Well Blues, how do we even begin to dissect yet another utterly frustrating evening in Europe? At least we don’t have to endure the embarrassment of being mauled by Bayern Munich in the Semi Finals…
Fernandinho’s time has been and gone
Playing in his preferred holding midfield role, Fernandinho was arguably our most important player during our last two title winning seasons, however the arrival of Rodri and the departure of Kompany, with no replacement brought in, has seen Fernandinho forced to fill in at the heart of our defence throughout this season. Saturday night’s showing against Lyon highlighted all the reasons he hasn’t been a success in this position – a lack of pace, ineffectual in the air and no positional awareness to cover either of the aforementioned gaps in his game. Whilst he was praised (well, at least by those of us with blue tinted specs) for his “tactical fouls” whilst playing in midfield, continuing to make these cynical challenges in and around the penalty area this season has made me question whether these were “tactical fouls” or just an inability to make a clean challenge.
Gündo-who? The German Tom Cleverly
A puzzling conundrum we didn’t learn the answer to tonight – what does İlkay Gündoğan actually do? Seriously, answers on a postcard please. When Gündoğan signed back in 2016 for a meagre £20 million we all remembered his dynamic, aggressive pressing for Dortmund, combined with a penchant for controlling and dictating the tempo of a game – indeed, he looked phenomenal until injury struck, curtailing his debut season. This season, his impact on games has been minimal & it’s difficult to see what he brings to this role. Doesn’t tackle, doesn’t press, doesn’t seem to know how to move the ball forward. His selection is even more puzzling when the likes of Bernardo Silva & Foden were left to rot on the bench.
New Striker required!
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dig at Gabriel Jesus in the slightest. In fact, I feel the constant criticism of his ability as a centre forward has been ludicrous; I feel some of us have been a little spoilt by the brilliance of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez before him. The issue I have with our two strikers is that they’re both very similar players. Before switching back to our favoured 433 system, to say City found it difficult to break Lyon’s low block down would be an understatement. It’s been the story of our season really, teams forcing us to attack from wide positions knowing they can comfortably deal with any crosses aimed at the diminutive figures of Aguero or Jesus – City could certainly benefit from bringing in a striker capable of at least making teams think twice about allowing us so much freedom in wider areas of the pitch. Whilst it can be difficult to find more traditional Target Man style striker who is capable of playing the style of football City demand, the likes of Dzeko & Negredo demonstrate the potential is there – surely our vast scouting network could find someone who fits the bill…
City need to trust their youngsters
I thought this at the time… then again the last two times we faced Lyon… and once again tonight… why was Jason Denayer never given a chance? During his fleeting appearences for City in pre seasons and throughout the entirety of his loan spells at both Celtic and Galatasaray, Jason Denayer’s exceptional talent was clear for all to see. Strong, solid in the air and with a decent turn of pace – three attributes sorely lacking amongst City’s current central defenders – Denayer would have made the perfect partner for Laporte; unfortunately, he was sold for a pittance and has flourished at Lyon whilst his former club have had to endure seeing Fernandinho, Otamendi & Stones blunder through games. The list of our former youngsters making City’s judgement in talent seem embarrassing is growing larger by the year.
Guardiola’s Flaw – The Tinkerman
When Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City in the summer of 2016, the green eyed opposition would confidently explain how Pep’s system would not work in the English game, how he would need to radically adapt his Tiki Taka to be successful in the Premier League. Ironically, Pep’s decision to radically change his tactics for the game against Lyon has proven to be City’s undoing in the Champions League for the 19/20 season. Against Real Madrid, City employed a familiar 4-3-3 system, dominating possession, creating twice as many chances and running out comfortable winners. Why Pep decided to utilise an unfamiliar pedestrian and laborious five at the back system against a Lyon side which finished 7th in Ligue 1 is almost as puzzling as his use, or lack thereof, of substitutions. His post game comments looking for anyone or anything but himself for City’s Champions League exit was equally as infuriating as his team selection tonight; the 20/21 season is surely going to make or break Pep’s legacy at City.