So, Pep Guardiola is human after all
Manchester City’s quadruple hopes were stopped by a resilient Wigan Athletic in the 5th round of the FA Cup at the DW stadium that highlighted flaws in the tactical methods of City manager, Pep Guardiola. The 47-year-old former Bayern Munich manager has earned plaudits for the way he has set his team up this season, dominating opponents and beating them into submission with his tactical methods. A 79th-minute strike by Will Grigg ensured that Guardiola won’t sweep all domestic competitions with his City team. Fabian Delph was sent off at the end of first half after his yellow card was rescinded by the VAR system. Guardiola was quite furious in the tunnel as he bemoaned the decision, and almost got into fisticuffs with his opposite number, Paul Cook.
It was a side to the City manager that has never been seen before. He was almost violent, and watching videos of that incident will surely embarrass him. Over the years, he has always cut the picture of a very calm, articulated, intelligent manager that is only focused on the result. He was widely criticized by the English press last season after he had an underwhelming first campaign at the Etihad, as he was constantly labeled as being ‘tactically arrogant’. City players struggled to get in tune with his philosophy last season, though some of the players were not his type of players. He has bought players that are more in sync with how he wants the game to be players, but this loss would have hurt him badly.
Guardiola is a man on a mission, trying to dispel the belief that his system and tactical philosophy can’t lead to success in English football. He wanted a clean sweep of all three domestic competitions but his FA Cup dream can only start from next season after he was dumped out. When he started reading the signs that the game could not go in his favour, he brought on Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to help change the game. Despite being a man down, City completely dominated the Latics, who it has to be said, were very professional in their performance. Time and time again, they pressed City high up the pitch, though they didn’t create that much chances until Grigg’s goal.
City threw everything at the Wigan goal, though it didn’t yield any results. This result could affect them psychologically as they were expected to roll over the League One outfit, but it’s a big loss and now they have to go back to the drawing board. Up next is Arsenal in the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday. Lose that, and doubts start to creep in. After his victory over Manchester United in December, Guardiola said the win was a proof that the Barcelona model can be implemented anywhere in the world, even in England. At that point, he was right as City were in the middle of a stunning 18-match winning sequence.
Since that time, they have lost to Liverpool and have struggled a bit against teams that set up themselves just to defend. Guardiola is still on course to do well this term, but not all that he touches turns to gold as it would seem.