Tuesday 19 March 2019

Teams too terrified to stand up to Guardiola's men

Guardiola: Another victory. Photo: Getty Images
Guardiola: Another victory. Photo: Getty Images

Luke Edwards

As good as Manchester City have become under Pep Guardiola, as exhilarating as they are and as jaw-droppingly brilliant as they can be, it is getting to the point where too many games they are involved in follow the same pattern. It is in danger of becoming a little dull.

City are such a special team, a group of record-breakers who are so far ahead of their rivals, the title race should be over by the start of the spring. But they are maybe just too good, too strong, too formidable. They have turned challenging fixtures into cakewalks.

This was a game Newcastle United said they were looking forward to, but as hard as they worked, as disciplined as they were, there was little enjoyment to be had. Newcastle were diligent but passive. There was no hostility, no physical battle offered, no attempt to unsettle the best team in the league, just containment.

This was the equivalent of a free hit, a game they were expected to lose and where a narrow defeat could be shrugged off before everyone turned their attention to the more important clash with Brighton on Saturday.

Newcastle are in a relegation battle and are desperate for points, but in front of their own supporters, they were turned into sacrificial lambs. It is not their fault, Newcastle's manager Rafa Benitez is not to blame for that - this is what City have done.

They have crushed their more powerful rivals and all the rest of English football can do is retreat, like a defeated army, burning crops and blowing up bridges, hoping to slow their march, but unable to stop it.

You do not learn much about a team from the bottom half of the table playing against City at the moment other than how well they can defend with everyone positioned inside their own half.

Newcastle deployed a five-man defence and when they did not have the ball - which was most of the time - a five-man midfield in front of them. City's travelling support goaded their hosts by cheering whenever the home team got out of their half.

Newcastle held on for half an hour. Goalkeeper Rob Elliot made a couple of excellent saves and City sent a smattering of shots high and wide before Raheem Sterling made the breakthrough. It had been coming.

From the start of the game it had been a case of when City scored, not if. Newcastle are a proud club with supporters who only really require one thing: that the team have a go, that they take the game to the opposition, that they try to win.

But nobody tries that against City anymore, not because they do not want to, but because they cannot. Fear has paralysed opposing teams and even a club with Newcastle's passion are unwilling to do anything to break Guardiola's spell. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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