True perfection has to be imperfect for Pep

Pep Guardiola refused to take the bait following City’s sensational 5-0 Champions League demolition of Sporting Lisbon. He’d been asked by the BT Sports reporter if his team was ‘perfect’, in the aftermath of the resounding victory in a hostile Jose Alvalade Stadium?

Pep is a perfectionist always demanding more of his players – another 12 game PL winning streak would be perfect!

Whilst admitting he was very happy with the win, the City boss insisted there was room for improvement – some of his players needed to do more. Sadly, it wasn’t false modesty from Guardiola, as was amply demonstrated by a far from perfect performance in a shock 3-2 defeat to Spurs.

One of City’s most famous fans, Noel Gallagher, penned the lyrics, ‘True perfection has to be imperfect, I know that sounds crazy but it’s true…’ Reflecting on City’s third league loss in 26 games, such a perverse sentiment might act as some solace for the reigning champions as they still sit aloft the Premier League table.

True perfection has to be imperfect, and if that means four Premier League titles in five years it’ll be fine by Pep.

Little by little City’s massive – but wholly misleading – points advantage has been whittled away from 13 to 12, to nine and now six, with the distinct probability it will be eroded to just three if, as expected, Liverpool overwhelm Leeds at Anfield on Wednesday night.

Undeniably it’s ‘game on’ for the title between City and the Scousers, but it was ever thus.

Bernardo Silva has been priceless all season long.

City’s ability and resilience to continue playing – and winning – matches, in the midst of the Covid19 Omicron crisis during December and January, saw them rack up maximum points, whilst other amassed games in hand.

Even with a bench comprising a wealth of Academy talent, City played on. They didn’t put in a sick note to the Premier League looking to have games called off.

Mutual Appreciation Society – City’s players applaud the fans, as the travelling supporters applaud their team.

Unlike others they didn’t register a plethora of ‘false positive’ results, conveniently getting inconvenient fixtures postponed.

The media handed out free passes to clubs who were abusing the, admittedly ambiguous, Covid19 criteria. Those same TV, radio, online and print media will now peddle a narrative of a miraculous Liverpool fight back in the title race.

City have been racking up the goals and the points this season – 63 PL points and 100 goals across all competitions.

Whilst Liverpool have been winning those matches in hand, it’s a measure of how high City have set the bar in the Premier League, that their first loss in 16 – in which they’ve collected 44 out of a possible 48 points – has provoked questions about their staying power – amidst a supposed surge of red Merseyside momentum. Well, good luck to anyone who thinks Manchester City lack the mentality and ability to string together another 12-game winning streak.

Ilkay Gundogan scored a deserved equaliser to make it 1-1 against Spurs.

If City are to return to winning ways, they’ll need to be more cohesive in defence and more clinical up front. It’s a strange sentiment considering City have the meanest defence in the league, with just 17 goals conceded, and Riyad Mahrez’s penalty was the 100th goal scored by Guardiola’s men – in all competitions – this season.

City’s top scorer Riyad Mahrez added to his tally with a superbly struck penalty.

The shock reversal, courtesy of an Antonio Conte master plan and a rare tactical miscalculation by Pep, isn’t one likely to be replicated too often, if at all, as we head towards the ‘business end’ of the season.

Conte’s counter attacking instincts were inadvertently aided and abetted by City playing a very high defensive line, with Dias, Laporte, Cancelo and Walker having a rare collective off day. The usually reliable Rodri saw several passes go astray and City, in general, needlessly yielded possession far too often.

City have had goal celebrations galore this season – they could’ve done with a couple more against Spurs.

It was the proverbial ‘bad day at the office’ and yet City still had 71% of the play and 21 shots, compared to just six from Spurs. Chances were created and goalkeeper, Lloris, pulled off one particularly world class save, but it was the ‘Number Nine’ City wanted last summer, wearing the No 10 shirt for Tottenham, who did most of the damage.

Harry Kane had a stellar night at the Etihad.  In all likelihood he’d probably have had many more this season, if City had succeeded with an approach for the England captain’s services. It’s alleged, but never confirmed, that City had been prepared to pay £75m, with a further £25m in ‘add-ons’. Tottenham’s chairman, Daniel Levy, is said to have rebuffed any approach for Kane, although a transfer bid of £150m could’ve changed his mind.

Killer Kane celebrates after his 95th minute winner at the Etihad Stadium.

Man of the Match Kane, would undoubtedly have impressed Pep, but hopefully not enough to reignite any interest in the Spurs skipper this summer. If City are pursuing a long awaited, conventional centre forward (I can’t say replacement for Sergio, because Aguero is irreplaceable in the hearts and minds of the City faithful) let’s hope the focus is on Erling Haaland – seven years Kane’s junior, a goal scoring phenomenon and, at £68m, a cheaper buy, albeit on a much bigger salary.

City will hope to win the battle to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland this summer.

It’s not sour grapes – honestly – but there’s something about Harry that doesn’t sit well with arguably, the majority, of City fans. He had a great game last night, but thus far, an underwhelming season. He’ll be 29-years old in July and has shown himself to be susceptible to ankle injuries. It’s patently obvious he doesn’t fit City’s normal recruitment criteria and long may that remain the case.

Raheem Sterling has been in sizzling scoring form of late, but it just wasn’t to be his or his team mates’ night against Spurs.

Nobody foresaw the defeat after wins over Fulham, Brentford Norwich and Sporting Lisbon, with 15 goals scored and just one conceded, but as Pep has so often said – you can lose when you least expect it. Whoever would have thought Tottenham would take six points off City and Palace would plunder three this season?

There’s a train of thought that the loss will somehow give City a kick up the backside (why one would be required eludes me) and that it isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

Pep always says a defeat can come along when it is least expected. He’ll want to be back to winning ways at Everton on Saturday.

It wasn’t quite the same scenario when Spurs beat City 2-0 in late November 2020, sending Jose Mourinho’s team to the top of the league and City sliding down to 10th in the table, but it did spark a mesmerising 28-game unbeaten run, including 21 consecutive wins in all competitions.

If City can repeat something of that ilk and win their fourth Premier League title in five years, they won’t look back in anger on last night’s Late Show with Harry Kane.

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

Dedicated to the memory of Darren Blair a True Blue.

22 Comments

  1. February 20, 2022  8:20 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Great read as always Dave and spot on. The defence had a nightmare but how often does that happen that Dias, Laporte and Walker have an off day together. We didn't pay enough attention to Son and Kane and they hit us with the long ball over the top of our back line, never mind going for Kane I'd go for Son he would be a good fit for us. Like any City fan I don't like to lose but we have no divine right to win every game and yes the dippers will be happy with this. But the fat lady isn't even warming up yet never mind singing it's not over till it's over.

    • February 20, 2022  8:34 pm by David Walker Reply

      Absolutely spot on Doug in all that you say. Son is a constant thorn in our side whenever we play Spurs, but he's signed a long term deal and Levy will probably ask for as much cash as it costs to pay for Spurs' new stadium :-)

  2. February 20, 2022  8:21 pm by David Kelly Reply

    Well written read but never red.
    I am one of the fans who doesn’t want Kane, but I also think Harland would be a disruption at that price and too high wages, as well as that greedy agent.
    Nice touch to dedicate too the memory of Darren Blair RIP Blue

    • February 20, 2022  8:32 pm by David Walker Reply

      Many thanks for your input David. I think we would still benefit from a world class No 9 and they don't appear to come much better than Haaland. if City do sign him it'll be because Pep. Txiki, Ferran and Khaldoon are all agreed it's right for the club and their collective judgement is all that counts. I, along with tens of thousands of City fans applauded in Darren's memory in the 40th minute. It puts football into perspective.

  3. February 20, 2022  8:31 pm by Steve+Barker Reply

    Great read and open assesment Kane was the difference yesterday but over the season has been poor.
    We should have learnt the lesson at 2-2 and shut them out we need to see more of Jon Stones we always look more incontrol when he is in the team.
    Another day we could have scored a handful yesterday was not ours let's put it to bed and keep on track there a long way to go yet pal.

    • February 20, 2022  8:40 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yes, we needed to change our defensive set up because we kept getting caught out. I'm not anti-Kane per se but I just think we're better off spending our money elsewhere for a long term return. Also who wants to deal with Daniel Levy? Let him stew.

  4. February 20, 2022  8:38 pm by Malcolm Reply

    Lovely to see you again at The Etihad - shame about the result! 79% possession and 21 goal attempts mask the fact that Spurs had more shots on target than City (5 to 4), and the fact Conte had a full week with his team to bed down those excellent tactics. As I've noted here and elsewhere in the past, a lack of CF doesn't affect us against the majority of teams we play, but is surely missed against elite teams and in matches where success & failure can be measured in millimetres. I'm not saying that Spurs are an elite team but a CF would have turned at least a couple of those 21 attempts into goals and would probably have bagged winners in games we've drawn in this and last season. The whittling away of our lead at the top of the division is due to scousers winning their games in hand and not because of a City collapse. I only hope we rediscover our defensive strengths before next weekend - and we're able to convert a higher percentage of our goal attempts then we have been doing.

    • February 20, 2022  8:54 pm by David Walker Reply

      I completely concur with all your sentiments in respect of a CF. The false 9 works very well, but if Sergio had never been injured I don't think it would ever have been Pep's default setting. We're having a great season and we're still top, masters of our own destiny and, as you say, it's not a downturn in City's form. Pep will have seen where we were found wanting and, as the best coach in the world, I'm confident he'll guide us home to our fourth PL title in five years. Thanks for your comments and yes, good to see you too.

  5. February 20, 2022  8:44 pm by Tracie Wilson Reply

    Great read …. true words
    Thank you 💙

    • February 20, 2022  8:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thank you for your kind comment TJ ;-)

  6. February 20, 2022  9:59 pm by Paul keys Reply

    Superb article David, really love the way you put into words the sentiments we fans feel. Here's hoping Julian Alvarez or Liam Delap are the ones to lead the line going forward, much as I'd have liked Haarland I do feel his wages and agent may bring discord to a well balanced dressing room. And as much as Kane shone against us, that just had to be didn't it and I don't think he'll play that well frequently enough to justify the Daniel Levy price tag nor would I like to put money into his coffers. I have absolute faith in Pep and the City hierarchy even Jack Grealish will prove his worth if we can keep him and Foden out the clubs n pubs! CTiD

    • February 20, 2022  10:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      Alvarez could bring a different dimension, but he's not an out and out No 9 and we'll have to be patient while he adapts to England and the Premier League. Delap has bags of potential and good physicality for one so young. City and Pep obviously both of them can bring something to the table, but in both cases it's going to take time. If City can identify a more than credible conventional centre forward, one with natural goal scoring instincts, we'd be well served spending big. If Haaland were to come to City, you'd have to believe Pep, Txiki, Ferran and Khaldoon would've covered all the bases in terms of playing ability, attitude, lifestyle and ensuring a harmonious dressing room. Thanks for your feedback.

  7. February 20, 2022  10:57 pm by Susan Bookbinder Reply

    Little by Little we love your perfect imperfections 💙

    • February 21, 2022  8:44 am by David Walker Reply

      Why thank you kindly good lady :-)

  8. February 21, 2022  9:04 am by Andrew Bissell Reply

    Another interesting and honest take on the current positions David. Another good read for football fans of most other persuasions too.

    • February 21, 2022  11:31 am by David Walker Reply

      Many thanks. I wonder how many neutrals would warm to the prospect of another Liverpool love in from the media if - if - the title race is a cliffhanger. From a City perspective we're in pole position and we've lost 1 game in 16 in the PL - not exactly the widely perceived criteria for a meltdown. Good to see your boys getting the other Red Scum in the crosshairs, so not so much a case of go forth and multiply - just go fourth.

      • February 24, 2022  1:12 am by Superfun Happy Slife Reply

        As a new fan to the game, I love the use of the word 'cynical' to describe a tackle made with little interest in stealing the ball, with full intentions of simply stopping an attacking player or the desire to even the score for some previous liberty taken. In the same sense, so much of the criticisms of Pep's City, whether of him and his water bottle or the team on the pitch, are blatantly cynical, if I can used a North American interpretation of the word. Questions about number-9s not in the City fold or a lack of Champions League trophies or Premiership points-leads supposedly squandered smell of the drama quotient needed to drive clicks, views, and other ad revenue desired outcomes. That, where I come from, is wholly cynical, as the tempest in a tea pot dujour isn't about reporting or commentary that reflects City's place in the table. No, that niggling is about driving content that encourages the supposed blue blood football fanbases in the English game that their shot of Premiership confetti and podium moments is still in play. One can't possible keep writing or discussing City's amazing run I'm the Pep era because, well, that's hardly required reading for the majority of Premier League fans. Stating the truth about City's excellence is boring...even if recognition of that blue excellence would be the right thing to do. That, my friends, is the very definition of cynical.

        • March 4, 2022  6:40 pm by David Walker Reply

          A very well 'articulated' view of the all pervading cynicism that City have enjoyed/endured ever since we had the temerity to gatecrash the United, Liverpool, Arsenal and, to a lesser degree, Chelsea. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  9. February 21, 2022  2:10 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    Excellent article David. Would be easy to write an essay on the Spurs game but to over complain about our previously mean defence might be churlish.
    However, from the start of that game Spurs found oceans of space on our flanks, highlighted by their 3rd goal. Misplaced pass by Walker and all of a sudden I believe it was 4 on 3 !
    After all our wins we should put that one behind us and focus on another unbeaten run to clinch the title, but it is certainly going to be exciting.
    Good as Kane is I would be against signing him in Summer, rather invest in young potential, be it from a purchase like Torres or developing the talents of Palmer and Delap.

    • February 21, 2022  5:47 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks RC. We're as one in not rushing to condemn the City backline over just one poor performance but, like you, I couldn't believe it when Spurs had a man over on a counter attack and, more often than not had three on three or two on two. It was just a poor defensive strategy on the night which was equally poor in its execution. Hopefully City will do what City do after a defeat and put two or three months daylight between it and the next. I do think we need to buy a classy striker, because even if we do, it won't bar the way for the youngsters such as Delap, and definitely Palmer, because they are so very young.

  10. February 27, 2022  5:27 pm by stuart reed Reply

    Hi Dave not sure if this is a duplicate
    https://twitter.com/Creber_/status/1497667833324613634?s=20&t=wz2f_6kCic3dhcnxmcRUag
    confirming offside but being totally ignored by Sky etc as per their usual agenda.

    • March 4, 2022  6:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      There seems to be some debate as to whether Paul Tierney's offside ruling related directly to the move preceding the 'handball' incident or not? Pep certainly suggested it was so. Notwithstanding whether Rodri did or did not commit a handball offence, have you ever heard the media whinge and whine about such an incident when a red team was involved. I remember a blatant handball by TAA at Anfield, in the same phase of play before Fabinho scored against City. Debate? No, there was none. As for Everton getting a double apology from Mike Riley of PGMOL via personal calls to Lampard and Kenwright - WTF? If Riley had had to make personal apologies to Manchester City managers and coaches for refereeing 'mistakes' since 2011, he'd have run up a mahussive bloody phone bill!

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