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Tuesday 6 December 2016

John Giles: Pep Guardiola's ego has buried his common sense and his foolish ideas will backfire

Read John Giles' excusive column every week in The Herald

Published 21/10/2016 | 18:24

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

PEP Guardiola thinks he has discovered something in football which everyone else has missed but he’s wrong. What he’s doing is all about pride.

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Not a good pride either. This is about Guardiola’s ego and his place in the history of the game and unless I’m badly mistaken, his foolish ideas about goalkeepers and full-backs will cost him.

If, at the end of the season, we are hailing Guardiola as a genius with an all-conquering new system of play which all others want to copy, I will be the first to put my hand up and admit I was wrong.

But I cannot see any rhyme or reason for what he is trying to do and when the evidence of my own eyes tells me that something is wrong, I have no reason to second guess myself.

His tactics cost him in an immediate sense when Claudio Bravo made an awful mess of a simple enough situation against Barcelona because of his manager’s instructions.

Manchester City were only trailing by a goal at that point and had caused Barcelona enough problems at the back to suggest that they could cause some more.

But once Bravo was sent off, Guardiola had no chance of taking anything from the game.

I can’t imagine what his teammates thought. In a normal dressing room a goalkeeper who makes a mistake of that scale would take stick from everyone.

In Guardiola’s regime, I wouldn’t be able to have a go at Bravo to ask him what was he thinking and why he didn’t clear the danger without hesitation, an action which should be a goalkeeper’s first instinct above all else.

Since Guardiola is the one telling his goalkeeper to get the ball down and play, logic dictates that he cannot be blamed when it goes wrong.

It really would be madness if Bravo has to take the blame.

Sure, he shouldn’t have tried to chip his pass which was too clever by half but I would argue that if Guardiola was doing his job correctly, the issue would never have arisen and there would have been no red card. The ball would have been belted into the stand.

Guardiola wants his full-backs to play in midfield and truly, I am at a loss to understand what benefit he is trying to gain from this.

If he needs another body in midfield, pick a midfielder. This is nonsense. I’m all for innovation and clever managers doing enterprising things but I have seen nothing to suggest that he has stumbled on some new way to play football.

All I can see is his team playing football badly and the game has a way of dealing with a manager in those circumstances.

Fans will support Guardiola to the hilt because he remains a great manager and has a golden CV, but over time, if they do not understand what he is trying to do, they will become restless and unhappy.

What happens on the pitch will dictate their response and the Premier League is not a forgiving environment for a coach given all the money he needs and complete control who squanders the opportunity on what amounts to a tactical punt.

I don’t know how long Guardiola has been working this out in his mind but I know he toyed with it while he was at Bayern Munich.

It may even date back to his time as Barcelona coach although there is no evidence to suggest that other than the fact that defence was always something of an after-thought.

Bayern Munich were not great at the back during his time there and now Manchester City are looking less than secure.

I started the season thinking that Liverpool would surprise everyone but as the first weeks rolled by and Guardiola’s team brushed aside every team they met, I was leaning towards Manchester City as the likely winners.

Now I don’t think either team will win and that’s mainly because Jose Mourinho seems to be the only one among the top clubs who knows how to organise a defence properly.

All good teams are based on good defence and he is the only one that seems to appreciate that fact.

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