURE MOUNTS ON PEP AS CITY SLIDE

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how well Manchester City had started the season. I extolled the virtues of the Guardiola regime, and questioned whether or not anyone could catch the side from the blue half of Manchester.

Fast forward a few weeks, and everything’s changed.

Not only have City lost for the first time, swept aside by a rampant Tottenham side, they’ve also failed to win in the last five games and were utterly humbled by Barcelona in the Champions League.

It might be an overreaction to say that all is not well at the Etihad, but it’s certainly true to say that all is not rosy.

Whilst the loss to Tottenham could have been regarded as a blip, City’s draws against Everton and Southampton, and their annihilation at the hands of Barca indicate that it wasn’t a one off – City really aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

It’s difficult to pin your finger on why things are on the slide for City, but one overriding theme seems to be Guardiola’s obsession with sticking to his ‘game-plan’, his ‘philosophy’.

It was his ‘philosophy’ that saw Claudio Bravo come charging out of his area, misplace a pass and receive a red card for a deliberate handball against Barcelona. It was his ‘philosophy’ that saw Tottenham and Everton put massive pressure on his defensive players and force mistakes out of them. It’s his ‘philosophy’ that he refuses to let go of in spite of results.

The truth is that Guardiola is trying to instil the same football game-plan on City that has worked so well at his previous two clubs. But there’s a problem. City aren’t Bayern or Barcelona.

When the Spaniard took charge at Barcelona, they were the best side in the world.

When he took charge at Bayern, the same was true.

In short, Guardiola had the finest players and the finest team in the world at his disposal, which made it a lot easier for him to implement his style of play.

At City, that’s not the case. They’ve got some great players, sure. But have they got the ideal players for Guardiola’s famed tiki-taka pressing game? Nope. Is that stopping Guardiola from trying to play that game? No way.

The Premier League is unlike any other league in the world. It’s faster, it’s more ferocious and it’s more physical. Just because Guardiola has succeeded with tiki-taka in two countries, it doesn’t mean he will in England. If we consider the only manager who has consistently tried to play that style of football, Arsene Wenger, we can see that this particular brand of football has failed to win the Premier League since 2004.

It’s hard to win the Premier League whilst playing pretty. And it remains to be seen whether you even can. I guess Guardiola will die trying.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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