Man City dominate PSG as Guardiola shows why he doesn’t need an Aguero replacement
A number of factors had to fall into place for Manchester City to beat Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night and reach the final of the Champions League.
For example, on the night the unexpected snowfall undoubtedly hindered the visitors in their pursuit of an early goal to turn the tie on its head. Another one would have surely been Kylian Mbappe’s inability to start the match or perhaps even the defensive solidity Pep Guardiola’s tactics offered Tuesday’s hosts.
However, perhaps the most intriguing one was the fact that over the course of both ties, which City so confidently controlled and dominated, the Premier League side refused to play a single striker.
In the opening leg in Paris, Guardiola surprised most by picking a team that saw City start Kevin de Bruyne as a false No.9. What initially seemed absurd eventually worked out perfectly when the Belgium international scored his side’s equaliser in the second half and then helped his side dominate possession and push for a second.
Not only did City outscore their hosts as well out-shoot them by six to four shots on goal, but De Bruyne also managed to get more shots on target than Kylian Mbappe and Neymar combined. Aside from Marquinhos’ headed goal from a first-half corner, Guardiola’s tactics worked perfectly.
And so the City manager did very little to change a winning formula in the second leg. Again De Bruyne was deployed as the false No.9 and again the Belgian international was vital to his team’s goal, when his deflected shot landed in the path of Riyad Mahrez to score the opening goal of the match.
The French giants began the second half in earnest, pushing for that elusive goal but it was Guardiola’s unorthodox front line that once again struck first, when a wonderful counter attack between Foden and De Bruyne then set up the Englishman to fire the ball across the PSG goalmouth. There, a grateful Mahrez was waiting to tap in a second goal to kill off the game.
Man City’s top goalscorers in this season’s Champions League
|Kevin de Bruyne||3|
Man City didn’t need Aguero to beat PSG
While Neymar & Co. huffed and puffed in the spaces between City’s dogged defence and hard-working midfield, Phil Foden, Mahrez and De Bruyne dominated possession in the middle of the pitch and therefore picked off an overly stretched and increasingly desperate PSG side.
Naturally, Guardiola and his team will be far more impressed with their ability to reach the final but these two ties against one of the best teams in the world have also offered a glimpse into how the City manager is likely to view the shape and set up of his team next season.
To little surprise, every available camera at the Etihad Stadium was focused on the fed up expression of Mbappe on the PSG bench but one or two of them would have done well to catch a glimpse of Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus looking just as neglected on the City bench.
Sure, both City strikers came on once the game was done and dusted but their late cameos did little to dispel the notion that both Jesus and Aguero were an afterthought for Guardiola and his desire to win the Champions League.
On Tuesday Guardiola not only took his City side to new heights but also proved, once and for all, that his team has no need for a traditional striker and in the most high-profile game of the season they undoubtedly thrived without one.
Will City sign a replacement to Aguero when the Argentine striker draws a line under his 10 years at the club this summer? It remains to be seen, but based on the evidence on show during these two games it seems unlikely and entirely unnecessary.