This question was bothering me to the core in the last few weeks. Let’s be honest, it would have bothered all of us in a much lesser way if Arsenal had not been challenging us for the title. In fact, there would be no debate on it if Arsenal were not in this commanding position. You will probably find that there is no straight answer to this question among our fan base. I have noticed that each of us have a vividly different take on this. Well, hindsight is a fantastic teacher, but rarely is it a great master.
A few days ago, I was speaking to a friend of mine on City’s season so far. The first thing he pointed out was our lack of fluidity. He went on to stretch that it was not the City he had known. Even though the goals were going in, he said that the style and the finesse was missing in our football. It’s no longer the champagne football we used to play in the previous seasons under Pep.
The reasons for it are obvious. The striker is not dropping in. This means that your gameplay becomes very predictable and there are far fewer runners from the midfield. Thus, defenses are able to set up deep and narrow against us. The rant that Pep had after the Spurs game surprised many people. Specially after the superb comeback. But, if you look closely at it, he wanted to have that angry outburst after the Everton game. How on earth could you drop points against a team who are hopeless and pointless in their last 7 games. In Pep Guardiola’s words: How dare you drop points against that Everton team.
Well, there are a lot of City fans who echo what my friend said. But, I have a slightly different take on this. This is what I think might have happened. When selling Gabriel Jesus, City and Pep would have thought about this question deeply: Is Gabriel Jesus good enough to win the Champions League for us?
I think everybody unanimously agreed that we needed a much more lethal striker to evolve into the next stage. The Real Madrid match was not the only example in isolation. The amount of chances that Gabby missed stretches back to Champions League matches against Lyon and other heart breaks. Now, you could argue that he could be played in the wings. But, again the same problem arises. The finishing ability of Gabriel Jesus and for that matter even Raheem Sterling is just not good enough to win us that coveted trophy on Europe’s biggest nights.
We are feeling the pain right now, but i am sure it will be over once we learn how to play with Haaland. We are still finding our feet and it is always uncomfortable when you are trying to do something new. It becomes even more uncomfortable when you try to change from a successful system. I know there is a bit of philosophy I am throwing at you. but, we have to accept that our philosophy is no longer the false 9 dropping in and runners from the midfield. we are gravitating towards a much more direct style of football with an out and out number 9. So, it was absolutely necessary to move on Gabby if we had to go to the next level. Otherwise, the Champions League trophy would have alluded us for many more years to come.