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Chelsea – Manchester City (0-1) | Pep Guardiola and his poker moves: “I am a genius”

All the fans asked me to play them. This is a good answer?“Teasingly, Pep Guardiola thus justified the first post-World Cup tenures of Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker and Phil Foden, on Sky Sports, before the meeting between Chelsea and Manchester City. The first two cities were released at the break, after a very lackluster first act from the Sky Blues. The third left the lawn just before the opener.

This is the paradox of what is often called “winning coaching”. Manchester City made the difference from the joint entries of Jack Grealish (passer) and Riyad Mahrez (scorer) on the hour mark. Guardiola’s masterstroke … or mistake to have left a doublet on the bench for so long who had also started the last two matches? The question arises all the more since the Cityzens often seemed lost in the first period.

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Guardiola’s response is tasty. “I am a genius, he replied to the media. At my last press conference, (a journalist) asked me why I waited until the 87th minute to make changes, against Everton (1-1, December 31, editor’s note). I took note, thought about him at halftime…and made changes.” Behind the touch of humor – which caused laughter in the audience –, a necessary questioning.

Bernardo Silva did not shine this Thursday

Credit: Eurosport

Static on offensives carried out in 3-6-1, Guardiola’s formation was unrecognizable for forty-five minutes, with a Bernardo Silva sometimes very low in the midfield, far from the role of attacking midfielder that one could imagine him, or even an Ilkay Gündogan surprisingly eccentric for the time of a sequence. Add to that a Rodri unable to influence the game in this shaky organization, an uninspired Kevin De Bruyne, and you have football mush.

Mahrez: “You know the coach…”

You know the coach… he tried somethingsmiled Mahrez, at the microphone of Canal Plus. We always have to be ready, even if sometimes we are a little disappointed, because we are competitors. I knew how to stay focused” Consultant for the encrypted channel, Samir Nasri agrees, convinced that the only scorer of the game had nothing to do on the bench, at kick-off: “He showed him that he deserved to start the match.”

The former player of the France team, who briefly rubbed shoulders with Guardiola in the Mancunian club, insists on the questionable side of his initial strategy: “We immediately felt that the players were a little destabilized by the tactical plan“. But he concedes that the Spanish technician’s appetite for poker moves, during major matches, contributes to his legend: “That’s what makes his genius“Right, Pep?

“(They) didn’t play their position”

Even before the decisive goal (63rd minute), also due to a dubious exit from Kepa Arrizabalaga, City had made a new start, much more convincing. Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis, who entered at half-time in place of a disappointing duo on the right flank (Walker-Cancelo), contributed to this. But it was more generally the return to a less experimental configuration that led the defending champions on the path to success.

We didn’t play well in the first half“, conceded Guardiola, touching on self-criticism: “Thanks for their efforts to Joao (Cancellation) and Rodri, who did not play in their position (…) the second act was a thousand times better, in all areasThis was enough to win on the road, during this 19th day of the Premier League, without even an achievement from “cyborg” Erling Haaland. with an astonishing pointed left foot.

A diminished Chelsea

It remains to be put into perspective, by looking at the opponent. Manchester City beat a plucked Chelsea – who still knew how to be dangerous – to come back to five points behind leaders Arsenal. The Blues lost Raheem Sterling, who touched the hamstrings of his right leg, from the 5th minute, then Christian Pulisic, in the 22nd. And if the ex-coach of FC Barcelona had not weighed so much on the result of the meeting on Thursday? In any case, he got what the fans expect of him: victory. Right answer.

Raheem Sterling’s game lasted less than five minutes, against Manchester City – 05/01/2023

Credit: Getty Images

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