The best way to beat Pep`s Manchester City certainly has a blueprint even though they are one of the greatest sides in Britain in the modern era. it is true stopping them is, indeed one of the most difficult task in English football but putting things in perspective, is it really possible to beat Pep`s Manchester City the defending English Barclay premiership champions? Pep is easily one of the greatest managers with his innovative style and willingness to learn and adapt an evolution of beauty and winning, a means to a large collection of silverware. He is City`s most successful manager and has been able to build several great teams across Europe with a football philosophy that synergizes attractive possesion based attacking football that provides titles. Pep Guardiola`s  time in England has been impressive although they have not achieved their ultimate objective which is, winning the champions league but they have come really close with tiny margins separating them from victory.


In this period in Europe, they are better than the rest apart from Real Madrid, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Chelsea. In the six times that they were eliminated, the four early knockout losses was shared between French and English opponents two of those defeats were on away goals rule, while their other conquerors Chelsea and Real went on to become champions. Their defeat in the final had them against history, trends victory usually difficult to overcome. They will face Bayern Munich at this season`s quarter finals encounter.

Nevertheless, Pep`s reign in England has been outstandingly monopolistic 4 EPL titles in 6 seasons in the most competitive league of the highest level in Europe, with an FA cup triumph and 4 Carabao cups, he has been the best with a 73% win which is remarkable and an overall 14 % loss percentage which is also commendable a confirmation of the difficulty in beating City.


City`s record to beat

They have won the community shield twice from four finals.

These stats show his team still has their shortcomings which can be exploited on a good day which is usually not often. His team can be assessed with these below key points; the City can be unlocked with this master key, a focus on his weakness which his attack minded approach creates.


Strength of his side

City`s Attack is very offensive with a tactical approach of interplay which produces combinations and creates fluidity. His front line has evolved from Sane/Sterling/Aguero to the present Haaland/Grealish/Foden or Mahrez with the ever present Kevin de Bruyne in midfield, he usually has a player like Fernandinho and now Rodri as a defensive shield. Their aim as a team is usually to overload, outplay and overwhelm opponents and in most cases they prevail creating an edge which they convert to victory. City possess skillful players that understand how to exploit space, this allows the full backs to inter play by overlapping into the final third and in the case of Cancelo (now on loan at Bayern Munich} drift into central midfield to create a numerical or tactical advantage. City`s attack also involves a modern strategy of having a deep lying center forward (a false number nine which he made popular at Barca) this offers dynamism. Their forward can also receive long balls directly from their goalkeeper or defenders to mix up his strategy, the encounter with rivals Manchester United in 2016, his first derby which they won at old Trafford a defining case in point, when a long ball from the defense was flicked on by Iheanacho to De Bruyne and he scored a wonderful goal. in the past teams pack the midfield and defence forcing City to go wide because of their unique way of attacking and their reluctance in sending in crosses due to the limited aerial ability of their forwards, the opposition usually can contain them by utilizing such strategy of overcrowding space but not anymore, with Haaland on their side they have a player that that can score proficiently with headers, an aerial beast, he has turned City into a very dangerous side in all attacking dimensions. In essence, City can wreak havoc on all types of teams. Even teams with different tactical set up. All their players are capable of scoring goals and they won the recent premiership title without a recognized striker now they have variety and more depth. Their possession based approach reduces the pressure on the defense giving them an edge and initiative and their attack, more devastating.

Pep City`s Weaknesses

Their play catch the eye and their high press is one of the most efficient in Europe, it enables them to recover possession almost immediately but, some coaches have been able to set up their game plan to neutralize them and get results. The personnel needed depends on the budget of the club, the availability of funds determine the quality of players at their disposal, for a club not as rich as City, any three points is considered an upset which is few and far between. For his major rivals they can match force for force. The opposition gaffer exploits the dynamism and space in transition which his team leaves when they lose the ball during attack and counter with a physicality and cleverness which unnerves them. City is vulnerable defensively against good counter attacking teams with pace and also at set piece.

Liverpool’s goal when Alexander- Arnold found Robertson with a long precise cross field pass from full back to full back which the Scotsman delivered superbly into the box for Salah to nod home at the far post during the 2019/2020 season is the most perfect example of creating the tactical approach and clinical execution to overcome them. This trick was repeated by Klopp when Alisson sent a long ball forward which Salah was able to receive, it was aided by a slip by their defender, it enabled the Egyptian to score a decisive goal which was the winner and the first league defeat for City this season. Also, several mazy runs of the inverted forwards taking them on, driving towards City`s defense such offensive play catches and exposes them to goals which they find very difficult to overturn when the opponent`s defense is dogged and the goal keeper is in outstanding form. The execution is dependent on the skill set of the opponents and the brilliance is relative but the outcome is decisive whenever it works out. Another weak spot is found within City-Pep himself, he tries to create a plan that will trouble the opponents and instead his strategy over complicates things and nullify his team`s ability to perform leading to defeat.

Opportunity to strike

Usually when they field a second team relatively stronger than their opponent`s line up but weaker than their first team, the slight drop in rhythm is exploited by the canny opposition`s coach, this tinkering in team selection is usually done during cup games to refresh the team or before important European matches or it could also be that their team has lined up their first eleven, their best team by any means but, poor form or the resistance and tactical set up from the opposition is at a very high level. A team that can combine massive attack and defense in an intelligent manner without losing her shape or number as a result of red card will have a better chance to beat them.

Dual Threats

City`s opponents are capable of beating them, teams either from the big clubs or the decent clubs, teams in most cases well stocked with quality players, with access to what City has, riches in abundance and a network  to great players when available to edge the highly competitive clubs during the transfer market and also a savvy bench. The nouveau riche are usually few with City among the game’s elite they are in the top ten richest clubs in the world and their playing level always at the highest. The decent clubs also have a limited but fair chance of causing an upset but because of City`s ability, defeats per season is reduced to occasion.

How to inflict pain on Pep`s City.

There are two set ups which can be identified and categorized, A team made up of the elite with the highest quality of players or a team that cannot compete man for man, decent but capable of producing an upset, both scenario play out in England or Europe. The formation is almost the same with a slight variation as regards the availability of particular players. It has been done before. From history it is evident that top clubs can be beaten by a major or minor club and history also shows us that City can be harmed. In England in terms of head to head record Pep`s  initial toughest rival coach was Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with wins tied at four a piece which includes defeats both in the league and in the cup competition. The former Manchester United boss has an effective but provocative template. He will employ the double pivot in midfield and will encourage his defenders (either a three or four man defence) to play from the back constricting space against City and hitting them at the counter, in most cases the defensive ability of wan Bissaka is optimized masking his limitations in attack, his goal keeper does not need to be in the top notch category to distribute the ball effectively within the defense line and City’s high line does not force fatal mistakes. When City recovers the ball, his defensive shape is not compromised for City to fully capitalize on. His system usually works and with this set up will be comfortable in grinding out a result but when it does not, he ships in goals and loses. The German Thomas Tuchel is another manager that has given City some sleepless nights especially in the 2020/2021 season in particular, within a space of barely more than a month he defeated City three times from three games, three game defining encounters with the last an all English champions league final, It was City`s first match at that level and the first loss in a champion’s league finals for Pep. Tuchel became the second manager after Solskjaer to beat Pep three times in a row. In the first clash, in the FA semifinals Tuchel was able to end City`s quadruple hopes, he set up Chelsea to sit back and absorb pressure and they were able to get the important goal, the second defeat was in the league at the Etihad, City employed a back three unleashing the full backs, they took control and the lead but missed a penalty in the first half, Chelsea came from behind and scored the winner towards the end of the match. They had the belief and good fortune to complement it. The best it seems was saved for last, the Champions league final match, it was a disciplined performance from Chelsea with City utilizing a 4-3-3 formation without their best players assigned to their best positions, in defensive midfield in particular, he did not deploy Rodri or Fernandinho as a holding midfielder. Pep had out thought himself again, his team played without urgency and creativity due to his wrong selections. Havertz scored for Chelsea from a counter attack and Kante and the defense stood their ground. They won the match and the trophy. Tuchel finally got to grips on how to dismantle Pep`s teams an effort that started when both were coaches in the German Bundesliga.

Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola`s current main rival have beaten him the most, more than Ancelotti(The Italian has a better record against him in Europe), Mourinho(during their domestic rivalry in Spain and England and the champions league)or Conte(the first manager to do a double in any league against Pep while in Chelsea  and also helped Tottenham in their reverse fixture to do the same last season)The Klopp and Guardiola rivalry like Tuchel`s started in Germany. He has established himself and can set up teams with the ability to beat him, since last season in all three matches and in their encounters in Europe he has not lost to City, this season,he defeated them at the community shield and also in the League but City was able to knock out the Reds the defending league cup holders from the competition snapping his winless run. For the good sides Crystal palace and Wolves has been consistent their solid defending and counter attack usually make them unplayable against City, both beating them in as many games. Wolves famously went on to beat City in both ties in the premiership in the 2019/2020 season.

In Europe, Pep has fallen to the giants Real, Barcelona and PSG. with the 4-0 mauling in the hands of his former club in Spain, a humiliation that may not be repeated frequently, although he beat them at home 3-1, a case for him, it was his first season with City and he was getting to terms with his new club in Europe, the quality of Barca was supreme hardly anyone can stop them when they reach those heights. For the decent teams in Europe that has beaten City, the most surprising loss was to Lyon in the quarter finals in the 2019/2020 season, they had also beaten them in the group stage a year before. The match was a one legged decider because of the pandemic. Pep had been knocked out by another French team Monaco in the 2016/2017 season, they were a revelation with players like Bernado Silva and Mendy (he purchased both the following season) Fabinho, Moutinho, Falcao and the peerless genius Mbappe Both French teams won the decisive game 3-1, both employed a similar strategy, they were compact and well organized, played without fear and had an ability to take their chances, they also played a counter attacking football that unsettled them. City also lost to Tottenham a team that played out of their skin and Liverpool one of Europe’s elite clubs, both English clubs put up a feisty display but won in contrasting ways, their match against Tottenham was very close with lots of goals and drama with away goals finally separating them while against Liverpool, Klopp won both matches providing an attacking master class in the two legs although they were some difficult decisions that did not favor them. In their recent loss to Real Madrid, it was not really a surprise after not taking the opportunities they had to win convincingly in the first leg but the circumstances in throwing away the lead in the final minutes before game over was, in the second leg even after taking the lead in the 73rd minute they conceded twice and lost in extra time, if they had prevailed it would have been another all English finals, the first time that a country will produce two finalists back to back. Manchester City can be beaten by the best and the good teams.


City has improved their team to make it more competitive and less predictable with the addition of Haaland, a focal point and possibly the final piece of their attacking jigsaw, a young ruthless prodigy, he set the single match goal scoring record at the U20 world cup in Poland three years ago with 9 goals in their 12-0 demolition of Honduras, he also won the golden boot. He became the first teenager to score in five consecutive matches in the champion’s league and was the top scorer the following season. At City he has even started breaking records, the first player in the premiership to score 9 goals in just 5 matches and to score 4 consecutive away goals. he hit two heart tricks in back to back games and three in successive games at home- one set of treble in the second half and the other in the first half of the next game, then the third he had a brace in the first and another goal in the second half. He is indeed a phenomenon. He scored 21 goals, the fastest player in Premiership history to reach it in just 15 matches presently with 28. He is leading Europe and the Premiership scorer`s chart. .He is still young and growing, he was criticized for having only eight touches in their win against Bournemouth (although it included an assist),he will continue to score lots of goals but he will be subdued by world class and decent defenders like in the recent defeat by Brentford, It is certain that defenders will have breathtaking performances on their day, they will try to use his somewhat immobility to evade City`s high pressing and reinforce theirs, the opposition will do well to build up from the back or alternatively, a better plan will be a direct approach with the use of accurate long balls from the back and crosses into the box for a striker to attempt scoring or creating fouls that will lead to more attacks at goal and also, City`s opponents should also have a willingness for one versus one duel all over the pitch especially in midfield, this will create a scrappy affair, depriving them of time on the ball and space, this will also enable the opponent to win second balls and disrupt their flow and then with change of pace and intelligent recycle of the ball create attacking threats. it will produce set piece opportunities within and outside the box because City`s defending in transition will create fouls, with a dead ball specialist that will make a crucial difference and a fully motivated team to execute the game plan with discipline for the duration of the entire match, City will be on the ropes. Essentially the opponents will also need to be in great physical condition and mentally prepared to exploit any advantages. with City under pressure, Haaland`s inexperience and willingness to want the ball even in compromising positions will affect their decision making in attack and their quality of creating meaniful combinations will drop making them predictable and manageable. It’s easier said than done but for the fact that Manchester City has not won a quadruple or all the trophies available in a season clearly shows that it is possible.

What we can learn on how best to beat City.

  • Belief is key, readiness to take chances and anticipate any errors to capitalize on.
  • In transition utilize their loss of shape and always keep yours.
  • Discipline and Physical conditioning to enable compactness against their possession based approach.
  • Mental awareness and intelligence to know how to reinforce when being overawed by the occasion and also how to manage any lead until the end.
  • Ability to be innovative and decisive when attacking at set piece and resolute when defending them.
  • Luck favors the brave and prepared, expect and make the most of it.

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