Manchester City are in that stage of their development where they’re carving through the Premier League on autopilot. They won’t be doing this on the continent.
Regardless of that Emirati-funded fluff documentary where Pep said “guys” four hundred times, those players won’t continue to learn for him if they’re winning week in, week out.
That loss to Lyon showed just how superior they believe they are.
Guardiola’s teams are generational – they set the standards for others, but what he instils is a belief they’re the best. They don’t rely on fear of the chasing pack for motivation.
This comes from his reputation and strong-willed footballers. If you really think back to his time at Bayern, there wasn’t a vast improvement from Jupp Heynckes’ charges.
At Barcelona, he had a handful of the best players of their footballing era. Guardiola’s turned Fabian Delph into something resembling of one of the best left backs on the planet, but nobody would be daft enough to throw him in their team to save the planet, would they?
City have been average at best so far this season. Liverpool probably haven’t been a whole pile better, which says more about the respective crises at Spurs and United than it does about their actual dominance over the remainder.
If this club is to compete at the top level, they need to be challenged. Liverpool might bring out the best in them, but until then, they’ll continue to suffer from the lack of atmosphere on Champions League nights at the Etihad – both in the stands and in the dressing room.
So often, sides and managers invoke the history of the club they’re competing for. United used it to skip past Barcelona in times past and Liverpool have troubled Europe’s major power time and time again with average enough teams.
Consider the legacy Man City can summon.
Instead of the working-class values that the club has held over their Manchester rivals – that the blue half of Manchester was the real beating heart of football in the area – millionaires who don’t understand the club see it as little more than a hedge fund for those in the Middle East.
When you combine unmotivated consistency and devotion to a style of play with a lack of identity, there is little to enthuse any group of players. It’s not like the Etihad provides any sort of spark either.
For as tourist-filled and toxically infected attitude-wise that Old Trafford is – it has legacy, history and a standard to live up to. When the right pieces are in place, Manchester United players will act in accordance with the expectations.
Pep Guardiola is the best coach in the world. He’s got some very good players at his disposal, but while a PR series might try to convince us otherwise, all is not completely well at the club.
A desire to win time and time again isn’t present because City can do it at 70% so often.
If Lyon have given City that fright they’ve needed then they may turn a corner, but a league-centric focus takes over any squad while the sizeable gap between group stage and knockout can be filled with self-congratulation.
The best thing that could happen to Manchester City is finishing second in their Champions League group – that might make them realise they’re not Barcelona, no matter how much Pep and his disciples try and dress them up.