Belfast Telegraph

Guardiola laments Man City's failure to kill teams off

By Tim Rich

The theory that Pep Guardiola would find the Premier League tougher than the ones in Spain and Germany was etched into his face and his voice as he attempted to explain a third straight home fixture without a win.

Everton, Southampton and now Middlesbrough have come to the Etihad Stadium, been outplayed, and returned home with a draw.

When Guardiola was managing Barcelona and Bayern Munich this was something that happened very rarely. He has now dropped six home points as manager of Manchester City. That is more than he dropped in three of his last six seasons at the Allianz Arena and the Nou Camp. In the first half Middlesbrough were so outplayed that Marten de Roon, whose stoppage-time header levelled the scores at 1-1, admitted his side "did not even touch the ball".

However, City's failure to make that advantage tell in football's only currency - goals - left them vulnerable.

In the aftermath, Guardiola agreed with the argument that the Premier League carries with it a greater degree of difficulty for the big teams.

"Here, the games are always open," said the man who on Tuesday night had orchestrated Manchester City's triumph over Barcelona. "They put in the long balls and the strikers are all tall. The second balls, the free kicks, throw-ins, they are always playing for that.

"In 90 minutes you always miss something, and make a small mistake," he said with a click of his fingers. "And they are clinical there. I remember my first game, against Sunderland, and Sunderland didn't attack until their goal from Jermain Defoe.

"That is a talent. I am not saying it is not a good thing because it is. People say: 'ah, use the counter-attack' but how are we supposed to use it when the opponent doesn't attack?

"We used a lot of counter-attacks against Barcelona because they wanted to attack. What we have to improve is to be more clinical, precise and lucky in the box. That is all."

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