Manchester City crashed out of the Champions League in devastating fashion on Saturday night.
Ever since Pep Guardiola was appointed head coach at the Etihad Stadium in 2016, the aim has been to elevate the Citizens from competing to be Premier League winners to fighting to become European champions.
However, not only have the Citizens fallen short of said expectation, but they have continually and embarrassingly failed to improve upon the marker left by former boss Manuel Pellegrini.
City’s European woes continue
The 2015/16 season, Pellegrini’s last in charge, saw City charge to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in their history, thus setting a high watermark for Guardiola to beat.
But across no less than four campaigns, the ex-Barcelona manager has failed to pass the quarter-finals and their 2019/20 shortcomings against Lyon proved the most egregious defeat of the lot.
Exiting at the second round in 2016/17 could at least be excused as Guardiola’s first season, while subsequent quarter-final losses to Liverpool and Tottenham at least came against eventual finalists.
Rock bottom vs Lyon
Losing to an inconsistent side that only finished seventh in Ligue 1, however, is a completely different ball game and one that suggests City truly are cursed in the Champions League.
It’s certainly a theory to which star man Kevin De Bruyne prescribes and truth be told, the Belgian seemed to be the only player in the City squad who regularly posed a threat to Lyon.
It was his fine right-footed finish that cancelled out Maxwel Cornet’s opener, only for his hard work to be unravelled when Moussa Dembele scored a brace and Raheem Sterling missed from mere yards.
De Bruyne’s honest interview
And by the time he conducted his post-match interview with BT Sport, you could tell both in his words and mannerisms that a deflating sense of deja vu had consumed himself and the squad.
Per the Evening Standard, De Bruyne remarked: “It’s a different year, same stuff. First half wasn’t good enough, I think we know that. We started slow, we didn’t have many options.
“I think second half we played really well. We came back at 1-1 and had a couple of chances. It was then obviously 2-1 and 3-1 to end the game. It was a shame for us to go out in that way.
“It feels like same old story for me, to be honest.
“I’ve not seen it back so whatever they [VAR] decide, they decide. I’m not going to blame that, we should have done better.
“I think the second half we played well, we had them under pressure, we played more offensive like we normally do and we had them.
‘Same old story’ for Man City
“Their keeper made a few saves and at 2-1, if Raz [Sterling] scores it’s 2-2 and the game goes on. That’s football, that’s fine margins that made a difference and you know, it’s over now. We need to learn, it’s not good enough.”
You can just sense the disenchantment in De Bruyne’s voice and let’s be honest here, the world’s best midfielder deserves more than to be continuously dumped out of the Champions League early.
And it’s perhaps more cause for celebration than ever that CAS did indeed revoke UEFA’s ban on City, meaning they will at least get another shot at turning things around next season.
GIVEMESPORT’s Kobe Tong says
There’s just so much to unpack here and as far as I’m concerned, the biggest question that needs answering after the defeat is whether or not Guardiola’s time at City should be judged as a failure.
And frankly, I’m inclined to say ‘yes’.
Look, I’m not denying for one second that Guardiola has been anything short of brilliant in English football. For Christ’s sake, he literally built the greatest team in Premier League history.
But I find it hard to believe that reaching 100 points and achieving what the club had already done in 2011/12 and 2013/14 was at the forefront of the City owners’ minds when they hired Guardiola.
It’s been clear for a long time that the Champions League has been an obsession at the club and it would, after all, really bring City to the table of European big-hitters.
And it’s not even the fact that Guardiola hasn’t won the competition for City that makes me think his tenure might have been a failure, it’s the fact he hasn’t even come close.
To not even make it past the quarter-finals is, frankly, nothing short of shocking when you consider the club has literally shelled out over £900 million on players during Guardiola’s spell.
It’s pretty similar to Arsenal fans reminiscing on how the ‘Invincibles’ never won the Champions League, only, in this instance, we’re talking about the most expensive squad ever assembled.
So, forgive me for struggling to keep a straight face when Guardiola inevitably claims that changes needed to be made again because, well, that wouldn’t be the case if their recruitment had been more surgical.
That, and the fact some of the blame needs to lie at the feet of Guardiola himself for once again displaying tone deaf tactics in Europe that pretty much screamed that City were bricking it.
Ok, breathe, rant over.
So, yes, Guardiola is one of the greatest managers the Premier League has ever seen, probably City’s finest ever coach and an absolute, undisputed serial winner in the English game.
And that’s great, that really is, but he hasn’t come remotely close to winning what City truly desire.
If you order fish and chips at a restaurant, only to receive an outrageously tasty pizza, that’s hardly a bad scenario, but it still isn’t the fish and chips.
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