Another UEFA Champions League quarter-final for Manchester City, another early exit for Pep Guardiola’s side.
The Premier League side crashed out of the competition in Lisbon thanks to a 3-1 defeat to Lyon, with goals from Maxwel Cornet and a double from substitute Moussa Dembele enough to cancel out Kevin De Bruyne’s second-half equaliser.
Eyebrows were raised before a ball was even kicked though, as Guardiola named a starting line-up without Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, David Silva or Phil Foden in it, instead deciding to go with a 3-5-2 formation to match up with Lyon’s defensive shape.
Fernandinho partnered Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia at centre-back, while Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan provided a steady defensive base to allow Kevin De Bruyne a free role behind Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.
City started well but struggled to really open Lyon up throughout the game, and when Cornet gave them the lead Guardiola’s stubbornness came to the fore and he refused to change it untl almost the hour mark.
He replaced Fernandinho with Riyad Mahrez and City instantly caused problems, with the Algerian’s directness and skill instantly pushing Lyon 5-10 yards deeper. Because of that, City were able to push higher up the pitch and it was this that led to their equaliser, with De Bruyne side-footing home a cut-back from Raheem Sterling from the edge of the box.
It was two tight offside calls and an error from Ederson that gave Lyon their goals, but City opened themselves up for problems with the initial team selection. Why, as the better team, not just go into the game with your strongest side in your favoured formation and get the job done?
City have dominated most of the teams they’ve played under Guardiola, almost exclusively using a 4-3-3 formation. They changed it here and were punished, but it’s not the first time Pep has done this.
Guardiola has previous for over complicating football on the biggest occasions. He’s been accused of doing the same several times in the past, including by former Bayern winger Frank Ribery.
He has a tendency to try and throw in curveballs for opposition managers to deal with, instead of going with his tried and tested. It’s no coincidence that he won his two Champions League trophies with an unapologetic 4-3-3 throughout the tournament, even with players out of position if necessary.
Raheem Sterling’s open goal miss and Ederson’s error will no doubt take the headlines, but there needs to be a closer look at Guardiola for City’s short-falls in Europe over the last three years.