MANCHESTER CITY didn’t employ Pep Guardiola to lose against Barcelona. Manuel Pellegrini could already do that.
They didn’t employ him to get beaten at Tottenham and draw at home to Everton in the Premier League. Last season Pellegrini did that too.
City pursued the Spaniard long and hard because they believed he would be an upgrade on the Chilean.
The ex-Barcelona executives in charge at the Etihad were convinced he was the man to ensure the club made the final step from the ranks of the very good to become one of Europe’s elite super-clubs.
Pellegrini lost 2-1 and 1-0 when he took City to the Nou Camp. Guardiola’s team was blown away 4-0.
It meant that the new man has now gone four matches without winning, something he’s only ever done twice before in his coaching career. If he doesn’t beat Southampton this afternoon, it will be a record.
Yet just a few weeks ago, after they’d registered 10 straight wins, everyone was talking in reverential terms about Guardiola’s undoubted genius.
City were going to stroll the Premier League and probably win the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup into the bargain.
Having won three League titles in Spain, three more in Germany and lifted the Champions League twice, the start he made in England clearly underlined that this was a man who guaranteed trophies.
Now it doesn’t look quite so simple and Guardiola looks a little more human.
When he ditched Joe Hart in favour of a keeper who could use his feet there were raised eyebrows. But most understood the thinking behind the decision.
Not any more, because Claudio Bravo isn’t as good a keeper as Hart and he doesn’t look as if he can use his feet either!
Then Guardiola elected to start in the Nou Camp without top scorer Sergio Aguero because, he explained, he wanted to pack his midfield.
Well, that worked!
Guardiola has earned the privilege to make decisions like those, because history shows he’s right far more often than he’s wrong.
Yet that means there’s apt to be an element of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where he’s concerned.
No-one wants to be the first to say he’s wrong. Nobody wants to tell him he’s being too clever for his own good.
This last month has been a reality check. Even the great Pep Guardiola isn’t perfect.
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