Pep Guardiola's first season at Manchester City has been disappointing to say the least. It could yet be a disaster. After watching the Blues’ exit in the FA Cup on Sunday I took in ‘El Classico’. In that game, something stood out to me that City are missing. It wasn’t Lionel Messi (which would be nice). Manchester City need a bad guy.
City's attacking flair is without question. The system their Spanish manager is attempting to employ is proven to be brilliant. They look like a team of really good guys. Maybe though, they’re too nice. Now I’m not saying I would prefer a team of hooligans. I love Guardiola’s style of play and the type of players he’s brought in to implement that style. But the Blues need a bit contrast in that team. They’ve got the finesse, speed and passing ability. They’re just missing some fire, intensity and well… general shithousery.
Bluntly put, City are missing a bastard. Watching ‘El Classico’ there is never a shortage of bastardry on show. It’s not just someone to introduce violence to the pitch. It is about being cute, having nous, knowing how to win fouls and when to give them away. Knowing when, and how, to foul is an often overlooked aspect of a match. There is no better proponent of that than Sergio Busquets. It's his dirty work in the Barcelona engine room that provides the dark to the light of Messi and co. And by the way, Busquets can play too.
On the other side of the Barcelona/Madrid divide, Sergio Ramos and Pepe ply their trade. Ramos picked up his 22nd career red card on Sunday. It may well have cost his team on this occasion. The fact he's won every major honour in the game suggests he's had more successes than failures with his approach to games though. Usually, he knows when to break out the rough house tactics. If someone needs a kick, he’ll dually oblige. If an opposing striker tries to rough him up, he’s more than up for the fight. As with his Barcelona counter-part though, Sergio Ramos is also a quality footballer.
Ramos' usual defensive foil was missing on Sunday. Surely had Pepe been on the park Sergi Roberto would not have made the late run which led to Messi's winning goal. Indeed if Pepe had been on the park Roberto may not have survived his run in one piece. Pepe divides opinion among fans but his trophy haul can’t be argued with. Ramos and Pepe are uncompromising, often dirty, sometimes rash, but mostly they’re very, very effective.
I don’t see anyone like Ramos, Pepe and Busquets in the City team. They have both the footballing ability and a degree in the dark arts. They could pass you off the park, if need be they could kick you off it too. Manchester City on the other hand pass most teams off the pitch every week. When it comes to the nitty-gritty though, I’m not so sure they have the nous to compete so well.
Premier League leaders Chelsea aren’t adverse to a bit of the dark arts themselves. In particular their ‘head bastard’ Diego Costa. Costa is a dirty player, history tells us that. It’s not even up for debate. Numerous incidents in his time in England point to him being a candidate for ‘dirtiest player in the game’. He also has an abundance of attacking talent, of that there is no doubt. It’s Costa’s aggressive style that symbolises him as a player though. Whether you like his extra-curricular activities on the pitch or not, it’s undeniably effective.
As the last few minutes of the FA Cup semi ticked by, I thought there was almost an acceptance of defeat from some of the men from the Etihad. City got themselves in front but couldn’t see it out. They perhaps lacked both mental and physical toughness. They failed to bully an Arsenal team which have so often been bullied themselves of late. Perhaps it’s just not a trait in the players who are there. Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure are undoubted leaders. Both are legendary figures in the Manchester club’s modern era, neither though are known for having a nasty streak in them.
Pep Guardiola has been linked with various signings in summer. Introducing a Pepe character maybe wouldn’t be a family friendly choice. It would ready City for a fight though. Giving them the light and shade required to achieve the Spaniards goals for the club. Defence has been a real problem for City, perhaps an enforcer style player in front of them would help. I certainly feel that Sergio Busquets would improve city immeasurably.
Defeat in the derby on Thursday will see Manchester City fall outside the top four with only five games remaining. United boss Jose Mourinho is Pepe in manager form. He'll use every trick in the book, dirty or otherwise. City need to be ready for that. If they’re not, the Blues’ lack of a bad guy might cost them again. You know what they say, nice guys come last.
Do you agree with these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!