Pep Guardiola Gets it Wrong (Again) as Man City Are Humiliated by Lyon

Aug 15, 2020, 10:45 PM GMT+1
Pep Guardiola
Guardiola can't watch as Man City fall away | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Disaster. A nightmare. The unthinkable has happened. The underdogs have won - and good on them. But the bigger news is, the heavyweights have crumbled under the pressure of the big occasion once again.

Manchester City, the overwhelming favourites for this Champions League quarter-final, have lost. Facing off against Lyon, a side who finished seventh in Ligue 1 this year, the Citizens crumbled, collapsed, caved. Humiliated.

A 3-1 loss leaves Pep Guardiola and the Sky Blues still chasing that elusive European trophy, and for many, the Spaniard's pedigree on the huge nights under the lights will be thrown further into doubt.

Where to start with this one?

If anything, this game encapsulated Man City's Champions League history in 90 minutes. Expectations high, hopes higher, but ultimately a combination of poor tactics, shocking individual errors and strange decisions end their dreams.

Questions must be asked of Guardiola and his decision-making when it comes to his arguments with Champions League. Man City set up with a five-man defence, with Fernandinho sitting in a back three alongside Eric Garcia and Aymeric Laporte. The Brazilian's presence at the back allowed Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo to defend higher up the pitch, while he then pushed into the midfield when they went on the attack.

Maxwel Cornet, Fernandinho
Fernandinho struggled against the pacy Lyon forwards | Pool/Getty Images

That tactical switch meant that Ilkay Gundogan and Rodrigo were deployed to anchor the midfield, as Guardiola opted for a surprisingly defensive centre to his side. Predictably, no invention or creativity came from that particular hub.

Lyon coach Rudi Garcia set up his soldiers with two in attack, although Memphis Depay's job was far more instrumental than simply creating chances. The Dutch star, a former flop of City's rivals United, was tasked with man-marking the metronome Rodri when the Citizens were in possession, preventing them from hitting their stride or finding a rhythm.

Blocking that first entrance into midfield significantly hampered Man City, who instead looked to forcing Raheem Sterling into chase balls down the flank and ending up extremely isolated.

The first half an hour passed, and the favourites didn't have a sniff at goal - not even a shot out of anger. Guardiola was becoming increasingly edgy on the touchline, and his players were performing in a similar vein. Walker was visibly tense and began a running battle with Karl Toko Ekambi, while Fernandinho brought down the irrepressible Hessoum Aouar to earn himself a yellow card.

The game's opening goal was classic Champions League Manchester City stuff. A simple ball over the top caught the backline cold, Walker played Ekambi onside, Laporte failed to chase his marker, Fernandinho was nowhere to be seen, and Ederson wandered terribly out of position. Garcia did well to make a brief recovery, but it wasn't enough, and Maxwell Cornet slotted home.

Time to panic.

And panic they did - for a bit. Then, as will often happen when you possess some of the greatest players on the planet, the Sky Blues remembered how to play football. Kevin de Bruyne started to find his feet and pull the strings, and he almost provided the equaliser with a devastating and cutting through ball, but Sterling couldn't quite apply the finish.

But that was that for the first half, and we may have expected a change at half-time. Instead, Guardiola stuck to his guns - for the next ten minutes, at least. Finally, a substitution arrived on 55 minutes, and Man City began to regain control of the game. The equaliser soon arrived from De Bruyne on 70 minutes. It was well worked, typical of Guardiola's side, and they were back in the ascendency. All was forgiven.

Even the worst-laid yet salvaged plans can mean absolutely nothing in the face of individual carelessness, however. Guardiola's men were caught napping by the high press, surrendered possession, and then allowed Lyon to swan in behind the defence and swing that pendulum yet again. As with the first goal, Ederson will be disappointed to have been beaten in that manner.

No doubt the Citizens will be furious with the refereeing on that action, as Laporte appeared to be clipped, his slip allowing Lyon to coast in behind. Costly.

if the Spanish boss was caught off guard by the style in which they conceded the second goal, then the third will be keeping him awake for years to come. Robbed of the ball once again, Lyon strolled towards the Man City box, and when a simple shot was fumbled by the Brazilian shot-stopper, Moussa Dembele had the simplest task to double his tally.

In between those two goals, Sterling had also missed the easiest tap-in of his career, as if to present in one image the difference between the Sky Blues in the league, and their woes in Europe. It was atrocious.

Heartbreak. Anger. Confusion. How can this group of players consistently drop the ball when it matters most? A side that won two league titles back to back, posted insane points tallies over both campaigns, cannot beat a team that finished seventh in Ligue 1. Say it again: seventh.

The inquest will begin. Fingers will be pointed and scapegoats will be hunted. But no matter what happens, Man City are out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals, and the pressure only grows on Guardiola to deliver this cursed trophy. Time is running out.