It just seemed like it was not City’s night. The football was extremely silky, but without any end product. You almost felt that the beautiful build up play deserved at least one good goal. Gundogan was orchestrating the play with such beauty that it rolled back the years. For a moment, I was lost in memories of David Silva and his legendary one touch football. The way Gundogan was gliding through a packed midfield was just a treat in itself to watch. But, not everything was perfect for City. We were lost for ideas in the final third and the scoreboard fairly reflected it at the final whistle.
Pep’s tactics limited our attacking ability
It was a very surprising shape to start with. I know that Pep wanted to play with both Alvarez and Haaland up front. But, my first reaction was that he had put Alvarez in the wrong position. What I mean is that Alvarez is excellent at playing just behind the striker. He had played earlier in a 4-4-1-1 system and did extremely well linking up play. Maybe, Pep wanted to try out Alvarez alongside Haaland and this was one of his experiments.
Foden was an other player whose attacking ability was completely sucked out due to the 4-4-2 shape. It almost seemed like Pep set us up to defend and not lose the game. This is very unlike Pep to begin with. But, maybe he has realized that having a solid defensive shape is the vital factor to win this tournament. This game is a slight indication that Pep is coming to terms with the fact that he cannot control all the variables in a knock out game.
I know that we were still getting hit by counter attacks despite the defensive formation. But, that was on Cancelo getting used to the role of playing so high up and not getting back in time. If Pep persists with the system, then I am quite sure that Cancelo will gradually improve and get very good at his role in the system
Is Mahrez past his best?
Mahrez looked very positive right from the start of the game. You could just sense that he was up for it yesterday. His movements were very aggressive and he knew exactly when to cut inside. He was maintaining the width and tempo of the game very well. What struck out about Mahrez was his determination to make an impact on the game. He was extremely disciplined and it looked as if today was the day Mahrez would emerge from the rustiness of his form.
Like it happens so often in life, destiny had other plans for him. When Mahrez was brought down and the referee pointed to the spot, you could almost sense a tear in Mahrez’s eyes. All of his team-mates were hugging him. You knew at that very moment, this could be a vital penalty in his season. He struck the penalty with confidence and it was a good save by the keeper.
It was by no means a bad penalty. It’s just that when things don’t go for you, it can seem like a never ending streak. This is exactly what Mahrez is going through right now. After that Brighton game, i was wondering if the best days of Mahrez are behind him. It just seems sad to realize that age catches up with the best and maybe Mahrez is on the way down. Remembering all of those memories Mahrez has given us over the past few years, i am not yet ready to accept the fact that Mahrez is declining. I just feel it is a bad run of form.
Overall, it was a match where both the teams got what they wanted from it. More than the outcome, I feel the talking points here are about the system that Pep employed. The fact that we have now used a third different system in the space of 3 games tells you that Pep is still trying to get something tactically right. It will be very fascinating to see the system he employs when we play in the later stages of the Champions League