Saturday 22 July 2017

Pep Guardiola angry with Man City players after Liverpool defeat and admits he's not used to being behind

The adaptation to English football is proving more complicated than Guardiola imagined. Photo: Reuters / Scott Heppell
The adaptation to English football is proving more complicated than Guardiola imagined. Photo: Reuters / Scott Heppell

James Ducker

Jurgen Klopp chose to ring in the New Year by taking his dog, Emma, for a walk. Pep Guardiola elected to go out for dinner with his family.

Liverpool 1 Manchester City 0

Given that Guardiola's right-hand man, Manel Estiarte, says it is impossible for the Catalan to disconnect from football for longer than 32 minutes at a time, though, one suspects the Manchester City manager might have been rather distracted.

Georginio Wijnaldum soars above the Manchester City defence to score for Liverpool. Photo: Reuters / Carl Recine
Georginio Wijnaldum soars above the Manchester City defence to score for Liverpool. Photo: Reuters / Carl Recine

Guardiola had done his best to talk up City's limp performance against Liverpool but it felt rather like an act.

More telling was his reaction outside the dressing room at Anfield on Saturday, when he cut an animated figure as he was spotted gesticulating wildly in conversation with the club's director of football, Txiki Begiristain, his frustration clear.

That certainly chimed with Yaya Toure's version of events. "Of course he is going to be angry - he is a manager who can be angry," he said.

"We have to sometimes improve and react to situations, and we knew Liverpool would be waiting when we lost the ball, and they did that to score. So he will be angry for everything that is happening.

David Silva of Manchester City and James Milner of Liverpool clash. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
David Silva of Manchester City and James Milner of Liverpool clash. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

"When you are losing like that and Liverpool are the better side, it's not going to be happy at half-time. It was disappointing and we all felt that. But we can learn from this and what the manager says about it."

Guardiola's mood will have been brightened briefly by the arrival in Manchester yesterday of new signing Gabriel Jesus, whom the manager is confident will not need "too much time to get fit".

In Pele's judgement, the 19-year-old from Sao Paulo is a greater natural talent than Neymar. But it may take more than just the exciting young Brazil forward, a £27m recruit from Palmeiras, to help his City side rediscover the spark, intensity, aggression and fluidity that has mostly been missing since they tore through Barcelona during an intoxicating second half at the Etihad Stadium in mid-October.

Klopp has had eight months longer than Guardiola to impose his identity on Liverpool and it shows.

Divock Origi of Liverpool closes down Nicolas Otamendi of Manchester City. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Divock Origi of Liverpool closes down Nicolas Otamendi of Manchester City. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

But the concern for City is that they looked far more cohesive and proactive in the opening six weeks of the campaign whereas there is a disjointed feel to the team now and too many players seem to be gripped either by inertia or collective confusion.

Kevin De Bruyne seemed spent while Sergio Aguero did not touch the ball in the Liverpool box at all.

Hungrier

Liverpool's players, notably the midfield trio of goalscorer Georginio Wijnaldum, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson, left-back James Milner and forward Adam Lallana, looked better drilled, more incisive and more in tune with each other and, tellingly, much hungrier.

Toure acknowledged as much. "I don't think we can overlook the performance of Liverpool or detract from it," he said.

"I think they deserved the three points. You have to sometimes hold up your hands and say they are better.

Adam Lallana of Liverpool and Fernandinho of Manchester City in action. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Adam Lallana of Liverpool and Fernandinho of Manchester City in action. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

"I think they are improving, they are better, for sure. They have a good coach. They play very good football, very strong, very fast, very dangerous."

Guardiola claimed not to know that Wijnaldum's eighth-minute goal was the sixth City had conceded in the opening 15 minutes of league matches this season.

"It's not a big problem but, of course, it makes things more complicated," he said.

Toure believes City will have to be largely flawless over the second half of the campaign.

"If we want to have a chance of winning the title, then we have to win most of the games, and we have to put a run together," he said. "Of course it is going to be very tough, but we have the squad to do something."

The adaptation to English football is proving more complicated than Guardiola imagined and his team are fourth, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea - an unusual position for a manager accustomed to sitting on the summit.

"Yes, normally I was top," Guardiola acknowledged. "I was there a lot of times with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But, OK, this is a new chapter in my career to handle that and I am willing to try it.

"One time, in Barcelona, I was nine points behind against Real Madrid and after we recovered. I won a league being 12 points behind.

"But the question is, 'Are we able to reduce the gap to Chelsea?' Now we have to focus on the next game and not put a lot of stress on things by saying, 'Oh, if you don't win the Premier League, wow, that's not going to be a good season'.

"Jurgen has been here more than one year. I've been here just six months and the way we want to play in the league is not that simple.

"We need a little bit more time but I'm a guy who is so optimistic and we're going to try."

On Saturday's evidence, they need to try harder. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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