Why Guardiola was so critical and how the City players reacted behind the scenes

“Do you think I said something tactical at half-time?” asked Pep Guardiola on Thursday night within 15 minutes of revealing everything that pushed him up the walls Manchester city in recent weeks.

And with his team down 2-0 spurs After quick goals in the first half, the tactical tip eventually came – after he told them exactly what he told the rest of the world full time.

Tell them they have no chance of winning the title if things don’t change, that they are playing without passion, and that their fire is out.

There was clearly a reaction to that – they scored four goals without reply – but it wasn’t enough to stop Guardiola from voicing the concerns that were bothering him.

The turning point, according to those who knew him, was the loss of the Carabao Cup Southamptonone of City’s worst performances in his seven seasons at the club.

He was happier with the application of his players to defeat against Manchester United Three days later, but interestingly enough, it was there, in the away dressing room at Old Trafford, that his players decided to take action.

Ilkay Gundogan He expressed his own concerns publicly after the Southampton match and said something was “off”, and that a “special element” was missing. After another setback, albeit one with a better feel about it in regards to Guardiola, the players sat down and took turns airing grievances and giving views about things going wrong.

Guardiola delivers instructions on Sunday (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

And according to a number of sources close to the team, the mood has begun to change. This week, the club captains passed a message to the club that they would like to go out for a team gathering meal soon to try and improve the mood even further.

However, Guardiola was appalled by what he saw in that Southampton game, and the first-half events against Tottenham were the final straw: after telling his players in no uncertain terms that they needed to sort things out, he doubled down on his ability and told the world too.

This way, there was nowhere to hide. No positive headlines about a boisterous comeback, no kind words about overcoming their recent malaise and putting their fears behind them, no more ‘happy flowers’ – as he put it to sum up the entire club’s current attitude to life.

He wanted the world to scrutinize his players, not just in the second leg against them Wolves On Sunday but also on Arsenal game in FA cup This Friday night. So after winning 3-0, thanks to Erling Haaland’s fourth hat-trick of the season, did things get any better?

Guardiola said afterwards: “Things are getting better, but it’s just one day. I have to wait, I have to wait.”

He was asked about this reaction four times and each time, while addressing various variations on the same topic, he would always repeat the words to the effect of, “Today we’re getting better but just today, we’ll see what happens in the next games.”

There is little point in criticizing their performance without knowing Guardiola’s standards. Of all the really good things City did against Tottenham, how many of us would have singled out the players’ failure to confront their opponents after fouls on 18-year-old Rico Luis as the main reason for Guardiola’s annoyance?

City played well in the first half on Sunday. They passed the ball well, sometimes straight forward and sometimes switched plays quickly and accurately, and linked up with Haaland better than they did at Old Trafford. More than anything else, they have played with a higher intensity than in recent matches, with more “emotional” energy. Gundogan, in particular, was all about loose balls.

The fans, who were also criticized by the manager, seemed to raise their game as well.

The second half was a weary one, overall, City led 3-0 with two goals soon after the break, obviously not a bad thing, but after that, they had plenty of chances to counter-attack only to find a way to screw them up. Guardiola spent a lot of time sitting on his back as Wolves raced in on the other end. Mind you, he’s been doing this for years, even when he’s safe knowing his players are on full gear.

After the match, he said that their first half performance was similar to the first against Tottenham. Football was good then. Not their best level but a step in the right direction. The stand looks better too.

However, behind-the-scenes concerns remain. He may never mention it publicly, but there have been anxious conversations about a lack of leadership in the dressing room, and sources say there are traces of that in his criticisms of his players for failing to protect Lewis. “Fernandinho will have” an easy finale to come up with.

Defeat to Southampton angered Guardiola (Picture: Naomi Becker/Getty Images)

Considered a very strong group, just lacking a big voice like their former captain, one of their own has been needed in recent weeks.

As for the players’ reaction to Guardiola’s public comments, there was little shock or accusation, which isn’t surprising given they had been told the same thing to their faces beforehand – and more importantly, most of them had worked with him several times. years.

This is a manager, after all, who repeatedly exclaims, “This is it Premier League! to turn up the heat during a light training session, largely involving unused substitutes, the day after last season’s win over Wolves.

It wasn’t a particularly brutal disembowelment of them, even if it was somewhat remarkable in terms of where it was handed to the media, and how he did it in several interviews.

Guardiola hasn’t let any players escape danger – he said “at the moment it’s impossible to play well without her Nathan AckHe did put him on the bench on Sunday anyway – but was careful to point out that he had no doubts about their quality. He even said he fully sympathized with their struggles to keep up with Arsenal’s motivations.

I won four titles in a row as a player Barcelona(Yes, there was more), he said during the embargoed portion of his press conference Thursday. “The fifth I wasn’t the same, the sixth I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t starving enough. (It was all) caviar.” How good am I? Madrid beat us to fifth and sixth.

“So I understand them, but I’m here to make them do it.”

And so, on Thursday, he felt he had one last chance to get things back on track before City’s season dragged too far, in the Premier League, FA Cup and FA Cup. Champions League also.

If his actions in recent weeks have done anything, it has shattered the illusion that many players are a certain starter. And the previous two starting line-ups showed this Kyle Walker And Joao Cancelo You should do more than just run the post-world Cup rust from their legs.

Emeric LaporteAnd Kevin De Bruyne And Bernardo Silva They all sat against Tottenham, as did he Phil Fodenalthough it became clear after missing the Wolves game altogether that he was suffering from a foot injury.

But the result is that hardly anyone in the squad feels comfortable that they’ll start the next game – and Guardiola likes to change his side from game to game at the best of times.

The problem with teams that struggle with complacency and consistency is that they can look good one game and be poor the next, so the Wolves only gave a certain number of answers.

The message was taken on board – whether enough to see.

(Top photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

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