Pep’s Christmas pillow talk

Question: What does the man, widely regarded as the best manager in world football, want this Christmas?

 Answer: Luxurious bed linen.

What does Pep want this Christmas?

What does Pep want this Christmas?

 It’s a strange and somewhat underwhelming response from Pep Guardiola, until you realise the age-old caveat of words ‘being lost in translation’.

The Manchester City boss isn’t actually bothered about double deluxe duvets or being pampering with perfectly produced pillow cases – he just wants clean sheets… and plenty of them between now and June 2017.

Deluxe duvets and plump perfect pillows...Pep just wants clean sheets...and plenty of them!

Deluxe duvets and plump perfect pillows…Pep just wants clean sheets…and plenty of them!

City’s leaky defence and questionable goalkeeping would keep many a Chinese laundry in handsome profits, with only half-a-dozen shutouts in 27 competitive games in the Premier League, Champions League and EFL Cup.

In days gone by, the now exiled Joe Hart would pick up the Golden Glove Award for the highest number of clean sheets on a regular basis – three consecutive occasions between 2010/11 to 2012/13, and in 2014/15 – for a record-breaking fourth time.

Is Claudio going to have time in the sunlight at City or be stuck as a rabbit in the headlights?

Is Claudio going to have time in the sunlight at City or be stuck as a rabbit in the headlights?

City’s present incumbent between the sticks – Claudio Bravo – has more of a requirement for oven gloves, as opposition forwards turn up the heat, catching City’s defence cold with alarming regularity.

It’s rare for the 50,000 Etihad faithful to turn up fearing the worst, but with an injury and suspension ravaged team, that was the feeling as Arsenic Whinger’s Arsenal swept into town last Sunday, promptly taking the lead after just four minutes.

City supporters were fearing the worst when Arsenal went ahead after just four minutes.

City supporters were fearing the worst when Arsenal went ahead after just four minutes.

Thankfully ‘Typical City’ showed up in paradoxical fashion, surpassing expectations and confounding  critics, with a resounding second half turnaround to grab a momentous 2-1 win.

Whether it was a milestone victory heralding in a more positive consistency in Pep’s fortunes remains to be seen, starting at Hull on Boxing Day, followed by the usually painful City away day at Anfield on New Year’s Eve.

The Etihad went insane as Sane led the victory charge against Arsenal.

The Etihad went insane as Sane led the victory charge against Arsenal.

 Of course Guardiola’s insistence on playing out from the back places enormous pressure on an, as yet, wholly unconvincing back three or four formation.

And then we have the thorny issue of sweeper keeper Bravo, a goalkeeper who, in his Barcelona days, was afforded the luxury of opponents who, as soon as he had possession of the ball, dashed back into their own half to defend the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez.

Not so here in England where, as Pep is discovering, any Premier League team is capable of upsetting the elite.

Frustrated Genius - Pep is find the Premier League to be more challenging than La Liga and the Bundesliga - but he'll get it right.

Frustrated Genius – Pep is find the Premier League to be more challenging than La Liga and the Bundesliga – but he’ll get it right.

City’s opponents are happy enough to press high and hard and not scurry back in mortal fear of conceding to a rampantly superior force.

It’s hard not to have some sympathy for Bravo – highly accomplished as his country’s most capped player, twice captaining Chile to Copa America tournament wins in recent years, as well as experiencing great success in La Liga at the Nou Camp.

Bravo is the innocent ‘collateral damage’ in Joe Hart’s emotive move out to Torino.

Bravo is a very good keeper - Manuel Pellegrini claims his countryman is the 'best in the world' - but Claudio's having a baptism of fire in England.

Bravo is a very good keeper – Manuel Pellegrini claims his countryman is the ‘best in the world’ – but Claudio’s having a baptism of fire in England.

It’s no secret that Pep’s preference was to get Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen or Rui Patricio ahead of the 33-year old Chilean, but who knows, it may yet come good for the man described as the ‘…best goalkeeper in the world…’ by his countryman and ex-City boss Manuel Pellegrini.

Not many doubt Pep’s tactical master plan, but it’d be a huge help if he had more accomplished personnel to transform the theory into practical play.

Pep gets a better level of performance out of players - just look at how Raheem Sterling's stock has risen under the Spaniard's guidance.

Pep gets a better level of performance out of players – just look at how Raheem Sterling’s stock has risen under the Spaniard’s guidance.

That can only happen over a period of at least three transfer windows. He’s had just the one so far, which is a bit of a pane from Pep’s perspective.

Last summer brought an array of attacking talent and future promise and, of course, Jesus is on the radar, albeit a week after the turkey and minced pies have been consumed.

Jesus will just miss out on Christmas at the Etihad, but he could add vital firepower to shoot City to success in 2017.

Jesus will just miss out on Christmas at the Etihad, but he could add vital firepower to shoot City to success in 2017.

Failing to sufficiently reinforce the City rearguard before September 1st could yet prove costly this season, but with the second coming of a Jesus to City, one wonders if Vincent Kompany could do an impersonation of Lazarus and miraculously rise again to his once Captain Fantastic status?

Casualty Kompany - will Vinny ever regain full fitness to lead City to future glories?

Casualty Kompany – will Vinny ever regain full fitness to lead City to future glories?

Kompany’s renaissance – as unlikely as it seems – would go a long way to curing City’s immediate defensive ills, but major surgery is essential in January, June & July, with two or three full backs and a couple of centre backs a necessity.

Pep is clearly a man of principle and not given to compromise on his football beliefs, and why should he after winning 21 titles in seven years?

Guardiola's debut season in England could yet up full of smiles.

Guardiola’s debut season in England could yet up full of smiles.

It could be that his first season in English football may end trophy-less – but that in itself wouldn’t be the end of the world. The media and pundits would undoubtedly portray it as such, but you don’t build a dynasty in a lunch break.

Guardiola has been at pains to state he’s on a steep learning curve in England. The Premier League is markedly different from the Bundesliga and La Liga.

Rolling Stones - City's talented centre back needs to get back on track as we enter the second half of the season.

Rolling Stones – City’s talented centre back needs to get back on track as we enter the second half of the season.

It’s not as if he’s trying to get his ‘excuses in first’ he’s a genuine guy, but more importantly, a born winner.

With up to 12 senior players – Nasri, Mangala, Bony, Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Sagna, Clichy, Navas, Caballero, Yaya and Fernando – likely departing before 2017/18 kicks off, Pep will have acres of room to build, mould and fine tune a squad that will truly be his by this time next year.

Aleksander the Great or Grate - Kolarov seemd to have been transformed under Pep but will he survive a summer cull in 2017?

Aleksander the Great or Grate – Kolarov seemd to have been transformed under Pep but will he survive a summer cull in 2017?

Don’t expect to see any repeats of the Leicester away debacle in 12 months time.

Pep’s arrival at City was inevitably accompanied by great expectations – rightly so – but even he needs a four letter word which isn’t always in abundance – TIME.

As appalling and abject as City were in the 4-2 mauling by the Foxes, they have only truly deserved two of the five defeats inflicted so far this season.

Outfoxed - City were appalling against Leicester but Pep will ensure such abject performances are banished from City's play.

Outfoxed – City were appalling against Leicester but Pep will ensure such abject performances are banished from City’s play.

Leicester and Spurs away are the only occasions the Blues got what they deserved – nothing.

The loss to Chelsea was a travesty and a crime combined.

Nigh on criminal officiating by Anthony Taylor (surely that ‘Altrincham’ fan needs investigating and rendered unemployed) aided and abetted Antonio Conte’s smash and grab raid, but City profligacy in front of goal was equally to blame.

Incompetent or something more sinister?Anthony Taylor may as well have been wearing Chelsea blue as City lost 3-1 in a highly charged and hugely controversial encounter.

Incompetent or something more sinister?Anthony Taylor may as well have been wearing Chelsea blue as City lost 3-1 in a highly charged and hugely controversial encounter.

The 4-0 score line in Barcelona doesn’t reflect the quality of City’s game plan and execution of it, up until Calamity Claudio’s sending off and the consequent Keystone Kop defending that folllowed.

And as for City’s reserves losing 1-0 to The Swamp dwellers in the League Cup – despite being the better team – Pep clearly has his eyes on bigger prizes, so he inadvertently helped United win their Cup Final.

Bravo Foxtrot Oscar - Claudio was sent off taking City's hopes of Nou Camp glory with him.

Bravo Foxtrot Oscar – Claudio was sent off taking City’s hopes of Nou Camp glory with him.

Missed penalities and guilt-edged opportunities saw City squander four precious points against Everton and Middlesbrough, whereas Southampton were actually deserving of their point at the Etihad.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and some other Chelsea 'contes'.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and some other Chelsea ‘contes’.

‘If’ is probably the biggest word in the dictionary, but if City had been more clinical, they would’ve been seven Premier League points better off, and well clear of Chelsea heading into Christmas.

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates his sensational goal giving City a 2-1 lead over Barcelona.

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates his sensational goal giving City a 2-1 lead over Barcelona.

An undercurrent of pessimism regarding Pep’s first five months of frontline action is well wide of the mark – is it that easy to overlook the 3-1 battering of mighty Barcelona, terrifying the life out of the Trafford Troglodytes in a 2-1 derby win, sticking it up Stoke away 4-1 and, more latterly, gunning down the Gooners in the face of adversity.

The loss of the superb Ilkay Gundogan is a massive blow, as has been the continued absence of Kompany, but at least these problems are obvious to see as the January transfer window opens.

Joy before the heartache - Ilkay Gundogan bagged a brace against mighty Barcelona before being cruelly cut down against Watford, his season now being over.

Joy before the heartache – Ilkay Gundogan bagged a brace against mighty Barcelona before being cruelly cut down against Watford, his season now being over.

A little self discipline from Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, along with better concentration levels from John Stones wouldn’t go amiss either. Having this trio in top form and available at all times is imperative if City are to win trophies in 2017.

A more clinical executioner’s touch from De Bruyne, Sterling, Silva, Nolito, Sane, Iheanacho and Aguero in front of goal would help no end in offsetting the obvious defensive frailties…and of course Gabriel Jesus might just hit the ground running.

Stay cool - Sergio has already been banned for seven games this season. City need him on the pitch!

Stay cool – Sergio has already been banned for seven games this season. City need him on the pitch!

A resurgent Yaya Toure could yet go out of City in a blaze of glory, while rumours abound that Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk could be a costly newcomer to help shore up the backline.

The margins between success and failure can be oh so thin, and with Pep’s newly acquired learning, complemented by an enhanced understanding of his requirements from his players, who’s to say it won’t be a Happy New Year for City supporters in 2017?

Can Pep make it a Merry Christmas with wins at Hull and Liverpool?

Can Pep make it a Merry Christmas with wins at Hull and Liverpool?

Oh, and don’t forget to change the bed, even if those sheets aren’t grubby!

By David Walker

READ BUT NEVER RED would like to wish all our readers a very MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY BLUE YEAR.

We’ve been absent for a couple of months because the author went under the knife for some serious surgical slicing and dicing, but it’s a case of Read But Never Red and not yet dead…so we’re back.

CHRISTMAS COMPETITION

And, as Christmas comes and goes we have an easy competition to give away an iconic City moment courtesy of Mr Paul Dickov and Senor Sergio Aguero and our friends at the Art of Football.

Aguerrrrooo - do you want to win a City T-shirt capturing the iconic title winning goal?

Aguerrrrooo – do you want to win a City T-shirt capturing the iconic title winning goal?

There are three ways to win either a T-shirt or artwork of Dickov’s Wembley 1999 equaliser or the Aguerrrooo moment of 2012.

You may want to bear Paul Dickov's memorable 1999 Wembley celebration on your chest?

You may want to bear Paul Dickov’s memorable 1999 Wembley celebration on your chest?

Simply write your preference HERE in the comments section of the RBNR blog or on our Facebook page. Alternatively tweet @ReadButNeverRed including @Art_of_Football @aguerosergiokun & @OfficialPDickov and either #Aguero or #Dickov. The winner will be selected at random on New Year’s Eve and contacted via social media.

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

31 Comments

  1. December 25, 2016  10:06 pm by Andrew Cahill Reply

    Would have to be the Aguerrrooo moment of 2012 for me - still get a tingle when that video is replayed.

    • December 26, 2016  1:18 am by David Walker Reply

      You're not alone on that Andrew. I'm not a fan of Sky TV or Martin Tyler, but on that occasion they had it bang on...'We'll never see anything like it ever again...'

  2. December 25, 2016  10:08 pm by C.W. Kinsey Reply

    Like all good things, they're worth the wait. Great to have you back writing and the last Christmas present of the day is the best.

    With regard to the points you raise, I'm afraid to say I'm closer to pessimism at the moment. Usually I'm glass half full with City but we're miles away from Pep's intended target and these players are showing little in the way of adaptation.

    To say we have been unlucky to lose so many misses the point: we haven't been good enough to win more.

    A lot of work ahead of us.

    (#Dickov)

    • December 26, 2016  1:16 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks CW - strangely I'm usually a glass half-empty man, maybe the mere presence of brandy sauce on the dinner table pushed me over the edge. The deficiencies are now glaring and I for one would never chastise Pep if he wins sweet FA this season...the brandy sauce influence is clearly waning! That said a little more precision would've taken us a long way by now and, if it begins to kick in anytime soon , it still might.

  3. December 25, 2016  10:23 pm by Mark P Reply

    Not adding to our defence has cost us dearly. I do feel sorry for pep as he has tried numerous options but none can fill the massive void of Vinnie.

    I know a lot are hoping Jesus hits the ground running but it's a lot to ask even if he does look very very good.

    The whole team has been asked to play a brand new style so it was always gonna have teething problems but I hope bravo comes good. Maybe with a more solid defence he may be less error prone.

    Happy Christmas blues , mcfc oh k

    #dickov

    • December 26, 2016  1:11 am by David Walker Reply

      All valid points sir. City tried for Bonucci and Laporte but couldn't land either, so it wasn't for the want of trying. Txiki has to step up to the plate in a way that he never has before and recruit the right defensive players...for once! I share your initial concerns on Jesus, it is a very big ask, but if he can chip in with 10+ goals in the PL before June it could make a marked difference.

  4. December 25, 2016  10:30 pm by Paul Barber Reply

    Hopefully Mr Guardiola has realised that making City into the team he wants it to be and no longer "spoiling the sheets" will take longer than his usual 3 years. I don't think he will want to leave his project part way through so we can look forward to a few years of trendy away day outfits and compelling press conferences. Maybe he will even grow to love Beswick rather than Barcelona and stay around long enough to establish a dynasty. I certainly hope so.
    # Aguero Artwork

    • December 26, 2016  1:07 am by David Walker Reply

      I already get the feeling that, with a fair wind - no not the Christmas Day sprouts - Pep could be here for more than his contracted three years, I certainly hope so. I agree the young talents will prosper and flourish underneath his wing. Great days and times await.

  5. December 25, 2016  10:32 pm by Sean McDougall Reply

    Aguerrooooo|||||||||
    Excellent balanced piece as ever David. Lets hope its not just the effect of the sprouts drifting down from the crowd that blow away the bottom club tomorrow!

    • December 26, 2016  1:04 am by David Walker Reply

      A potent combination of sprouts and sprats in the old fishing port - one of the world's greatest back in the day. I should know I hail from just across the Humber in Grimsby. The Blues need the Tigers to fall hook, line and sinker - Pep needs maximum points and nothing less.

  6. December 26, 2016  3:29 am by James Henderson Reply

    Well put David, nothing to add, you touch all points (and lack of some, pardon the pun) for the first half of the season. Like in football it's a game (season) of two halves and if we come out in the new year as we did with the Gooners then hopefully we'll do very well opposed to being wrote off by the BBC and Sky (even SP picking the scum over us). A reminder of the motto needs to be sounded "Pride in battle" looking forward to second half.

    #Dickov

    • December 26, 2016  10:16 am by David Walker Reply

      If Stuart Pearce's judgement call is that City will finish outside of the top four, then we're nailed on certainties to win the title! That man is a buffoon - and that is being oh so polite. Thanks for reading and commenting' Let's see what the metaphorical 'next 45 minutes' have in store for Pep's City.

  7. December 26, 2016  8:20 am by Mark Reply

    Great article as per David

    On the subject of playing out from the back. I'd like us to be more clinical when doing it. We need to inject more pace once we hit the opposition half. There's no point doing it, if we consistantly play it across the park and allow our opponents to get reorganised. As for keeping clean sheets, we need a better leader in defence. And someone good enough for Stones to learn from. Ideally that would be VK. bit unfortunately his injuries are holding that back. VVD seems the idea signing, but that's for the summer it seems.

    Best moment has to be Aguero. It's something that we might never witness again

    • December 26, 2016  10:12 am by David Walker Reply

      Cheers Mark - can't disagree with any of that.

  8. December 26, 2016  10:48 am by Richard Cooper Reply

    You and others have basically covered it all, most of the season has been good but as you said, Spurs and Foxes away were shambolic.
    I can only stress the importance of "Clean Sheets" if you want to win titles and a top class Number 5 is the backbone of any winning team. Reading between lines etc etc it would appear we won't remedy this problem in January and without an ever present VK and the good but still learning Stones a title push may seem out of reach.
    In reality for me a Top 4 finish is a priority and good FA Cup & Champions League "runs" would suffice for this season with the expectation of a lot of personnel ins & outs in the Summer.
    And so to the M60/M62 and please City don't ruin our day !!

    #Aguero

    • December 26, 2016  11:44 am by David Walker Reply

      Happy Boxing Day hunting Tigers RC. A more than fair summary of events in your comments!

  9. December 26, 2016  12:00 pm by Pete lynch Reply

    Great piece David. A happy Christmas and prosperous new year to you and Deb and Mollie Zaba. Hope you recovering well my friend. #aguero

    • December 26, 2016  12:35 pm by David Walker Reply

      Right back at you fella and thank you very much. Aguero it is!

  10. December 27, 2016  7:08 am by Susan Richardson Reply

    Welcome back💙
    Spot on about the lost points.

    The Aguero artwork for me please.🏃🏃🏃

    • December 27, 2016  9:22 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Susan - hopefully City can go and win at Stamford Bridge later in the season and make the point that we should've beaten Chelsea at home - presumably Anthony Taylor will NOT be the ref. Big game on New Year's Eve - historically we get little or nothing at Anfield - but Pep's here to make history with City. It'd be a great time to start!

  11. December 27, 2016  11:59 am by Susan Richardson Reply

    Welcome back.
    Thanks Aguero for me please 💙

  12. December 27, 2016  11:05 pm by Dave Leyland Reply

    I thought I'd commented on this David?
    Great read as usual, nice to see you SHOULDERING your responsibilities again. I'll be BACK to read more of RBNR in the New Year.
    I'll go for the Aguerooooo if I'm lucky enough to win?

    • December 30, 2016  10:00 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Dave - glad the operation went well and your interest in Sergio is duly noted as you go into the draw on New Year's Eve.

  13. January 3, 2017  8:01 pm by Stuart Reed Reply

    Happy New Year Dave - your posts are much appreciated (& missed now that you're not around on a weekly basis but I do understand all the hard work it must take). So, on the way home from the NE yesterday & had to rely(sic) on Danny Mills & Radio 5 updates in the car Aguero "froze" (did he Danny?) & missed one then put one in from an amazing angle. I am very sensitive (I must admit) to all the concerted slagging & cheap snipes we have to suffer at the hands of the media but that's because its unrelenting. Fair enough I can totally understands Fernandinho getting a red, but would certain other teams have been down to 10 men ? (No particularly if it had been Rojo).
    Anyway, the fall out - Pep apparently lost it! Did he? If he had, he'd have told the reporter what he thought of the bias against City from refs FA & media (with a lot of Catalan swearing). No, Pep bit his lip & pretty much kept his own counsel , but made it clear he wasn't happy I was really "happy" with his silence - it said "2enough is enough". Deep breath Pep.
    Later, Savage on Radio 5 claimed that Pep lacked respect (of the anti-City press? Really?) & was put in his place by Alex who stated that "Robbie Savage and the word ‘respect’ do not go together in the same sentence". Brilliant - phew - rant over.

    Anyway well done City for the comeback

    • January 10, 2017  11:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      Many thanks for your comprehensive post match analysis on Pep's interview responses. I completely agree that Pep didn't 'lose it' he simply conveyed his disdain for Premier League referees and imbecilic journalists in quite a subtle fashion.

  14. January 4, 2017  3:51 am by Simon Wilson Reply

    It has been an "almost" 6 months for Pep. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, there is a man in the City org that Pep may want to have quiet word with. Patrick V. Just sayin' .... Insight.

    • January 10, 2017  11:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      Very cryptic sir - care to elaborate?

  15. January 5, 2017  7:50 pm by Stuart Reed Reply

    Don't know what I wrote to get my post removed Dave - yes, it was post-Burnley game but since there sadly aren't weekly posts, surely interim posts can be allowed that comment on matters beyond the page subject.
    Still, a great site Happy New Year

    • January 10, 2017  11:51 pm by David Walker Reply

      Sorry for any misunderstanding Stuart, your post was not removed, it simply wasn't approved in a timely fashion by us here at RBNR! Our apologies and please keep on reading and commenting in 2017. Happy New Year to you and all our fellow Blues.

  16. February 23, 2017  8:24 am by Zahar Abdul Rahman Reply

    I do feel that City's keepers are being pressured by their own back line who insists in passing it back to the keepers eventhough most of the time it wasn't necessary. John Stone's is the most frequent back passer and now our keepers had to decide where to pass next. It's not like thay are born midfielders. I do wish our fullbacks minimise the back passes to keepers to ensure that they wont lose too much confidence if their returns went astray.

    In spite of that, its better than having Joe Hart throwing away possession when the ball is passed back to him by blasting it in the stands.

    • February 23, 2017  9:16 am by David Walker Reply

      Playing out from the back will become easier when Pep is able to upgrade the defensive line up in the summer transfer window. Everyone at City is still on a learning curve, including the manager.

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