Manchester City thrashed yet another Premier League big gun, the Spurs, (4-1) in a decisive game Sunday. With the win, the Citizens now have pulled out of sight in the title race before the new year. There is a rightful consensus that they are the best team on the planet at this moment and are probably one of the best in history.
Though it is still early to speak about an 11-point difference between their closest rival and a clear dominance in terms of gameplay make it almost certain that they are going to be the champions. But, no dominance stands forever, and the most natural process of evolution is the creation of a strategy that will counter-balance it. So, the question is how can City be outplayed and beaten?
Well, the achievements of Pep Guardiola's team make one thing certain, that is pressing high up the pitch is not the solution against Manchester City as it was against Barcelona in 2012. Two of the best counter-pressing teams, Liverpool and Tottenham, were both thrashed by City (5-0 and 4-1, respectively). Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino, who, in theory, should have been the two most successful coaches against Pep Guardiola, could not show any sign of superiority against City this season.
The reason why half-gegenpressing and half-Simeone like strategy went out of fashion is simple; Guardiola has become a more versatile coach who can now punish his opponents with counter-attacking.
Back in 2012 in Barcelona and later in Munich, Guardiola did not have this much of mastery in terms of counter-attacking play and his teams were vulnerable against counter-pressers since there was no strategy to utilize the vast space with sufficient pace. But, today Guardiola's team resembles a chameleon, which can adapt themselves to any of style of play.
This creates a categorical difference between City and others regardless of their game style. If a team is so versatile that it can play any type of game effectively, there is only one way to beat them and that is by being as versatile as them.
However, we should not confuse versatility with cunningness, something very popular in today's football. City does not focus their energy on utilizing their opponent's mistakes or build a game that is not sufficient and can only be effective according to the opponent's strategy.
In contrast, City's game is talented and efficient, in other words, City can create time and space for themselves without its opponents making a crucial error or voluntarily leaving time and space for them. The principle is simple, the ball is always faster than the individuals on the pitch and a well-organized strategy (like City's) makes it even faster.
City knows how to get the ball, circulate it, create opportunities and eventually score, without relying on chaos or individual talents. Yes, Kevin de Bruyne makes miracles, yes, David Silva, Leroy Sane, and Gabriel Jesus seem unstoppable, but the fact is, it is Guardiola's strategies that make them so efficient.
The only way to beat City is to be as organized, precise and fearless as them. Guardiola accepts the fact that his opponents can also carry out attacks the way he does and punish him. But that would also be the peak of football, two opponents who are near perfection and respecting their perfection. At this point, we all must acknowledge Guardiola's accomplishment and teams can only beat him if they can play the way City does.
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