In recent times, Pep Guardiola and overthinking have become synonymous as his tactical genius is too much even for his own good. Without a shred of doubt, Guardiola is one of the best football managers. He has managed to win all the domestic trophies on offer wherever he went, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City.
However, he last won the Champions League final in 2009 and 2011 with Barcelona, and since then, he hasn’t won a Champions League without Lionel Messi in his team. Often in big Champions League games, Guardiola likes to experiment and take his opponents by surprise but instead, his own team suffers from the structural change.
Last season, in the quarter-finals against Lyon, he played 5 defenders at the back, which made their attack weak, and they were eventually beaten 3-1 by Lyon.
This time in the Champions League final, it was expected that he has learnt from his previous mistakes, but it seems Guardiola has once again been the victim of his own overthinking. He decided to play Sterling instead of Fernandinho.
Sterling last played a Champions League match in February, and either Fernandino and Rodri have almost started every match for City. But Guardiola decided not to play any one of his defensive midfielders and play Sterling on the left flank, which was too much a risk. Sterling, apart from the first few minutes, didn’t have much effect on the game as Reece James was magnificent and had him under control.
Guardiola only thought of a possessive attack but forgot to take into consideration the pace Chelsea has in front. Timo Werner had a wonderful game, getting behind City defenders at will. Havertz was also very quick on the counterattacks, which Mount managed to make the most of it as he gave an excellent through ball in the hole of the City defence, and Havertz justified his expensive price tag in going around Ederson and rolling the ball into the net.
Manchester City could have prevented those counterattacks with a defensive midfielder. Although Guardiola brought in Fernandinho after the hour mark, it was too late for City as Chelsea was defending with their lives on the line. Christensen, who was on for injured Silva, didn’t put any foot wrong. Azpilicueta and Rudiger were excellent, and James and Chilwell also executed their defensive duties with perfection. Everyone was behind the ball, but whenever Kante, Jorginho or Kovacic were winning possession, they had runners behind the City defence. Thomas Tuchel had his tactics spot on.
So it’s fair to say, Guardiola has once again OVERTHINK as he removed the muscle from the City midfield and went out to attack in a striker-less system.