Manchester City have shown the size of the task Pep Guardiola has undertaken in their first pre-season with the coach.
Manchester City lost 3-2 to Arsenal in the Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg, as Pep Guardiola’s pre-season continued to run away from him.
This was the venue for Pele’s coming of age at the 1958 World Cup and was the scene of Denmark’s glorious triumph in the European Championships back in 1992, a tournament they only entered because Yugoslavia, who had qualified by rights, were facing up to the cold reality of war.
And Jonathan Edwards set the triple jump world record here back in 1995 on a wonderful night for UK athletics.
Nothing anywhere near as significant or memorable happened here this evening – but Pep Guardiola will be hoping that by the time May rolls around has has masterminded his own piece of sporting history.
On the evidence of this game , he faces a difficult, if not insurmountable, task.
He’s been charged with turning Manuel Pellegrini’s faltering squad into winners again and it’s the biggest challenge of his career to date.
He didn’t inherit a perfect group of players at Barcelona, despite what some say, and he had to work hard to turn them into the world-class side they became. – but this City squad has serious holes and it’s going to take some fixing.
Most notably, they remain porous at the back. Guardiola has asked his side to build patiently from deep, with the goalkeeper and back four encouraged to want the ball and start moves – but on the evidence of what we saw in Gothenburg, they are struggling to carry out his instructions.
Time and again City gave the ball away in dangerous areas, making life too easy for Arsenal.
The result, of course, is unimportant. No prizes are handed out in pre-season and one only has to look at Tottenham in 2008 and Chelsea in 2010 for evidence of summer warm-up matches being no indicator of how a team starts the league campaign proper.
But the disjointed nature of City’s football will be the cause of concern for Guardiola and his backroom staff.
With just six days to go until they play Sunderland at the Etihad, City have played three games (plus a behind-closed-doors encounter with St. Johnstone) with a constantly rotating cast of players – and they look far from settled.
Willy Caballero looked uncomfortable with his role as an auxiliary outfield player, Aleksandar Kolarov once again filled in at centre-half and struggled and Fernando slotted in alongside him but had teething problems. It was chaotic at times.
Still, City managed some moments of quality going forward. Raheem Sterling, playing on the right and told to attack the byline, set up Sergio Aguero for the opener with a peach of a delivery, and Jesus Navas, who was lively when he came on, repeated the trick for Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal late on.
David Silva was restricted last season by ankle problems, but he appeared to be playing with more freedom again after some post-Euros rest – a huge bonus for Guardiola.
But there’s work to be done. It’s a huge week for City on the training field. Their players look leaner after a period of double training sessions – but they are nowhere near ready tactically to fulfil the club’s ambitions for the season.