Opinion: How Manchester City works to stay Ruthless
It is not often that a team would feel underwhelmed after a game when the scoreline reads 3-0 in their favour. Manchester City played Fulham on the last Matchday and there was a sense of dissatisfaction all around the Etihad Stadium when the final whistle blew as if they were punching below their weight.
This was followed by a performance where the result was dissatisfying too, losing to Lyon at home on the opening Champions League night. Credit where it’s due, Lyon made Manchester City go 'long' with their passes, panic in their actions among other things and they deserve the win. But, that was not at all expected from the side that was coasting through the previous games and that made this result even more surprising.
Manchester City’s Identity
Pep Guardiola often insists that he judges the team not only on the consistency of the results but also on how quickly they would bounce back from a disappointment. The latter trait is an essential one particularly in the league as the competition is long and the losing spiral can be much faster than the one going up.
This week, Manchester City travelled to the city of Cardiff to face Cardiff City. The newly promoted team was yet to win a match and lost a majority of their previous 5 games (two draws).
Manchester City though showed up in the match as if they were playing a knock-out competition where the goal difference matters. They ran for every ball, were more precise and cut off all passing options to wrestle the ball back. Once the ball was back, the intention was purely to score goals each end every time. They had 21 shots at the goal by the end of the match, 10 times more than Cardiff. The match ended with a scoreline of 5-0, Manchester City being the away side.
This might seem like an over-reaction for people who’re glancing at the happenings but there is more to it. It has become a part of the ethos, a source of identity for this City side to bounce back from a disappointment almost instantly. You would see players moving quicker, taking the dead balls right away and the pressing intense, all meaning one thing - they are prepared physically and mentally.
This might not mean that they would end up winning big each and every time after a disappointment, there was a time in the last season where they lost three matches on the trot in a single week. But, the intensity that they bring to the table after a setback is what they recognise themselves with.
De Bruyne’s Absence
De Bruyne is sidelined since the start of the season and he is their best player on paper. But, there is hardly any word of De Bruyne over the last few weeks making rounds.
A part of the reason should be attributed to the opposition they have faced over the month - Cardiff, Fulham, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Huddersfield. City’s squad would be comfortable superior and a neutral would expect them to win. But, more often than not, the loss of the best player would affect most of the teams in the league and we end up listening to the people around the club quoting the same for the performances that come by.
Manchester City had players standing up for the occasions. Bernardo Silva put in some superb outings over the month, venturing into all places of the final third, staying nimble on the feet and finishing consistently (maybe, his best in the blue shirt). Gundagon was exceptional against Cardiff, scoring a wonderful goal from outside the box and assisting two.
The club is blessed with an exceptional bench strength which cannot be said for most of the other teams. But, the most appealing feature here is the attitude towards dealing an adversity - be it losing a player for a long time or losing a match. The show of intent is how a team builds its identity.
Manchester City smashed poetic records over the last season, thereby setting the bar high for the league and themselves. On a larger timescale too, peaking very soon would be a restriction because the players can feel there’s not much in it anymore. It makes the life of the coach even more difficult to keep the morale of the players high and to give them enough reasons to fight as much, if not harder.
Pep seems to be in his element at this going into the first few weeks of the season. Manchester City is unbeaten in the season (winning 5, drawing 1). They have scored the highest number of goals this season till date (19 goals), scoring at a rate of 3 goals per match. What’s more appealing, they are not satisfied when the performance drops on an odd occasion and they’re reacting to it.
Champions League is the eluding competition for City, but the club dominations around the world were defined and remembered starting with their success at the domestic level. Pep knows this and keeping the team believe in this dream looks like the path to achieve the legendary status for City.
Send us news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org