Pep Guardiola needs to show pragmatism against Liverpool

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City looks on prior to the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Manchester City at Vitality Stadium on August 26, 2017 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City looks on prior to the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Manchester City at Vitality Stadium on August 26, 2017 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images) /

With the summer transfer window over for another year, Manchester City turn their eyes to Liverpool in the Premier League. Here’s why Pep could do with changing the routine to ensure victory.

There’s something morbidly intriguing about the football transfer window. Every year we complain about the big clubs spending exorbitant amounts, often more than a small country’s GDP, on a player we are fairly sure isn’t worth a tenth of it. Yet still we tune in, enthralled, buying into every single rumour and murmuring that flies our way and getting excited at even the smallest, most farfetched hint that it could be coming to fruition.

Indeed, in some ways the transfer window is more exhilarating than the game itself. Kind of like my dad, he loved owning a motorbike which he rarely rode, he just loved having it there and looking at it, cleaning it and admiring it. One game, of any, that promises to break the mould and rise about the drama of deadline day comes all too quickly with Liverpool visiting the Etihad to take on Manchester City this Saturday.

Liverpool, of course, are firmly admin their annual pre-January high. Scoring goals for fun, beating opponents in the top six, looking like they could be genuine contenders. The usual. While City have toiled against tough opposition, invariably set up as a parked bus, they still have ground out results were in previous years points would be dropped. Oh and they have far and away the most impressive squad in the league behind arguably the best coach in the game, so they’ve got that going for them.

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Those who had the fortune to watch these two sides the last time they dueled at the Etihad were rewarded with among the most entertaining 1-1 draws of the year. Well, more frustrating for City’s followers, I suppose. A plethora of missed opportunities coupled with a few dodgy, for lack of a better word, refereeing decisions and City were left regretting another two points missed in predictable fashion. Can the Blues expect much of the same this time round?

History is wont to repeat itself. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp knows how to get a result against a Pep Guardiola team. Bottle up at the back, wait for a mistake or loss of possession, counter-attack quickly and ruthlessly. It worked on occasion for him at Borussia Dortmund, when Pep managed Bayern Munich, and it has been effective so far in the Premier League. Pep, for his part, has tinkered but largely kept the same style and ethos, that of possession and short passing build-up in his typical tiki taka system.

It seems to me, Guardiola needs to show a certain amount of pragmatism this time round. Liverpool are riding high and there’s still an air of uncertainty around City, mostly due to the changing of the guard over the summer, that is waiting for things to yet click into place. To avoid being overrun, Pep needs to change the dynamic and build a solid foundation at the back. Liverpool will play their game, City should adapt thusly.

A formation featuring 3 at the back has been choice of Pep so far this season, but you’d have to imagine he will think the better of it with Sadio Mane’s pace providing constant threat. New fullbacks Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker should both get the start, as they have the necessary speed to keep up with Mane, and new Liverpool acquisition Mohammed Salah, as required. Further, their ability on the flanks provides Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva the opportunity to get into more goal scoring positions.

Having a back four, ostensibly with either Yaya Toure or Fernandinho sitting just in front, would slow the game down considerably but that would be to City’s benefit and provide more control. The only questions then needing to be answered would be up front. Aguero or Jesus? A question Guardiola has likely beaten his head against the wall to work out. Play Jesus and you get blamed for not playing Aguero, and the vice versa. So far Pep has skirted the issue by mostly playing both, and with Raheem Sterling suspended this might be the opportunity to do so again, however it’s unquestionable that both thrive individually much moreso than apart.

Ultimately, I feel Manchester City will turn to Kun again. He scores regularly against Liverpool, indeed he is as much a proven commodity as the Premier League has, and is the player the Blues will turn to first in the toughest contests. We’ve talked before how City need Sergio firing again if they want to achieve anything this season and that still remains, the best way for him to find form is to be played and given the manager’s trust.

Next: City need Aguero to start scoring again

In the end, we could just wind up with another obscenely entertaining, nail biter of a 1-1 finish. Who knows? This game could go either way or neither way. Regardless, Pep has to be willing to break the mould or risk being outsmarted by Klopp. If he does, all the more so should this be a game to best the excitement of the transfer window.