Saturday 22 October 2016

Dundalk unlucky while Pep plays games with City

Pep Guardiola won't get many laurels from me for what he has done so far at Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola won't get many laurels from me for what he has done so far at Manchester City.

Dundalk were very unlucky against Legia Warsaw in midweek and particularly if you took the time to have a look at Manchester City's efforts on a day earlier against Steaua Bucharest.

It won't be any consolation to Stephen Kenny and his players to know that they looked much more like a team than Pep Guardiola's did.

Nor will it help ease the pain of defeat to know that Steaua Bucharest were one of the worst teams I've seen for some time and had Dundalk drawn them instead of Legia Warsaw, I think we would be halfway to an huge Champions League success story by now.

I've been very impressed with what I've seen of this Dundalk team. It carries the hallmarks of a well-coached group of lads who believe in what they are doing and trust their manager.

They were punished by two very poor decisions by the referee, the first a penalty against them which should never have been given and the second a spot-kick they should have been awarded.

They played well and didn't deserve to lose the game in the way they did but Dundalk don't need me to tell them that because they know it already.

Given the battles they face in the League of Ireland to maintain high standards, Dundalk's achievement is massive and they have the fall back of some decent pay days from the Europa League to come.

I just hope they get a decent draw and one or two big glamour fixtures which will generate plenty of much-needed finance.

But I suspect that Kenny and his players will want a draw which gives them a chance to reach knock-out stages rather than just gather up some cash.

You can see that kind of ambition in him and his team and they deserve great credit and support for what they have achieved so far.

Guardiola, on the other hand, won't get many laurels from me for what he has done so far at Manchester City. He's playing games with formations which I don't understand.

In the season opener against Bournemouth, he had full-backs playing in midfield and he was at again in the Champions League with Pablo Zabeleta. Sure, Manchester City won the game 5-0 but they were up against powder-puff opposition and the result was all but meaningless.

However, in one area, Guardiola is showing decisiveness. Joe Hart's time as the Etihad's No. 1 goalkeeper is over and I find the media response to his problems ridiculous.

Hart makes mistakes and that awkward truth cannot be avoided.

He made mistakes during Euro 2016 and made some absolute howlers last season.

That said, I don't think he is that type of goalkeeper, one who is prone to major calamities and I think he is just having a an extended bad run. Fundamentally, I think he is a good player.

But Guradiola clearly doesn't think so and the media in England are very unhappy with that.

Remember when Hart first emerged and Shay Given was the No. 1 for Manchester City? There was a clamour in the newspapers from journalists and managers wondering why England's top young goalkeeper couldn't get a game at his club and had to go on loan to Birmingham.

I believe Roberto Mancini was influenced by the media and picked Hart ahead of Given to start the season as a result.

He was fortunate that Hart played out of his skin for him and fully justified the decision.

But I don't think Guardiola will pay any attention to the English media and he sent a clear message to Hart and everyone else that he wants a new goalkeeper when he dropped him for the first two competitive games of the season.

Guardiola has taken a very different, arm around the shoulders approach to Raheem Sterling, pound for pound the most disappointing player in Manuel Pellegrini's squad last season.

I get the feeling with Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne that they are still like two lads in the schoolyard who badly need to grow up as footballers.

They have all the things they need to be top class players, Sterling particularly, but I haven't seen enough evidence of their talent.

I don't agree that Sterling is just a spoiled kid who needs a firm hand.

But I do think that he wasn't ready for the scale of the transfer which brought him to Manchester and I think he would have been better to stay for a few more seasons at Anfield.

I know Liverpool made that very difficult and treated him badly in the process. But it is obvious to me that he is still coming to terms with the hype and expectation and needs careful man management.

Guardiola could be the best thing that ever happened him.

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