The Manchester City fans were drowning their sorrows in the Transfer Tavern last night after their side were humbled in the Champions League by a rampant Liverpool on Merseyside.
Pep Guardiola has earned plenty of plaudits for his ability to install an imperious brand of attacking football onto his City side this season, but it was Jurgen Klopp’s team who showed the greatest level of potency in the final-third as they coasted to a 3-0 victory in the first-leg of a compelling quarter-final tie. City have it all to do in the second-leg after failing to score an away goal, and unless they can host one of the great Champions League turnarounds then they will be destined to end with only two trophies this season.
The resident Citizens faithful propping up our bar were absolutely shell-shocked by the result and the standard of their side’s performance last night. Indeed, it was incredibly uncharacteristic of City to be so toothless in attack, and the supporters are struggling to explain why their side failed to strut their stuff in the same manner in which they have done all season.
Although there are many reasons to explain City’s performance, a large portion of the explanation can be found within Guardiola’s tactical approach to the game. Much was made of Guardiola’s decision to start Gundogan over Sterling at Anfield despite the fact the 23-year-old winger was in frightening form against Everton alongside Jesus and Sane last Saturday, and ultimately his decision turned out to be a poor one.
However, Guardiola’s failure to adapt to the dynamic of the game throughout proceedings was one of his greatest mistakes on the night. City’s attacking game became flat, boring and predictable, as they consistently attempted to forge an opening through Leroy Sane on the left-side of the pitch, but despite the glaringly obvious fact that the tactic was not working, City continued to persist and neglect Sterling down the right-hand side.
Guardiola would have been wise to swap his wingers over, or bring on Bernardo Silva to replace the ineffectual Jesus and play Sterling in a false-nine role through the centre, but yet he never made an obvious decision to alter his system, and that decision ultimately came back to haunt him. City have it all to do in the second-leg next week to qualify for the semi-final of the competition, and Guardiola must learn from his mistakes if he wishes to have any chance of completing a dramatic turnaround.