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Sloppy Man City with lessons to learn in quest to win Champions League – football news

If Pep Guardiola was “angry” with a routine 3-0 Premier League victory, he will be furious with Manchester City’s shock 2-1 defeat to Lyon as they kicked off their Champions League campaign.

Guardiola said at the weekend, following the walkover against Fulham, that he would be going over his side’s mistakes – bad passes, extra touches – with them in their team meeting on Sunday.

The Catalan is a control freak and has pulled together an army of staff – coaches, nutritionists, player support officers – to ensure his squad are in the best possible position to perform to their best.

So it will be doubly painful for the City boss, serving a touchline ban, to have watched his side beaten from high in the stands, unable to patrol the touchline and shout at his players, or at least to burn off some nervous energy.

It is a shame that no Amazon documentary cameras will be present the next time Guardiola sees his players, in training on Thursday morning.

This is the fourth Champions League match that City have lost in a row, considering they lost a dead rubber to Basel before their bruising encounters with Liverpool. Those Liverpool games are what City have focused on when they turn their minds to Champions League improvement, but it may be helpful to remember here that City were booed off after that game with Basel, and Guardiola told his players they deserved to be.

That will no doubt be the message on Thursday.

City came into this competition with hopes of winning it, and they still will despite this very early set-back. Guardiola and his staff, which certainly includes the talented and well-liked Mikel Arteta, who deputised in the dug-out on Wednesday, have been working on ways to excel on the European stage. 

New passing combinations and changes of position have been drilled into the players’ training sessions, alongside the other general improvements Guardiola has urged of his squad since they returned from their summer holidays, including repeated warnings against complacency. The aim is a semi-final at least.

But on Wednesday night it looked as if City had forgotten what they had done so well last season. It is tempting to put it down to a failure to do ‘the basics’, but after Fabian Delph tried that excuse last season, only to be told by Guardiola that football is more complicated than that, you get the feeling it must be something else.

It is also tempting to drag up some of the usual concerns that accompany any losing side. 

Perhaps City miss Kevin De Bruyne, who is still out with a knee injury. Though they have made a fine fist of life without him so far, especially given Guardiola’s tactical tweaks in search of Premier League dominance.

Perhaps their failure to sign a deep-lying midfielder in the summer has cost them and will do so again – especially when you see Fernandinho struggle up against a very muscular and pacy Lyon midfield, particularly Tanguy Ndombele, who City have scouted. 

Perhaps they were complacent here, expecting merely to turn up and win against a side that have started the French season poorly. Although given Guardiola’s repeated reminders and constant tactical ploys designed to keep his players on their toes, that is unlikely.

Perhaps they really do struggle when teams take the game to them, and perhaps domestic opposition should do it more often (though the latter is a debate for another day). City saw Shakhtar Donetsk and Napoli play their own no-concessions game at the Etihad Stadium last season, though they found enough in their own locker to win regardless.

Tonight, though, they did not. Tonight there was something not quite right, and they were punished for their mistakes. Fernandinho gave the ball away twice, and twice the visitors scored immediately afterwards. It did not help that Delph produced an even bigger shocker for Lyon’s first.

Fernandinho was not the only guilty party in the sloppy stakes. Despite the verdict from one City fan at half-time – “terrible, disgusting” – the Blues were not themselves, but not dreadful in the opening 45 minutes.

They could not play out from the back as seamlessly as they usually do, due to an astute Lyon press, but they did find ways to get in behind, only for their attacking players to lack the required spark when they were called upon. 

Arteta has proven his worth to Guardiola and to City since joining the staff in 2016, whether on the training pitch or giving orders during matches, but he was left with the daunting task of giving the half-time pep talk as his boss, banned from the dressing room too, sat with his family.

Leroy Sane was brought off the bench to shake things up shortly after the break, and he did, in part. His left-wing wriggling set up Bernardo Silva to pull one back, but City could not use their remaining time to fashion an equaliser.

There were chances for the hosts, but then again there was a big one for Lyon at 0-2, too. 

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In many ways this was similar to City’s poor results in the opening months of Guardiola’s reign; their passing was not crisp enough and their mistakes were ruthlessly punished. That was understandable at the time but slightly more worrisome now.

And after Hoffenheim and Shakhtar drew their opening game earlier on Wednesday, City find themselves bottom of the group they are widely expected to win. 

They may well still do that, and they certainly have the quality and the nous to do so. But while City have been working hard on ideas designed to take them all the way to the final in Madrid next June, this will serve as a timely reminder that there is a long way to go before that. Guardiola’s next team talk will be lively.

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What does the next decade hold for the Man City model? – football news

What next for Manchester City? Both on the pitch and off it, they are in an enviable position. Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, contracted for another three seasons, City can hope for more of the stylish, record-breaking football that delivered the fifth league title.

And having become self-sufficient as a business, turning a profit every season since 2014-15, the possibilities for City and its affiliated clubs across the world are endless.

But while the club says it has quadrupled its global fan base since 2010, Guardiola’s team will have to continue winning titles if they are to attract even more new fans and usher in the next major phase of the Abu Dhabi era.

City’s decision makers insist they do not want to spend £200m on one player – despite the fact that they could quite easily manage it – and that is the approach to future development projects.

“We have planning permission to expand the Etihad Stadium, we will see the stadium expand at some point, where that is in the next 10-year journey is just not possible to say,” says Pete Bradshaw, director of infrastructure and estates. “We’ll expand it when it’s the right thing to do for our football club, for our fans and our business, it has to meet the whole criteria of getting things right, we’re not going to expand the stadium for the sake of it.”

Instead, more modest projects are in the works for the acres of land around the Etihad; Manchester Metropolitan University will build a new faculty next to the stadium that will bring 3,000 full-time students to the area. City are also redeveloping the Ashton Canal route that links the stadium to the city, building or converting old mills into new apartments and freshening up an area that has fallen into disrepair.

It is a similar story in terms of global outlook; while many had expected a big CFG push into China, to either acquire or launch a brand new club, the realities have been different.

“If you look at the Chinese Super League, it went through a period of high inflation and enormous investment in player transfers, which brought up the valuation of clubs to numbers that we felt weren’t realistic, and we started looking at alternative ways,” Omar Berrada, chief operating officer, says. “It’s a market we are present in, we just haven’t made the level of investment that we have made, for example, in New York.”

City quote

Berrada says the club are “open” to a New York-style expansion into a new territory, but only in the right conditions.

These new ventures are designed to develop local communities as well as to make money and spread the word of the CFG, and ultimately City.

“We used to laugh and joke when you used to see all the Scandinavians at Liverpool and a lot of tourists at United taking photographs,” says Kevin Parker, general secretary of the official supporters’ club. “We used to say that will never be us but the reality was they never wanted to come and see us because we weren’t successful. Now they’re part and parcel of what happens.”

The pursuit of new fans poses challenges; not only in attracting and retaining their support, but doing so without overlooking, or at least annoying, loyal fans that have been going to games for decades.

City’s determination to break new ground – they have an Official Robot Partner, the only one in football – opens them up to brickbats from rival fans and sometimes their own.

The club strives to offer supporters new services and opportunities, including the ‘City Square’ entertainment zone outside the stadium on matchdays and free wi-fi throughout the Etihad, and are currently in the midst of improving their communication with supporters regarding a range of issues. Yet for many fans, all of that is undone when ticket prices go up.

City quote

Prices rose again in May but many fans did not complain because of the relatively small amounts involved. Others, however, asked why such a profitable club needs to put prices up at all, especially if it’s a couple of pounds per game. Is it that simple?

“It isn’t,” Berrarda says. “I think you have to look at the wider view of our ticket pricing. We still have the lowest season ticket price in the Premier League, we’ve had that £250 ticket since 2009-10, I think since then only once we didn’t have the lowest price, when Stoke was £5 cheaper.

“We also need to continue growing, we need to continue also ensuring that the costs, which have an organic inflation rate, are covered, but we are utterly convinced that what we put for the fans in terms of the ticket prices but also in terms of the football, it’s definitely the best price:quality ratio in the Premier League.

“I do think we are where we should be and our fans understand that.”

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Certainly, as long as City keep winning with style there will be few complaints, no matter the issue.

“A friend of mine went to the Huddersfield game and had an issue getting a pie or a pint,” Parker says. “She likes to complain but we won 6-1 so she said she wouldn’t be complaining because it was so good! She would have complained if we’d lost 2-1! That’s the nature of football fans.”

And if City do continue winning with style, the City Football Group will surely be set for another successful decade.

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Guardiola ‘happy’ with Sane attitude despite dropping him from Man City squad – football news

Pep Guardiola insists he is happy with Leroy Sane’s attitude after leaving the winger out of his squad for Manchester City’s 2-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday.

Goal understands that Sane had been dropped because Guardiola is unhappy with his focus, and that omitting him from the squad will help get him back on track.

Guardiola had suggested during pre-season that Sane was not at the required level to start matches, but insisted ahead of the 1-1 draw at Wolves last weekend that the German had begun training well again.

However, sources close to Guardiola have indicated that he was disappointed with Sane’s late cameo against Wolves, as well as his subsequent efforts in training.

In comments that appeared on City’s Twitter feed on Saturday evening, the City boss confirmed that Sane had been dropped, rather than missing out through injury, and said he hopes the German “can be an important player” for the club this season.

Guardiola was unwilling to criticise the 22-year-old in his post-match press conference, insisting that he has so many forwards that one had to miss out.

“Last game Phil Foden was not in the squad and it was so sad for Phil, and I’m so sad for Leroy now. But we have a squad, we have six strikers and I decided to play with two strikers, we have two wingers plus another one on the bench and that’s why we decided this game he wouldn’t be there.

“In the next games he will be ready to play.”

Asked directly if he was happy with Sane’s commitment, the Catalan replied, “Yes”, before insisting he had no serious concerns about the winger’s performance at Molineux.

“He played 10 minutes, he tried. He was not precise but he tried. They convince me, I am satisfied from the moment they run. Mistakes without the ball, taking decisions is part of the process.”

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Sane had to make do with three cameo appearances from the bench before being dropped on Saturday, while he was brought off at half-time in the Community Shield at the start of August.

Sane was cut from the Germany squad for this summer’s World Cup by Joachim Low, with the winger’s attitude believed to be one factor in his manager’s decision.


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