Sunday 15 September 2019

Richard Dunne: 'Pep Guardiola suffering from a mental block when it comes to the Champions League'

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Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

They can still win a treble this season, but Manchester City will be devastated by losing in the Champions League this week.

Their defeat to Tottenham, and the manner of that loss, shows that Pep Guardiola has a problem in terms of the big stage in Europe. It’s eight years now since he won the Champions League as a manager and that will hurt him, the thoughts of another year waiting to see the Champions League back in his hands again.

In fact, their problem this season stemmed from how they played in the first leg of the tie against Spurs. City didn’t seem to have that intensity about them. Maybe they thought it was already won, but Spurs are a good side who are capable of pulling out a big result when they need to, and over the two legs Spurs deserved it.

Since the new owners came in to take over at City, the target from day one has been to win the Champions League, to be the best club in Europe.

But under Guardiola they have been to a semi-final once, so they have failed in Europe. As a club they are heading in the right direction, a stadium that’s full most weeks and they can win Premier League titles... but for whatever reason they can’t get it right in Europe.

I think this will really hurt Guardiola. I know he won the Champions League twice with Barcelona but he’s failed at Bayern Munich and now again at City.

And people will always judge a coach like Guardiola on his performances in Europe, as the clubs he works for usually have the biggest budget in their own league. It’s ok winning your domestic league but the proof is when you come up against the best teams in Europe and he has failed there.

Maybe it’s a mental block that’s there and Guardiola needs to overcome that, to beat the top teams in a two-legged situation, to handle those occasions.

When you look at this game from midweek, City’s exit should not be allowed to overshadow how good Spurs were. Tottenham have been brilliant. With the way City play, I feel the opposition always have a chance to score. If you attack them, if you trust your attacking players, you will get chances and Spurs were brazen against them.

Tottenham could have sat back and said ‘we’ll take what’s coming and see how we get on’ but they took their opportunities when they did go forward. And this is a Tottenham side that’s missing key players, so it was an impressive performance from them, and from their manager.

The topic of VAR came up again this week as it played such a big role in the City-Spurs game but they got both decisions right.

Whether we like it or not, VAR is a key part of the game now. One decision can win or lose you a title or a Champions League tie, so you have to do all you can to make sure the decision is correct.

The other night, you could see after even the first view on the screen that it wasn’t a handball, certainly for Llorente’s goal, and that Aguero was offside. It adds to the drama. Everyone is on the edge of their seats and emotions are high, but anyone watching that could have said ‘he’s offside, no goal’ and carry on, as they do with goal-line technology.

VAR has a place but it’s not perfect,  it has to be streamlined, made quicker. The time that people are taking to come to what is seemingly an obvious decision is crazy, and unfair to the players on the field.

I’d favour an arrangement where the referee gets a chance to see it but he has maybe a 15-second window to make a call on an offside, they make split-second decisions during the game all the time, they should be allowed the extra help, from VAR, to make a call for a big decision, as these calls they make can define a game, or a season, for clubs.

But it has to be speeded up. The long delays are not fair on supporters, players or managers.

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