City should show Pep the door
As the longest winless streak in Pep Guardiola’s managerial career continues, Manchester City should show him the door.
City owner Sheikh Mansour, Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and CEO Ferran Soriano need to point Pep towards the Etihad exit and emphasise – in no uncertain terms – there isn’t a hope in hell of them letting him go through it now, or ever, if they have their way.
The Catalan genius won 21 major trophies in seven years at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. His ‘work in progress’ City team sit aloft the Premier League with almost a quarter of the season played - not too shabby.
Critics are quick to point out the 20 points garnered from six wins, two draws and a solitary Premier League defeat, represent Pep’s lowest points as a manager after the completion of the first nine games of a new season. Cue a non-existent crisis.
Those looking to make mischief – the statistical anoraks and City detractors – rush to highlight that last season, under Manuel Pellegrini, City had 21 points after the same number of games played.
Pellegrini of course, twice led City to League Cup glory – the competition Guardiola’s City exited last night at the hands of bitter rivals United – so there’s only one logical conclusion…Pep’s methods are obviously not working, he’s destined to fail in England, oh and while we’re at it, the Earth is flat, the Moon is made of Swiss Cheese and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the most modest individual on the planet.
Pep’s previous ‘worst’ points haul after nine games was 21, both at the Nou Camp in 2011/12 – his last season with Barca when they finished 2nd in La Liga to Real Madrid – and likewise at the Allianz Arena in 2014/15, when he won the second of three consecutive Bundesliga titles.
Based on those stats, one can only imagine the stampede to jump into the lifeboats as Manchester City teeter on the brink, before sinking into oblivion!
But those seeking to sow any seeds of discontent during Guardiola’s ‘bedding in’ period at the Etihad are heading for barren times.
Evidencing City’s 1-0 EFL Cup defeat at Old Trafford, as proof of Pep’s early ‘failings’ in English football, is as misleading as it is foolhardy.
You only have to look at the polar opposite approach adopted by Guardiola and Mourinho for the season’s second Manchester derby.
Pep made nine changes for the team held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Southampton, where Jose selected his full strength United team following Manure’s 4-0 mauling by Chelsea.
Deprived of only De Bruyne, Sagna and Zabaleta through injury, Pep gave CFA starlets Pablo Maffeo, Aleix Garcia and Kelechi Iheanacho 90 minutes a-piece.
Similarly experienced squad players Jesus Navas, Fernando, Willy Caballero played, when they normally wouldn't.
Sterling and Aguero were only utilised as substitutes, whereas the creative talents of Silva and Gundogan, the energy and endeavour of Fernandinho, and the skilful defending and ball-carrying qualities of John Stones, all remained dormant.
Pep made clear his priorities for the season, via his team selection.
Yes, it was disappointing that City lost – especially for the 8,000 travelling fans who’d paid up to £45 a ticket – but it illustrated a stark contrast between the present day aspirations and perceptions of City and United.
Here was Pep, focusing on the Premier League and Champions League…and then we had Jose, picking his best XI out of sheer desperation to try and overcome what could easily be perceived as City’s second string, bar a couple of exceptions.
Forget ‘Throwback Thursdays’ this was ‘Rewind Wednesday’ with United playing their season’s Cup Final against ‘Liddle Old Citeh’ – my oh my, how times have changed.
The City fans generated a tremendous atmosphere serenading the Stretford End with an apt, rousing and slightly altered rendition of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' classic 'December, 1963 (Oh What A Night).
It went something like this: 'Oh what a night, watching City on a Wednesday night, you play Thursday because your 'Ckin shyte, what a feeling what a night...' - repeat 300 times and fade.
It was Mourinho’s fourth win in 18 attempts against Pep, and while it would be churlish to describe it as a pyrrhic victory, the impression is clearly one that City’s best will far outshine United’s in the forseeable future.
Back to the present and Pep knows City’s 11th win of the season is now well overdue and a necessity, if they are to go into November maintaining pole position in the Premier League.
A visit to WBA – a very happy hunting ground in recent years – could, indeed should, prevent Pep from reaching a less than magnificent seven matches without a win, in his hitherto, supremely successful managerial stint.
With just two goals scored and nine conceded in the last five outings, the ‘blip’ in City’s performances appear to lie at both ends of the field.
Even a man of Guardiola’s undoubted quality and standing knows City have to get back on track with Barcelona and Borussia Moenchengladbach on the horizon next month, along with three eminently winnable Premier League fixtures.
Despite the youthful emergence of the likes of Maffeo, Garcia and other graduates from the CFA, Guardiola knows he must busy himself in forthcoming transfer windows, especially when upgrading a fragile and ageing City defence.
And, as windows open and new talent comes in to the Etihad, one door will remain firmly closed, dead-locked and triple bolted…Senor Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola Sala is going nowhere...apart from taking City to the pinnacle of English and European club football.
By David Walker