Maybe the true signal of an amazing supervisor is how lengthy he can go away his workforce on autopilot as soon as his system and techniques are put in. Whereas every recreation requires minor changes right here or there, they shouldn’t quantity to far more than the grade on the tires. The engine stays the identical. And no workforce must be extra computerized than Manchester Metropolis.
And but Pep Guardiola, on the greatest moments, can’t assist however need to change the gearbox or discover a new braking system on the final minute.
Metropolis rolled by way of the Premier League, and just about waltzed to the Champions League closing, with the identical system. The gamers would possibly change here-and-there as a consequence of fatigue or rotation or distinctive necessities of a particular recreation, however the concept was the identical. Pep had adopted a striker-less 4-3-3, with both Rodri or Fernandinho on the base of midfield shielding the protection. It had Ilkay Gündoğan on the sharp finish, making the late runs past the ahead line to change into the workforce’s main scorer. Typically it was Kevin De Bruyne because the false 9. Typically it was Phil Foden. Possibly another person. However that midfield, with the huge forwards pulling opposing backlines aside and offering area for Gündoğan or one other midfielder to run by way of.
That system had seen Metropolis clinch the Premier League by 12 factors. The one time they confronted any peril within the Champions League was the primary half in opposition to PSG within the semifinals, which they rapidly rectified. And maybe the primary half of the second leg in opposition to Dortmund, which noticed them go behind on away targets for 40 minutes. Once more, rapidly rectified.
Though Chelsea had overwhelmed Metropolis two straight, as soon as within the league and as soon as within the FA Cup, they hadn’t confronted Metropolis’s greatest 11 in these. Whereas Chelsea had no cause to lack confidence, neither did Metropolis, who ought to have been assured their regular and greatest lineup would have damaged by way of in methods their rotated workforce couldn’t in these two video games. In any case, it hadn’t failed to take action since December.
However Pep couldn’t assist himself. He by no means can.
When the lineups have been introduced some one hour earlier than kickoff, a chill should’ve gone down each Metropolis’s fan backbone. Guardiola was outthinking himself once more. There was no Rodri. There was no Fernandinho. There was no defensive midfielder in any respect. “No DM” began trending on Twitter.
It wasn’t exhausting to see the pondering, even when it didn’t appear logical. Chelsea had gotten thus far by being an impenetrable fortress defensively, and Guardiola needed to throw all of the attack-minded gamers on the sphere to attempt to break them down.
The one drawback was that it could work in opposition to a workforce that was completely helpless on the counter, which Chelsea very a lot aren’t. When the ball turned over, Chelsea sliced by way of Metropolis like a Hattori Hanzō blade, as there was no midfielder to attempt to break issues up. Had Timo Werner not left the sensation in his ft again in Leipzig all season, Chelsea might need had this completed by halftime.
They did get the one objective they wanted although on a counter:
Have a look at the time Mason Mount had to select Kai Havertz. Have a look at the lane he needed to make that move. John Stones, the central defender, tries to step as much as stress Mount as a result of there’s nobody else to do it, however that leaves the run for Havertz. Guardiola is fortunate that is the one time he paid for it.
So far as his resolution to swarm the midfield with attackers, it didn’t work because N’Golo Kanté lives there for Chelsea. You would possibly as effectively attempt to swarm the wind. Gündoğan was too deep to pop up within the field or between the strains. Bernardo Silva would possibly as effectively haven’t proven up. Foden and De Bruyne, till he went off with an damage, ended up standing subsequent to and looking at one another. Chelsea pressured Metropolis to play it huge, the place fullbacks Reece James and Ben Chillwell have been velcroed to Sterling and Mahrez. The quantity of instances these two obtained the ball with their again to objective will hold Guardiola up at evening. That’s not how Metropolis play.
And that’s maybe what was so startling about yesterday’s Closing. Metropolis regarded so toothless. They solely created 0.4 xG to Chelsea’s 1.4. This wasn’t some defiant defensive miracle from Chelsea. Metropolis solely managed one shot on the right track. Seven photographs total. It was…straightforward?
One in every of Metropolis’s greatest probabilities got here from enjoying Sterling in excessive, however their greatest participant to play these passes, De Bruyne, was on the prime of the sphere. Gundogan isn’t used to being that deep to play them. There weren’t many layers to Metropolis’s assault.
It continues a worrying development for Metropolis and Guardiola within the Champions League. Final season it was a weird change to a 3-5-2 within the quarters in opposition to Lyon that Metropolis had by no means performed earlier than. The season earlier than that it was an ultra-cautious strategy in opposition to Spurs within the first leg of the quarters that had no huge gamers. The yr earlier than that it was getting shredded by Liverpool within the first leg of the quarters after they left an excessive amount of area for his or her supercharged ahead line. It’s all the time one thing.
Guardiola is certainly probably the greatest managers on the earth. He has created just a few of one of the best groups England has ever seen, and developed gamers from merely good to world class like Sterling or Foden. However Metropolis would possibly have already got a European Cup if he may resist from making an attempt to show his standing when it issues most, and simply belief the work that got here earlier than will say greater than sufficient.