Man City’s risk-vs-reward style paying off for Guardiola

first_imgMANCHESTER, England (AP): Manchester City’s risk-versus-reward approach under Pep Guardiola was summed up in one passage of play during a Champions League match against Celtic. With two opponents closing in, City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo coolly slid a pass between them to midfielder Fernandinho on the edge of the area. Pressured by two more hounding Celtic players, Fernandinho produced a Cruyff turn to create space for himself and burst upfield. Just like that, Celtic was opened up and City was launching another attack. Guardiola acknowledges his possession-based style is fraught with danger but it’s been getting results, with City making its best-ever start to a season in winning 10 straight games and scoring 30 goals in the process. It sparked talk of City winning the Premier League at a canter. However, a 3-3 draw at Celtic on Wednesday that ended City’s winning run exposed potential fallibilities in Guardiola’s side. Bravely standing toe to toe with City, Celtic pressed high, hassled relentlessly and looked to outmuscle City’s ball-playing defenders. It worked, with City enduring an uncomfortable night at atmospheric Parkhead, especially at the back. Sitting deep against City and attempting to soak up pressure has got teams nowhere so far. Celtic have shown fellow sides the blueprint to trouble Guardiola’s side: Take them on. As it happens, Tottenham one of the best proponents of a high-energy, high-intensity pressing game are City’s next opponents in the standout match of the Premier League this weekend. It’s first versus second in the standings, a meeting between two unbeaten teams. Tottenham will know Bravo isn’t great under the high ball and takes risks with the ball at his feet. They’ll know the likely centre-back pairing of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi can be brittle. And they’ll know the absence of injured playmaker Kevin De Bruyne takes some creativity out of City’s side. Tottenham beat City home and away last season, but it will be a huge task to stop the new-look City juggernaut. Guardiola has got City operating at previously unseen levels. The team’s biggest problem under his predecessor as manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was its work rate. But under Guardiola, City is second behind Liverpool in the “distance covered” category, according to sports data company Opta. Dropping Yaya Toure has helped City in this regard. Guardiola is getting the best out of winger Raheem Sterling, who was a disappointment last season after signing for $76 million, by giving him self-belief and playing to his strengths by getting him one on one with defenders as much as possible. He has five goals already. Likewise, Aleksandar Kolarov is looking like a different player under Guardiola, who has even turned the Serbia left back into a ball-playing centre back with mixed results. Playmaker David Silva looks liberated now that he is playing more centrally. Then there’s Sergio Aguero, a scorer of 11 goals in seven games this season. Guardiola is still asking for more from the striker, saying he has to work harder when City isn’t in possession to help the team. That sums up Guardiola’s demanding approach. As does his removal from the first team of goalkeeper Joe Hart and Toure, who were mainstays for the past six years. They didn’t fit his philosophy Hart for his poor footwork and Toure for his lack of intensity in midfield so they’ve been banished. “I want to have control,” Guardiola said after City beat Manchester United 2-1 this month. He was talking about his ball-possession, but he could so easily have been referring to his grip on the squad. WALCOTT’S REVIVAL Theo Walcott’s future at Arsenal looked bleak after a disappointing last season when he was mostly used off the bench and lost his place in the England squad. Now it appears he’s back to his best. Walcott has started all of Arsenal’s league games, and has scored four goals in his last three games ahead of Sunday’s match at Burnley. The pacey winger credits his improved form to a chat he had with manager Arsene Wenger during the off season. “I want it more than anyone else,” Walcott said. Arsenal is unbeaten in eight games since losing to Liverpool on the opening weekend.last_img read more

Argentina have a ‘debt’ to settle at World Cup – Messi

first_imgArgentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany 1-0 after extra time and then finished runners-up at successive Copa America tournaments, losing to Chile on penalties in both 2015 and 2016.“We always take each World Cup as a big opportunity, and now more than ever because an important generation will move on, several players will change,” Messi said, ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Spain in Madrid.Vice-captain Javier Mascherano has already announced he will retire from international duty after the World Cup, while Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain will all be 30 come the finals.Messi will turn 31 during the competition. He has yet to make a decision on his Argentina future but would be 35 by the time of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.“(In Russia) it will be a good opportunity. Argentina is always a candidate for the title because of its image, its history. But this year, we are not favourites,” Messi added. “Spain, Brazil, Germany and France are above us.”Argentina, who beat Italy 2-0 in Manchester last Friday, will play Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D at the World Cup.The country last lifted the trophy in 1986 when Diego Maradona was named player of the tournament.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Lionel Messi is expected to line up against Spain after missing the friendly win over Italy © AFP/File / GABRIEL BOUYSBUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Mar 27 – Argentina captain Lionel Messi admitted Monday that his generation has a score to settle at the World Cup in Russia after a series of agonising near misses in major tournaments.“The debt we owe is to ourselves, not to the people. We always give our all, we reached three finals. We haven’t been far off,” Messi said in an interview with Fox Sports.last_img read more