After securing a 1-1 draw yesterday night, Manchester City have topped their Champions League Group H with a match to spare. They got the job done at the Etihad Stadium despite not being their best and a below par, by their standards, 59% ball possession. However, what I fail to understand is head coach Pep Guardiola’s reluctance to play youngsters despite the long list of ManCity injuries and fragility.
Wish Garcia was in CL squad and starting yesterday
It was the night teenager Eric Garcia should have started in centreback… Fernandinho then would have played in his natural defensive midfielder position and Rodri could have been rested – recall Rodri in some sort of discomfort towards end stages of the weekend encounter vs Chelsea. Alternatively, if Rodri was fine to start, then the 34yr old Fernandinho could have got some rest.. who is City’s numero centre-back now.
The midfielders must be rotated
In the midfield, I can understand why Riyad Mahrez (after the strenuous international break travel and the Chelsea game) was rested and why David Silva (struggling during the Chelsea game) didn’t start. But today was the day to either rest Kevin De Bruyne (or only use him as a substitute) or rest Rodri. Wonderkid Phil Foden deserved all 90 mins today alongside Gundogan and one amongst Rodri or Fernandinho. Pep can go around lavishing praises about both the teen sensations but it comes down to little, if the boys aren’t starting games like this.
This was a game to rotate
This wasn’t a must-win game. A draw would have been fine. Ultimately the draw was enough. This was a home game. So the head coach has some room to rotate squad only in games like these – Champions League Matchdays 5 and 6. The upcoming Premier League game vs Newcastle game, and indeed every Premier League game, this season (and just like last season) seem to be must-win games. At least till the gap between leaders Liverpool and the sky blues is either reduced to striking distance (down to less than 3 points) or increased to double digits …ie beyond striking range.
The English media is hard of certain non English managers
Kyle Walker was another substitute who could have been used today as a rotation against Cancelo. Often the English media is harsh on Guardiola and his over dependence on proven stars to derive results. Honestly, they are harsh on Pep for everything. During the recently concluded international break, after City lost to Liverpool at Anfield, all the press had to hype was Guardiola returning to Bayern Munich, scarred of Premier League, linking him to Juventus and even suggested Brendan Rodgers could take over Manchester City. The press leaves no stone un-turned to write off Pep.. never mind the gaffer bullying the Premier League for three calendar years now with defenders no top team will ever want to touch – Walker, Otamendi, Stones, Zinchenko, Delph and the often injured trio – Laporte, Mendy & Kompany. Should Pep fail to win a major trophy this season, come April 2020 and the press will dole out data how other clubs have blooded youth while Pep didn’t. They will drum his legacy again, and again.
Hence it is nights like these when Pep can and must trust his entire squad of players and keep churning his lineups. Garcia isn’t even in the squad and Foden barely got a handful of minutes. Ever since Kyle Walker scored that important winner vs Southampton, in the next four games, he has only featured in one game – the loss at Anfield. I don’t know what sort of message the player is getting, but amidst all purist football philosophies, the essential part of managing a team is still player management.
ManCity need injection of freshness
Man City have looked out of sorts in games this season at times, possibly ten per cent off their best. After nearly three breathtaking calendar years (2017-2019), collecting six trophies. Now is the time to use the length, breadth and depth of the squad; to rotate the players and keep them and their motivational levels fresh. Continuing the campaign, depending on a limited group of players is bound to jade a few more legs and add to the injury list.
Foden and Garcia cumulatively haven’t even played 90 Premier League minutes this season. Foden has nett played only 97 minutes in the Champions League. They will look back at their academy counterpart Jadon Sancho’s exploits with Borussia Dortmund or across the country with what Chelsea are doing with the likes of Mount, Tomori and Abraham. That won’t give them a great feeling. It isn’t helping Manchester City in the long run, either.