Pep Guardiola admitted he may not be good enough for Manchester City on the eve of a pivotal game against Spurs
The problems are mounting for Pep Guardiola. On Friday he described himself as maybe not good enough for Manchester City, a clear show of the pressure he is feeling, and on Saturday he faces the Premier Leagues most in-form team in a game he can ill afford to lose.
This was not how he nor City had seen the season unfolding when he eventually took charge in the summer following the clubs four-year quest of him. Tottenham Hotspur with seven consecutive wins, achieved with a aim change of +18 are Saturdays adversaries at the Etihad and should City lose to Mauricio Pochettinos team then a top-four finish becomes even harder, never mind winning the league. City are fifth after last Sundays 4-0 defeat at Everton, two points off a Champions League berth.
The league position is not Guardiolas sole concern, though. Claudio Bravo continues to be a liability. The goalkeeper was culpable again at Everton and his confidence appears shot. Yet Guardiola does not blame Bravo. Instead, he says the Chilean is suffering because of poor defend, the members of the Guardiola mantra that Citys underlying ill is due to not being strong either at the back or up front.
As for the attacking concern, Guardiolas appraisal is that Citys finishing is not the machine of the other challengers, which can be read as a dig at the lone striker, Sergio Agero, despite 18 aims in 23 outings across all competitions.
Guardiolas statement on Friday that he is possibly not of the requisite criterion came when he was asked if Citys players are as good as those he coached at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Maybe I am not good enough for them, he told. They are Manchester City players, they have a lot of quality. They showed that many times in the past and this season. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? I dont understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they are amazing players and[ the issues to indicates] they are not good enough for me.
His focus on Saturdays game may have caused a misunderstanding, as the question was not whether his players are good enough per se but if they are on the same level as Lionel Messi, Xavi, Arjen Robben and others at his previous clubs.
This is the manager who has a league title for six of his seven full seasons as a head coach. His Bara side are considered among the finest in the games history. At Bayern, refinement of his carousel passing game to utilise the full-back Philipp Lahm as a midfielder pointed to a far-sighted football intelligence.
Yet in Fridays briefing Guardiola claimed his arrival was over-hyped, telling: Perhaps the expectations about my “re coming” were so excessive , now you realise your[ media] commentary was so exaggerated, perhaps our 10 games in a row, winning games and maybe the people expected that that was how good we were.
So the reality is that we were going to build up and I am working on that and then I will be the first to recognise if I am not able or we are not able to do that and speak with the club to make a solution.
Guardiola has been consistent in saying that he moved to English football to challenge himself. Citys current quandary is doing precisely that. I would prefer to be at the top but its not the situation. I want to handle that its the first time, he said.
One of the statistics Guardiola and Bravo have to contemplate is that the No1 has saved merely eight of the last 22 shoots. For the moment, however, the Chilean will not be fell. When I think there is a problem I will consider, but at the moment he is still in aim, told Guardiola. Considering how to handle Bravos bad form Guardiola added: It is to be as close as possible to[ the player ]. I am still convinced hes a good goalkeeper. I never say the reason why we lost is due in part to Claudio Bravo. Its one of the reasons why, but there are many reasons why. So when Lukaku for Everton scored the first objective, for example, we had already had three or four clear chances one-against-one with their goalkeeper.
Guardiola continues to offer mixed messages about Agero. On Thursday night he was photographed having dinner with the Argentinian and his agent. The administrator denied this was to discuss the players contract and City confirmed on Friday that his current bargain ends in 2020. The striker, though, is still to rating against a top-seven side, and Guardiola told: He knows that, I know that, but we dont discuss it. We have to try to help him to score against the top squads. Of course he wants to score and sometimes he had the chances.
The manager criticised Agero for misses in Decembers 3-1 home defeat to Chelsea. We can review Chelsea he had the chances, told Guardiola. Last game[ Everton ], the cross for Sergio but nothing, he did not arrive there. I dont know other managers, but to give some advice in the box to score a objective, its so hard to do this because it depends on the quality of the players. For example, Ageros goal against Burnley[ in January ], its almost impossible to do it that demonstrates his talent.
For now, Guardiola has to continue the search for a solution to Citys costly achilles heel. It is because we have opportunities but we dont rating, he said. The big squads score, they have the quality and they are machines but that is the most difficult thing to achieve. When they get into our box we confess. The first few days: Oh, it was unlucky. Then: No, it was not unlucky. Something happened and we are thinking about how to correct that.
In Octobers reverse fixture Spurs dedicated City a 2-0 schooling at White Hart Lane. City dare not lose again on Saturday, particularly in similar way. Yet whether a win will correct the deep fault-lines in Guardiolas side remains debatable.
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