This Wednesday, the Guardian ran an interesting piece by Jonathan Wilson in which he tried to justify the embarrassing situation of teams facing Manchester City.
After an overall praise of City's counter-pressing football, Wilson wrote: "The beauty of football lies in the struggle and the fact that a weaker side can hold off a stronger one. It is not all about tricks and flicks and the ‘better' side winning. There is an extraordinary arrogance about those armchair viewers who demand a team should play in an ineffective way so that they may be entertained." Now this, I strictly refuse, given the fact that Wilson does not understand what Guardiola is doing and how to counter it.
First, I agree that the nature of football truly lies in the struggle, but that struggle is entertaining when both sides push for three points. The dullest and boring games I have ever watched were also full of struggle, but instead of trying to get three points, teams were looking to get away with it just by doing nothing other than sitting deep. Now, unfortunately, I do not respect such struggle if it is not Beşiktaş U-13 up against Manchester City.
All teams start with eleven players and the fact that collective action always prevails over individual effort makes all the teams able to beat each other. You might say this is only theoretically true, but the fact is none of the teams nowadays are patient enough to develop such collective action.
The magic of Manchester City also comes from their dedication to collective action. They are not the team with the fastest, strongest or most skillful players, but as a whole, they form one of the most resilient teams in history. That is by playing as a compact body rather than a bunch of independent individuals. Understandably, they are always one step ahead of their opponents, whether in defense or offense. Moreover, they do not waste time with in-game decisions that process is already done by their coach. That is what their opponents cannot handle, and that is why they choose to submit to the domination of Manchester City.
In comparison, the type of struggle Wilson praises is not only boring for fans but also for the players, who experience it on the pitch. If there were no financial pressure on those teams, I am sure that no one would follow such game plan. Of course, the financial realities of football cannot be ignored, but a low-key justification of industrial football is also unacceptable.
This game was created to entertain, not to fill the pockets of executives. So, there is no point glorifying such struggles, neither strategically nor ethically, because they are "truly embarrassing," as Jamie Carragher put it.
To counter Guardiola one has to be just as brave, creative and organized as him, and that requires a long-term plan and above all, patience.