Guardiola: “I don’t recognize my City, we lack passion and guts” | Sports

Like a defibrillator applied at the critical moment, Riyad Mahrez returned Manchester City’s pulse. The winger revived his team when his teammates marched in darkness towards a defeat that would have buried them eight points behind Arsenal and with one more game. They lost 0-2 in their stadium against Tottenham and the Premier was slipping away from them in a climate that seemed to signal the end of an era, until Mahrez, who had not done anything relevant, decided that the time had come to act.



Ederson Moraes, Aké, Manuel Akanji, Rico Lewis, John Stones, Rodrigo, Gündogan (Bernardo Silva, min. 80), Julián Álvarez, Mahrez, Grealish and Erling Braut Haaland (Rúben Dias, min. 90)



Lloris, Cristian Romero, Eric Dier, Ben Davies (Clement Lenglet, min. 78), Rodrigo Bentancur (Yves Bissouma, min. 74), Emerson (Richarlison, min. 78), Perisic (Ryan Sessegnon, min. 68), Hojbjerg , Dejan Kulusevski, Kane and Heung-Min Son

goals 0-1 min. 44: They leave Kulusevski. 0-2 min. 46: Emerson. 1-2 min. 51: Julian Alvarez. 2-2 min. 53: Erling Braut Haaland. 3-2 min. 63: Mahrez. 4-2 min. 89: Mahrez.

Referee simon hooper

Yellow cards Mahrez (min. 20), Cristian Romero (min. 23) and Hojbjerg (min. 31)

“I don’t recognize my team,” said Pep Guardiola, struggling after the game not to get carried away by the fleeting euphoria of victory. In the analysis of the City coach, the final 4-2 weighed less than the 0-2 run, so he went to rest. “We have lost the passion and the desire to run,” he declared on Sky; “We have lost guts. And the same goes for our fans. For 45 minutes they attended mute. I want them back. Our opponent, Arsenal, has fire. They haven’t won the Premier for two decades and they want it now. Thats the reality. Here everything is very comfortable for us, but the rivals are not going to wait for us”.

Winter had clouded City. The team that in recent days was successively defeated by Southampton in the League Cup and by United in the League, showed signs of numbness when they hosted Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday. With Arsenal escaped, the dilemma indicated irreversible consequences. A defeat would carry so many stones on the back of the players that the comeback would seem chimerical. The sense of urgency was palpable and the game was bogging down. Walker’s hindrances, Dias’s physical difficulties, De Bruyne’s laziness, and a general feeling of exhaustion, split the team in half and isolated Haaland in increasingly remote positions.

Only Rodri and Bernardo Silva raised the level in the context of blackout. But for some unknown reason, Guardiola decided to leave the Portuguese on the bench. Silva was accompanied by Foden, De Bruyne and Cancelo, all regular starters, all substitutes against Tottenham on a day that the Catalan coach pointed out as the day of the great shock. Guardiola took unusual risks. He changed the scheme. He removed the references. He put the unruly Rico Lewis on the right side with functions as Rodri’s assistant, he placed Gundogan as a hook, Julián Álvarez in the playmaker, Grealish and Mahrez at the ends, and Haaland up top, to his own.

Guardiola ordered them to move, go down to support like possessed, go deep, dislodge rival marks, help in midfield and return like bullets to face Lloris. Guardiola sent things that everyone could do. The question was: how many times? during how much time? For a while, the overpopulation of attackers did not affect the order of the Manchester team. As the first part progressed, however, Mahrez and Grealish got carried away by their adventurous nature and no longer fulfilled the maintenance tasks. City lost control of the ball. The spaces tightened. Antonio Conte sent Tottenham to put pressure on the man, Kane pounced on Ederson and the center-backs, Romero and Davies, made chases until the vicinity of the opposite area. Each rebound, each rejection, subjected the defenses to a one-on-one on the edge of the precipice. Kane’s passes uncovered large empty territories for his teammates. Heung-min Son had the first chance, headfirst. It was a premonition.

By pressing with everything they had, Tottenham gained confidence, found their way, and ended up opening the scoring in the 44th minute. Ederson rushed to play with Rodri, Bentancur harassed him, the midfielder lost the ball and Kulusevski sent it to network. The blow plunged City into confusion. Two minutes later, Kane outwitted Stones in the course of a long counterattack, his shot was deflected by Ederson and the rebound was followed by Emerson Royal. Tottenham went into the break with the 0-2 under their arm and sent City to purgatory. If he lost the game and Arsenal beat United next Sunday, the lead would slip to 11 points. Too many for a team that oscillates between resistance and depression.

Julián Álvarez, light in chaos

City needed something extraordinary to happen. He needed the concurrence of a hero. Something like a metamorphosis. The fans found out five minutes after the restart. Mahrez, the unstable one, the indulgent one, the one who disappears, the one who so often pretends that everything revolves around him because he is incapable of thinking about others, he sewed the ball to his right foot, to the left, to the right and to the left, he left Perisic and his center caused chaos. In the chaos, Julián Álvarez lit up to score 1-2 and raise the kilowatts to megawatts. Inflamed by Guardiola’s speech, by agony, by his own dribbling, or whatever, Mahrez went into ecstasy. With the collaboration of Rodri, the vertex of all the plays, he assisted Haaland and two minutes after the 1-2, the score looked 2-2.

The public in the stands was delirious when Rodri changed orientation to the right. Mahrez’s control was so fiendish that he went from taking Perisic biting from half a meter to gaining two meters away. The Croatian fell for the trick and the Frenchman went alone towards the near post, as if he could smell the fear on the skin of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. His shot, over the Davies cross, slipped into the near post and the Etihad erupted in a clamor: City had come back. Not by way of calculation and harmony, as so often, but based on rage, courage, survival instinct. With Tottenham falling apart, Mahrez took advantage of a defensive error to steal, score, close the game in the 90th minute, and put City back in contention for the championship.

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