In the post-mortem of the recent loss to Arsenal in this year’s FA Cup semi-final, complaints by Twitizens (City fans on Twitter...) of the overly physical nature of our opponents’ play were painful to read.
Is this what we have come to?
Being bullied by that lot of flimsy feather dusters?
And yet the evidence of our own eyes reveals this to have been a fairly accurate assessment, with Gabriel‘s foul challenge on David Silva proving particularly costly.
Having lost our one real playmaker, we proceeded to perform our Kings of Toothless Possession routine in midfield as Wenger happily looked on from the touchline, probably in silent agreement with the A-Team‘s Hannibal: ‘I love it when a plan comes together.‘
Back and forth across the defensive four and across the midfield went the ball. Clichy-Otamendi-Kompany-Yaya-KDB-back to Yaya. The possession percentage clock clicked steadily upwards like a dial on a speedometer until it reached 70%.
Arsenal doubled up on Leroy Sané and were content to foul anyone else who came too close as the minutes of the first half rolled on.
Later on, we finally got our goal but then this season’s template re-emerged.
Multiple episodes of penalty box profligacy, the obligatory refereeing howler, heads dropping, opponents gradually growing into the game, equalizer, winner, the end.
Again and again it’s been like this or very similar to it this season and particularly so against the better teams: Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Monaco and now Arsenal.
When the pressure’s on and Plan A doesn’t work, we fold.
We collapse like a cheap MFI wardrobe.
Where’s the guts?
Where’s the fight, battle and scrap?
Where’s the quality of earning the right to play?
Chelsea have it with Luiz, Costa and Matic. Spurs have it with Wanyama and Dembele. Even Liverpool have it with Henderson, Wijnaldum and that sour-faced little turncoat Milner. United? ‘Elbows’ Fellaini, Herrera and Bailly.
Whilst Kompany and Otamendi performed creditably on Sunday, we lack a mean streak in several other positions across the team.
Unlikely though this transfer probably is, I was happy to see us linked with Serge Aurier of Paris St. Germain lately. He may be a headcase but that’s the type of player we need.
Benjamin Mendy is another.
Imagine those two warriors flanking our backline next season.
Speed AND strength.
However it’s not just at the back that we need this ruggedness, this nastiness.
We need it in midfield too.
The question is, does Pep recognise this?
We will soon find out.
The Catalan seems reluctant to sacrifice any position beyond the back 5 to a player with more steel than silk but this is very clearly a characteristic that is so desperately needed.
The death of the role of the midfield enforcer has been greatly exaggerated.
Our post-takeover triumphs were constructed on the blood and sweat of men like De Jong, Barry, Lescott, Kompany, Yaya, Zabaleta and Tevez.
Nastiness: (Tevez, De Jong)
Aggression, muscularity: (Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Toure, Barry, Yaya)
Verdict From The Blue:
In the light of the fact that Guardiola is working with a squad still largely composed of Pellegrini‘s men and not his own, and given his extraordinary success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, he more than deserves the chance to show us what he’s made of next season.
City fans have been worried by his press conference pronouncements on the seeming redundancy of tackling in the modern game. They have also been disturbed by his apparent you-score -two-we’ll-score-three philosophy.
However we all know how that turned out for Kevin Keegan in the face of Ferguson‘s brand of nasty pragmatism (Keane, Scholes) in the 1990s.
In short, we are going to find out soon if Guardiola was really true to his word when he said: “I am here to learn.”
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