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Pep Guardiola guilty of overthinking that caused Chelsea’s deserved victory 

Pep Guardiola guilty of overthinking that caused Chelsea's deserved victory 

Pep Guardiola knew exactly what the criticism would be if his Champions League gamble didn’t pay off.

 

The Manchester City manager has been accused of repeatedly overthinking European matches in the 10 years since he last lifted the trophy with Barcelona.

However, even after a brilliant run to this year’s final, during which City saw off Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, Guardiola couldn’t resist one last tweak.

 

Maybe he had too long to prepare for the all-English showdown in Porto, mulling over every possible scenario in his mind.

Pep Guardiola guilty of overthinking that caused Chelsea's deserved victory 
Pep Guardiola guilty of overthinking that caused Chelsea’s deserved victory

Maybe he had tried to second-guess Thomas Tuchel after two defeats to Chelsea since the German took charge.

Or maybe it was a vanity project, an attempt to prove his genius.

 

 


Whatever the truth, Guardiola’s decision to start without a defensive midfielder backfired spectacularly.

 

A system responsible for turning their 2020-21 campaign around, propelling them to a Premier League title and through their best-ever run in Europe, was inexplicably ditched for the biggest game in the club’s history.

 

Neither Fernandinho nor Rodri were charged with protecting the defence, with Ilkay Gundogan moved back to the base of midfield.

 

City have played 60 games this season and only once have they started without either Rodri and Fernandinho, back in November in a 3-0 win over Olympiakos.

 

But Chelsea are an utterly different proposition to the Greek side and they bossed the middle of the park during the first half.

 

Guardiola had been relaxed in the build-up, trying to transmit serenity to the players in City’s first ever Champions League final. His composure didn’t last long after kick-off, though.

 

With sleeves rolled up, he tried to orchestrate his side’s movement from the sideline, waving his arms manically, cajoling and pointing his players around the pitch.

 

His side though were equally frantic, though, looking uncertain out of possession.

 

 


Without a disrupter in City’s midfield, N’Golo Kante had free reign to cause havoc, picking up every loose ball and driving Thomas Tuchel’s side forward.

 

They would have been punished earlier had Timo Werner been in RB Leipzig mode. Instead, the German maintained his Chelsea form, miskicking horribly in front of goal, after Ben Chilwell’s cutback, before then shooting tamely at Ederson from barely 10 yards out.

 

However, Chelsea finally got the opener their strong start deserved just before half time when Mason Mount slid the ball through a gaping hole in City’s defence, allowing Kai Havertz to take it around Ederson and side-foot home.

 

City were almost unrecognisable to the side that romped to another domestic title. Bizarrely, they looked at their most threatening when they played at pace on the break.

 

Phil Foden had one sight of goal during the opening 45 minutes but was brilliantly denied by Antonio Rudiger’s last-ditch tackle. However, Eduoard Mendy was troubled just once over the course of the entire game.

 

Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Foden were stifled by Chelsea’s high energy as they closed down with determination. Raheem Sterling, surprisingly brought in from the cold after a difficult few months, was frozen out by the speed and eagerness of Reece James.

 

Even when De Bruyne went off in tears after a horrible facial injury, Guardiola turned to Gabriel Jesus as his replacement. Only with half an hour remaining, and City chasing the game, was Fernandinho called for. By then, though, it was too late.

 

 


Even substitute Sergio Aguero couldn’t manage a fairytale ending on his last ever appearance for City after 10 years at the club.

 

Guardiola will know better than anyone else that his long-time detractors will now turn on him again, despite everything has achieved in his five years at the Etihad Stadium. It was the same after he left Bayern Munich without having lifted the European Cup.

 

He has admitted in the past that his time at City will also be judged a failure if he doesn’t lead City to Champions League glory, despite already claiming three Premier League titles in four years.

 

He deserves credit for making bold calls but there is no hiding the fact that he has made big mistakes in previous European exits. His decision-making came under intense scrutiny after past defeats to Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon.

 

Man City were said to be too offensive, defensively naive and lacking in pragmatism. This season, though, everything seemed to have come together beautifully for Guardiola.

 

Victories home and away to both Dortmund and PSG were earned with a structured and controlled performance that had worked brilliantly in the Premier League.

 

 

It must also be said that a first-ever final is a reflection of big progress for a club that had never been to the semi-finals once before. The City boss had always said that the club lacked experience and savviness in the Champions League and that it would take time to join the European elite.

 

 


An impressive run to the final where they won 11 of their 12 matches has shown that they definitely belong at the very highest level.

 

But City and Guardiola have been once again left with a devastating feeling that they only have themselves to blame for coming up short in the Champions League.

TEMI BADMUS
Temi Badmus is a Food scientist and an Art enthusiast. Her desire is to give a listening ear to people and to give an opportunity for everyone to be heard. She is a humorous and controversial writer, who believes all form of writing is audible if it's done well. Temi Badmus is research oriented, dog lover; she is currently a mum to two brutal Jack Russell terrier " Cash and Indigo" . 🐕 🐕 The future is female... The future is Productive.