DANNY MURPHY: Pep Guardiola’s attacking options proved too predictable against Chelsea

DANNY MURPHY: Pep Guardiola’s attacking line-up proved too predictable against Chelsea… it’s not the first time that he has got his tactics wrong in the Champions League and spoiled Manchester City’s dream

  • What looked like an attacking line-up on paper proved too predictable 
  • The threat of Sterling, De Bruyne, Foden and Mahrez never materialised
  • Tuchel set up a well-organised defensive unit and Chelsea were worthy victors

Pep Guardiola over-thought it again on a big Champions League night. He didn’t mess up as he did against Lyon last year, Manchester City lost because Chelsea were also fantastic on the night, but what looked like an attacking line-up on paper proved too predictable.

I don’t actually think the lack of a holding midfielder, Rodri or Fernandinho, cost City at the back. The goal they conceded was more a case of Oleksandr Zinchenko not tracking his runner and Ederson having a rush of blood by coming out too quickly. Apart from that, City were solid enough at the back.

But where Pep got it wrong was in the final third. The mouth-watering options of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez never materialised because Foden and De Bruyne were used as the two false nines and Chelsea’s back three didn’t have to worry about anyone running in behind.

Chelsea comfortably dealt with the threat of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden as false nines

Chelsea comfortably dealt with the threat of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden as false nines

It would have been more of a threat if Sterling had been used centrally and De Bruyne had dropped a bit deeper and pulled the strings.

You always want your most creative player to have more touches of the ball than anyone else and that wasn’t the case with De Bruyne on Saturday night, even before his injury.

I’ve spoken about his versatility and being able to contribute in any position on the pitch but on the very biggest occasion you want him to be more influential than he was as the furthest player forward.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola over-thought it again on a big Champions League night

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola over-thought it again on a big Champions League night

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola over-thought it again on a big Champions League night

He really needed a De Bruyne supplying him from midfield, it would have been more beneficial if he’d been the No 10 and had Sterling or Gabriel Jesus making the runs.

Pep isn’t daft and he may reflect on that afterwards. Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course but on the night it didn’t work and it’s not the first time at the business end of the Champions League for City.

Another consequence of not having Rodri or Fernandinho starting is it left Ilkay Gundogan as the deepest midfielder. That’s the Gundogan who has scored 17 goals this season and whose forward runs were so important in City’s 21-game winning streak when they hit their peak.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne struggled to make an impact on Saturday night

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne struggled to make an impact on Saturday night

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne struggled to make an impact on Saturday night

De Bruyne missed not having Gundogan closer to him and that was also probably a mistake in City’s tactics.

Let’s also sing the praises of the winners. Chelsea’s wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell have just played the best games of their careers.

Thomas Tuchel has set up a well-organised defensive unit and the pass by Mount for the goal was wonderful. Chelsea looked impregnable but they were helped by Pep not playing his cards wisely. With the way the game was set up, the team who scored first was always likely to win.

Manchester City might have deserved it over the course of the season but, on the night, Chelsea were worthy victors

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