Opinion: PSG clash gives City chance to prove they were right not to sign Messi

Paris Saint-Germain wasted little time in making their move for Lionel Messi. Alerted to the 34-year-old’s availability, it took the Ligue 1 club just a matter of days to make a transfer official, illustrating just how desperate the Parisians were to land the player widely considered the greatest to have ever played the game.

Had this situation played out 12 months earlier, it’s entirely possible Manchester City would have been the club to land Messi. Indeed, they were widely deemed to have led the pursuit in the 2020 summer transfer window and would have signed the Argentine had Barcelona not dug in their heels and refused to let Messi, still under contract at that point, leave.

When the opportunity arose for real, though, City refused to dismantle their side to sign Messi. They valued their team over the individual, instead following through on their plan to sign Jack Grealish and target Harry Kane. And with PSG set to host City in the Champions League on Tuesday night, the Premier League champions have the chance to prove this was the right approach.

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Messi hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts in the French capital. He has yet to find the back of the net for his new team with Mauricio Pochettino so far struggling to fit Kylian Mbappe, Messi and Neymar into the same side. PSG have yet to find the right balance even as they have started the season with eight wins from nine games.

Manchester City, on the other hand, are improving with almost every match they play. Pep Guardiola’s team started their Premier League title defence with an underwhelming defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and were held at home by Southampton just over a week ago, but the away win over Chelsea on Saturday saw them back to their very best.

Much has been made of City’s failure to capture a new centre forward after the exit of Sergio Aguero at the end of last season, with Kane still at Spurs after a public pursuit led to nothing, but Guardiola has devised a system that harnesses a number of different attackers. With Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torres, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez on the books, City aren’t exactly lacking in goal threat.

Crucially, Guardiola has a much tighter grasp on the identity of his Manchester City team than Pochettino has on PSG. While the summer signing of Messi has raised expectations at the Parc des Princes, Pochettino has yet to find a system to harness all the attacking talent at his disposal.

At Tottenham, Pochettino was renowned for his proactive approach. There has, however, been no sign of that in PSG’s play so far this season with the Ligue 1 outfit unwilling, or unable, to press high on opponents. City are a product of their manager’s footballing philosophy. PSG are currently anything but that and the arrival of Messi hasn’t helped.

Gabriel Jesus celebrates his winner for Manchester City against Chelsea in the Premier League.

Image credit: Getty Images

Of course, it’s still very early days for Messi at PSG. Injuries have denied the 34-year-old the chance to build up any momentum at his new club with Messi not even certain to feature against Manchester City on Tuesday night. Once he is fully fit, it seems inevitable the six-times Ballon d’Or winner will rack up the numbers as he has done all the way through his career.

Right now, though, City look to be much closer to their final form than PSG. Tuesday’s match will pit a finished article against a work in progress. Some at the Etihad Stadium, maybe even Guardiola himself, might still feel a pang of regret over not signing Messi when they had the chance this summer, but victory over PSG would help justify their decision.

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Messi: Ohne Knieprobleme ins Duell mit Guardiola

Zuletzt musste Lionel Messi wegen Knieproblemen kürzertreten – am Montag allerdings bestritt der PSG-Offensivspieler wieder Teile des Mannschaftstrainings. Für ManCity dürfte der 34-Jährige gerüstet sein.

Am Samstag noch auf der Tribüne, am Montag mittendrin beim Abschlusstraining vor dem ManCity-Spiel: PSG-Profi Lionel Messi.

Am Samstag noch auf der Tribüne, am Montag mittendrin beim Abschlusstraining vor dem ManCity-Spiel: PSG-Profi Lionel Messi.

imago images/PanoramiC

15 Minuten wurde das Abschlusstraining von Paris St. Germain am Montag übertragen – die Mannschaft von Trainer Mauricio Pochettino bereitete sich am Montag auf das große Duell mit Manchester City vor, das am Dienstagabend (21 Uhr, LIVE! bei kicker) in der französischen Hauptstadt steigt.

Gut gelaunt und ohne Knieprobleme

In dieser Viertelstunde absolvierte der 34-jährige Argentinier gut gelaunt und ohne sichtbare Beeinträchtigungen zunächst das Aufwärmprogramm und dann Spielformen in kleineren Gruppen. Nach seiner zwei Pflichtspiele andauernden Zwangspause – Messi hatte sich im Spiel gegen Lyon (2:1) am linken Knie verletzt und Blutergüsse am Knochen davongetragen – dürfte der PSG-Neuzugang für das Wiedersehen mit seinem Ex-Trainer Pep Guardiola aus frühen Barcelona-Zeiten gerüstet sein.

Zwei CL-Siege mit Guardiola

Der katalanische City-Coach Pep und Messi feierten einst gerade in der Champions League große Erfolge. 2009 und 2011 gewannen sie gemeinsam den Henkelpott und beide Male musste Manchester United klein beigeben – beim 2:0 in Rom und beim 3:1 in London. In diesem Sommer hatte Messi nach 21 Jahren den hoch verschuldeten FC Barcelona verlassen, auch über einen Wechsel zu Manchester City und Guardiola war zwischenzeitlich spekuliert worden.

Gegner Manchester startete mit einem 6:3-Sieg über RB Leipzig in die aktuelle Saison in der Champions League. Der englische Meister führt die Gruppe A damit auch an, denn PSG war zum Auftakt mit Messi, Neymar und Kylian Mbappé im Sturm nicht über ein 1:1 beim FC Brügge hinausgekommen.

Opinion: Guardiola figured out Tuchel's Chelsea by beating them at their own game

In Germany, Pep Guardiola had Thomas Tuchel’s number. Indeed, his Bayern Munich side never lost to any of Tuchel’s Mainz or Borussia Dortmund teams, but the dynamic has been rather different since his move to the Premier League. The 48-year-old has more than proved himself as Guardiola’s equal as Chelsea manager.

Tuchel’s team inflicted three defeats on Manchester City in the space of a month-and-a-half last season – in the Premier League, the FA Cup semi-final and, of course, the final of the Champions League. This record was partly why so many have tipped Chelsea as Premier League frontrunners this season.

Guardiola and City responded on Saturday, though, as the defending champions left Stamford Bridge with all three points. It wasn’t just the result that will have some reassessing their 2021/22 predictions, but the manner of the Manchester City performance too.

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Last season, Guardiola was guilty of over-thinking his approach in games against Chelsea. On Saturday, though, the City boss finally figured out Tuchel’s team by beating them at their own game. The defending Premier League champions can play better, but there was no denying the effectiveness of their game plan.

Chelsea’s success against Manchester City last season was in the way they managed to restrict Guardiola’s team from playing their own game. At Stamford Bridge on Saturday, though, it was City who stifled their opposition with Tuchel’s Blues unable to play their way through.

City pressed high on Chelsea from the start with Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus deployed as a front three with the purpose of having the energy to deny the hosts time on the ball, particularly in the wing back positions where Chelsea tend to have verticality. Guardiola wasn’t so concerned about the final product, although Jesus scored the winner. His primary focus was on stopping Chelsea.

With Manchester City essentially packing the middle of the pitch with six players – three central midfielders and the three forwards who frequently dropped deep to help the away side stay compact – Chelsea failed to provide Romelu Lukaku with any kind of service. “The attacks were already half-over when the ball reached him,” Tuchel explained afterwards.

“We played with the mentality that we had something to lose but there was nothing to lose here,” the German, clearly frustrated by what unfolded during Saturday’s match, added. “We needed the mentality from the start to take risks, they made us underperform and deserved to win.”

The toothlessness of the home team was illustrated by how they failed to register a single shot on target in 90 minutes. Chelsea’s Expected Goals was capped at 0.2 while City registered an xG of 1.7. Even when Kai Havertz replaced N’Golo Kante in an attempt to give Chelsea a platform closer to the opposition goal, they were unable to trouble Manchester City who maintained their shape and structure throughout.

“We can debate this endlessly and never have the answers,” Tuchel replied when asked whether his Chelsea team had paid for being too defensive in their approach. “We decided for 3-5-2 but I don’t think it is a matter of structure. It is about adapting to the opponent to find the spaces.”

Numerous times over the course of his Chelsea tenure, Tuchel has been able to correct course by making tactical tweaks and changes in personnel mid-match. He did this only last week to propel Chelsea to a 3-0 away win over Tottenham Hotspur despite the Blues being second best in the first half.

This time, though, the German found himself up against one of the few coaches in the Premier League at his level. Guardiola and Manchester City didn’t just need this result to pull themselves level with Chelsea in the table, but to make the point they won’t let their supremacy slip easily.

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Guardiola insists CL final defeat means little ahead of Chelsea rematch

Pep Guardiola has insisted that Chelsea’s Champions League final victory over Manchester City counts for little ahead of the two sides’ Premier League meeting this weekend.

Chelsea host Manchester City after beating Guardiola’s side thrice in quick succession at the end of the 2020-21 season.

The most prominent of these came in Porto in late May as Thomas Tuchel and his team secured the continental triumph to follow wins in the semi-final of the FA Cup and a league fixture.

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Guardiola was accused of again over-thinking his selection for a big game after picking a midfield shorn of a natural holding midfielder.

Though admitting that Chelsea “controlled all departments” in Portugal, the Spaniard said this encounter is “completely different”.

“We will prepare for the game like we prepared for Southampton and the previous games,” Guardiola explained.

“Every game is a new challenge and an opportunity to learn and do it better.

“It is completely different to the previous games – the FA Cup [defeat] was a semi-final, a tight game and we lost it; the Premier League was already done, we were almost champions; and of course the Champions League was a massive, massive game.

“We lost but played a great final. They controlled all departments which is why it was difficult in the final against an exceptional team.

“My impression is we played with a lot of courage and personality, but unfortunately we could not do it and they beat us. We try to learn, now it is a new competition.”

The fixture begins a brutal eight-day period for Guardiola’s side with three significant games.

They continue their Champions League campaign with an away fixture at Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday before a trip to Anfield on Sunday, October 3.

Guardiola will unwind after his side’s Saturday lunchtime trip to London by watching the Ryder Cup but says that the Premier League is only getting tougher ahead of what could be a crucial week.

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“Every year I get the idea that it is harder than before,” Guardiola added.

“It’s really tough, an incredible challenge for us. We accept the challenge and go for it.

“It’s a big compliment for the Premier League – the Premier League has to be so proud of the fantastic league we have and for the brilliant managers.”

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Tuchel: I'm not playing tennis or chess against Guardiola tomorrow

Thomas Tuchel insists Chelsea vs Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime should not be labelled as a contest between him and Pep Guardiola.

“Not so long ago there were a lot of voices who told me I don’t know how to beat Pep,” he told reporters ahead of the Premier League clash.

“It’s not between me and him, we don’t play a match of tennis or a match of chess tomorrow.

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“It’s two teams and clubs that compete against each other on a very high level.

If I look at it [the last three games] honestly, I see three 50/50 matches and I’m not only talking about the situation before the match, but during the matches too.

Tuchel was also asked if he is a better manager than Guardiola, but he says it’s a topic for journalists to “endlessly debate”.

He added: “This question does not even exist for me and it doesn’t exist for me because I can’t answer it.

“These are questions for you guys that you can maybe endlessly debate.

“I have the highest respect for Pep because I’m a huge admirer of the impact he had from his first day of professional coaching.

“The impact he had at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now at Manchester City. This is something I hugely respect and this will never change.

“Look at the trophies, look at the influence, there is absolutely no reason why I should start to ask myself whether I’m a better coach or not.”

Tuchel also confirmed that Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount will not feature on Saturday.

Edouard Mendy will start in goal for the Blues after recovering from a knock picked up in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League on September 14.

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Tuchel: I'm not playing tennis or chess against Guardiola

Thomas Tuchel insists Chelsea vs Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime should not be labelled as a contest between him and Pep Guardiola.

“Not so long ago there were a lot of voices who told me I don’t know how to beat Pep,” he told reporters ahead of the Premier League clash.

“It’s not between me and him, we don’t play a match of tennis or a match of chess tomorrow.

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“It’s two teams and clubs that compete against each other on a very high level.

If I look at it [the last three games] honestly, I see three 50/50 matches and I’m not only talking about the situation before the match, but during the matches too.

Tuchel was also asked if he is a better manager than Guardiola, but he says it’s a topic for journalists to “endlessly debate”.

He added: “This question does not even exist for me and it doesn’t exist for me because I can’t answer it.

“These are questions for you guys that you can maybe endlessly debate.

“I have the highest respect for Pep because I’m a huge admirer of the impact he had from his first day of professional coaching.

“The impact he had at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now at Manchester City. This is something I hugely respect and this will never change.

“Look at the trophies, look at the influence, there is absolutely no reason why I should start to ask myself whether I’m a better coach or not.”

Tuchel also confirmed that Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount will not feature on Saturday.

Edouard Mendy will start in goal for the Blues after recovering from a knock picked up in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League on September 14.

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Analysis: Block the midfield, attack the wing-backs – How Guardiola can end Tuchel hoodoo

FA Cup, Premier League, Champions League.

Last season Thomas Tuchel completed the hat-trick over his Manchester City counterpart, and friend, Pep Guardiola. In a season where City were pretty much dominant it was surprising to see a manager who had never beaten Guardiola (excluding shoot-outs) and had only joined his team in January get the better of the Catalan tactician.

On Saturday lunchtime they meet for the fourth time in England and the first time this season. Chelsea are the table-toppers whilst City, three points worse off, sit in fifth. Both teams have conceded just once and the Blues have scored one more goal than the Sky Blues.

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It should be a fascinating match but how should Guardiola approach it? Below are a few tactical ideas after we did the reverse for the Champions League final last season.

RESIST THE URGE TO TINKER

We all know Guardiola LOVES a tinker. It’s what he’s thinking about as he drifts off to sleep or takes a shower. Guardiola is obsessive and he loves to try and find a tiny tweak that he believes will give him the edge against an opponent.

This season he’s been pretty controlled, for the most part sticking with a 4-3-3 formation and only occasionally making changes once in-game. Guardiola will almost certainly toy with the idea of moving back to a three-man defence to match Chelsea.

Yet doing that will force a sacrifice in the midfield area, even if he drops Rodri deeper, and that might play right into Chelsea’s hands as it will become a game they’re comfortable with, rather than trying to exploit the weaknesses of the formation. Which leads us onto…

Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City reacts during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton at Etihad Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Manchester, England

Image credit: Getty Images

DON’T GIVE MIDFIELD TIME (AND STAY AWAY FROM KANTE)

How Chelsea line-up will be fascinating. They were overwhelmed last weekend against Tottenham Hotspur until N’Golo Kante came on in a more advanced position. It’s a new idea and it paid dividends, and it’s not unreasonable to imagine Tuchel might do the same again.

Regardless, City can’t afford to sit off the midfield duo, which we assume will be Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic if Kante is further forward. Tottenham’s relentless pressing hurt Chelsea in the first-half, they weren’t able to play around it because it was only a two rather than a three. Introducing Kante in the place of Mason Mount gave them a better link between the central duo and the two behind Romelu Lukaku.

N’Golo Kanté (FC Chelsea)

Image credit: Getty Images

So if all three start in this game how do you combat it? The answer, as we’ll discuss in the next segment, is to use the wings. Spurs couldn’t get much from Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal in the second-half when they tried to get away from Kante. With Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker, City should have better luck. Bringing his full-backs inside is a dream for Guardiola but it actually makes tactical sense for City. If they can shut down the middle two Chelsea tend to struggle.

GET WIDE, THEN DON’T, BUT BE SMART

Following on from that point. One of the things Chelsea have struggled with is wide players drifting inside. Their defence is excellent but there can occasionally be a lack of communication when the wider players come in.

In City’s 4-3-3 formation that is going to happen a lot. Be it Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling or Gabriel Jesus, they will all come in. When that happens the full-backs have to go back out wide to occupy the wing-backs. By doing that, in conjunction with a runner from midfield, you can cause a temporary overload on the back three. In those moments you can strike.

Jack Grealish of Manchester City celebrates after scoring their fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester City and RB Leipzig at Etihad Stadium on September 15, 2021 in Manchester, England

Image credit: Getty Images

Now you may be thinking back to the Champions League final when Chelsea shut down Sterling and Mahrez with brutal efficiency. So how do you prevent that from happening again? Well to start with you 100% play Grealish from the start (not that doing that was a debate) because he will go inside and out more than the others. Secondly you try and catch them on the counter.

City can move quickly through the gears but it’s very rarely a long ball (either on the ground of aerially). It involves risking possession more but getting the ball up to the forward players quickly is not the worst thing, particularly if it’s on the counter as Chelsea can be caught out.

EMBRACE THE PACE

Without wanting to sound like a FIFA 15 fanboy it is an open secret that Chelsea, for some years now, have struggled to cope with pace. It’s strange because pretty much every defender they have is quick enough not to be caught out. And in one-on-one situations they can hold their own.

But as a unit, something weird happens when they get attacked with pace. Gaps start to open up and space between the back line and the keeper can be found alarmingly easily. City aren’t really blessed with pace and it could be where Ferran Torres plays an important part. With or without the ball City need him running in behind to try and cause problems.

This is also where the full-backs can come in. If you assume Guardiola plays the 4-3-3 system then if they want to try and create a wide overload they can drop the deepest midfielder into the backline and shuffle a centre-back out to the wings. Then you can get one of Walker or Cancelo to absolutely bomb on and try and get either the full-back or wide forward into the space between the sideline and edge of the area in the final third. That’s where you can get your advantage.

Ferran Torres (Manchester City)

Image credit: Getty Images

ISOLATE LUKAKU

Easier said than done. Lukaku is one of the best strikers in the world right now and there are few, if any, central defenders who can live with him. However Lukaku can’t do much if he doesn’t get the ball, but to do that is really hard.

The way Tuchel has built his side pretty much every single one of the other 10 players have a license to try and get the ball into Lukaku’s feet, over the top or whipped in as a cross. It’s a brilliant strategy and is the perfect example of why signing Lukaku was a “money is no object” process. Lukaku’s all-round game allows them to attack from everywhere on the pitch, something that Timo Werner didn’t give them.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates

Image credit: Getty Images

So where are the danger areas? Central midfield and right wing-back are the big two. Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta seem to have a better understanding with Lukaku than Marcos Alonso at this moment in time and they’ve also shown a willingness to unleash the early cross, something Alonso does less often. Likewise the long balls through or over from Jorginho and Kovacic have proven to be really effective. The real struggles have actually come with Kai Havertz and Mount, with breakdowns in communication already a factor, albeit only after a handful of games.

That’s another case for squeezing up and pressuring the midfielders and wing-backs. Trust your defenders and sweeper-keeper to deal with the long balls over the top, it’s a risk but it’s better than being sliced apart by players with time.

Chelsea are an excellent team and Tuchel has proven himself to be one of the best tacticians in the world. But they are not unbeatable. Their recent matches have given a rough blueprint and if any team can execute that it should be City. Whichever way it goes it will certainly be must-watch viewing.

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Carabao Cup: City down Wycombe as Everton and Watford knocked out

Manchester City defeated Wycombe 6-1 in the third round of the EFL Cup despite resting many of their biggest names.

There briefly appeared to be a shock on the cards as Brandon Hanlan scored in the 22nd minute, but Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne equalised seven minutes later.

City manager Pep Guardiola had to do without injured trio John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Ilkay Gundogan, and both Oleksandr Zinchenko and Rodri were unavailable.

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The Spaniard gave the nod to Zack Steffen, CJ Egan-Riley, Finley Burns, Luke Mbete and Josh Wilson-Esbrand as he fielded an unfamiliar backline. Youngster Romeo Lavia was also given the chance for first team experience.

Riyad Mahrez put City ahead two minutes before the 45 minutes, and Phil Foden added a third.

In the second half, Ferran Torres added a fourth, Mahrez notched his second, and another youngster, Cole Palmer, added a late sixth to send City into the fourth round.

Elsewhere, Liverpool enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over Norwich City, courtesy of rare goals for Takumi Minami (twice) and Divock Origi.

Premier League new boys Watford lost 3-1 at home to Stoke City, and Everton also suffered an upset as they lost 8-7 on penalties to QPR after drawing 2-2.

Brentford beat Oldham Athletic 7-0, Burnley were 4-1 winners over Rochdale, Leeds United (6-5) beat Fulham on penalties after a goalless draw.

Preston beat Cheltenham 4-1, and Sunderland continued their good form with a 2-0 win over Wigan.

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Opinion: Southampton draw highlighted City's biggest weakness

Pep Guardiola made a call for Manchester City fans to pack the Etihad Stadium for Saturday’s Premier League fixture against Southampton. This riled some fans who felt slighted by their own manager’s veiled criticism of their support. Those who did respond to Guardiola’s plea were surely left disappointed by what was served up by the champions.

There was no sign of the verve that saw City score six past RB Leipzig in the Champions League during the week. “I would say the last three games we played here we scored 16 goals,” Guardiola said on Wednesday night, but the Premier League’s great entertainers were not in an entertaining mood as they laboured to a goalless draw.

City should have had more than enough to get past Southampton, even accounting for their mid-week exertions. Guardiola boasts the strongest, deepest squad in the Premier League, maybe even in all of European football, yet the visitors to the Etihad Stadium rarely looked flustered as they held out for a point.

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Southampton might have claimed even more had the award of a penalty kick, and a subsequent red card for Kyle Walker, not been overturned. This was a match that showcased Manchester City at their passive worst with Guardiola unable to change things from the bench.

“We struggled with build-up, not precise, not good,” Guardiola attempted to explain afterwards.

We lost more balls than usual. We had the feeling we weren’t comfortable taking the ball. We couldn’t make contact with people up front, but we had chances and at the end, a draw is a fair result.

Guardiola also can’t ignore his team’s lack of cutting edge and threat in the centre forward position. Despite claiming 64% of possession, City registered just one shot on target, their lowest tally in a Premier League fixture since March 2017. What’s more, that one shot on target came in the 90th minute.

Southampton were ambitious enough to play their own game at times, but their defensive organisation was still the thing that ultimately earned them a point. Faced with a low defensive block, Manchester City toiled. Most of their attacks started 30 yards out from goal, which was a problem for a team with nobody in the number nine position to play off or get on the end of crosses.

Of course, much has been made of City’s failure to find a new centre forward following the exit of Sergio Aguero. Their public pursuit of Harry Kane dominated the gossip column for weeks with Cristiano Ronaldo another attacking target the Premier League champions ultimately failed to land.

Until now, City’s lack of a proven number nine had done little to hold them back. As Guardiola mentioned in his sales pitch to get more fans through the gates, they had scored 16 goals in their last three home games. But this performance underlined why this deficiency could cost them in the title race.

Contrast the outcome of this match to the one that saw Chelsea claim a 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League. This result is relevant because it was decided by a Romelu Lukaku goal. While City failed to sign a world class centre forward, Chelsea got one and Lukaku has already made a habit of scoring winners in matches his team likely would have drawn without him.

Guardiola’s bizarre decision to leave Ferran Torres on the bench for the full 90 minutes against Southampton exacerbated Manchester City’s lack of attacking threat even further, but there’s only so much he can do with the current centre forward options at his disposal. If Guardiola’s comments about a lack of support generated a sense of malaise around the Etihad Stadium, City’s lack of firepower compounded it further.

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'They misunderstand me' – Guardiola refuses to apologise after fans comment

Pep Guardiola says he will not apologise for wanting more Manchester City fans to attend their Premier League game against Southampton this weekend.

City’s attendances for their first two games of the Premier League season against Norwich (51,437) and Arsenal (52,276) were close to the Etihad Stadium’s capacity of around 55,000.

“Did I say after the game that I was disappointed that the stadium was not full,” he told reporters on Friday.

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“An interpretation is an interpretation. I am not going to apologise. I know how difficult last season was, and we make an approach to do something together on Saturday.

It doesn’t matter how many come, I enjoy them. After five seasons they misunderstand me. I won’t apologise.

He added: “I am entirely grateful for the support that we had against Leipzig.

“I always say if guys want to come we will be incredibly grateful because I know how difficult the game will be and I know we need our people.

“I never sit here and ask why people don’t come. If you can’t come then don’t.

If it’s a problem for fans, I will step aside. From day one, I do my best. I like to play at the Etihad with my fans… my intentions are to be part of something, to do it together.

Kevin Parker, general secretary of Man City’s official supporters’ club, said on Thursday that Guardiola’s comments after City’s 6-3 win on Wednesday were “disappointing and uncalled for”.

He said: “It’s not factual, our attendances are generally excellent.

“He [Guardiola] doesn’t understand the difficulties that some people might have getting to a game on a Wednesday evening at 8pm.

“They’ve got kids to think of, they might not be able to afford it, [and] there are still some Covid issues about. I don’t see why he comments on it.

“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that.

“It just takes the edge off what was a good night. People are talking more about Pep’s comments than a fantastic game. To question the support, which is effectively what he is doing, is disappointing and uncalled for.”

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