ANALYSIS: Manchester City 0-2 Barcelona

City went down two nil to Barcelona in what turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. Barcelona deserved to win but at the same time City did not deserve to lose in the way they did. Keep reading for some thoughts in this bumper edition of Typical City Analysis…

Was the Result a Touch Harsh?

Yes. And no. But yes, it was harsh. Dani Alves’ goal right at the death was not undeserved, but at the same time it created a scoreline which did not reflect City’s efforts. For much of the game City matched their Catalan guests and could, even should, have scored at least once themselves through Negredo and Silva. That no chances were converted is frustrating especially considering the gallant defensive showing following Demichelis’ red card in the second half.

Demichelis has been scapegoated to an absurd degree by almost everyone in the press and many even among the City support. The fact is, he had one of his best games in a City shirt and was sold down the river by the otherwise excellent Kompany. The Belgian played Messi onside leaving Demichelis to make up ground and somehow stop Messi scoring when he was through on goal. I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer from a dissenting City fan about what they would have preferred him to do; Demichelis did his job – stopping a certain goal.

He is old, he is slow, he sometimes plays passes which make you want to cry, but he did his job last night. We cannot ask for anymore.

Coming back to Kompany and the rest of the defence, they were generally very good in the face of an outstanding attack and a referee who apparently disapproves of physical contact. Against a team like Barcelona if you make two mistakes you will concede two goals. It is sad, but those are the stakes. Champion’s League games rest on a fine knife edge and the slightest thing can make you fall. Surviving at the top level demands not just quality, but sustained excellence.

In midfield, the importance, and brilliance, of the Fernandinho-Toure axis was once again underlined. They were astoundingly good last night, harrying the Barcelona midfield and taking the fight to them. Their task was thankless but they did it admirably. We have missed ourskinny Brazilian friend. At the beginning of the season the City fans were unsure of him and mistrustful of his price tag. The general relief when his name was announced last night spoke louder than any words could as to his importance to the team.

Another man with a thankless task last night was Alvaro Negredo who toiled and troubled but got no joy. He knows and we know he should have put that first half header on target, but it might not have mattered anyway as Victor Valdes was just great all game. Negredo struggled as a lone front man in a game where the vast majority of the game was played behind him. It is difficult to criticise him for that.


…is not the be all and end all, as if we needed another reminder. Barcelona put on a demonstration of utterly pointless possession. Having 60% of the ball is great, but when it mostly goes from side to side it is not only boring but also a waste of time.

If the game had ended as a draw, the media narrative today would have been all about how Barcelona lacked penatration. We would be hearing about what Arsene Wenger dubbed ‘sterile domination’ and how City had a good chance of progressing in the return leg.

A disciplined defence and a tenacious midfield performance made huge swathes of Barcelona’s passing game dull beyond belief and City should take the positives from that. This is not the team of 3 years ago and the tie is not over yet.

Pellegrini was taught a harsh lesson by Bayern Munich about what happens when you open up against the best of the best. The manager is a pragmatist. Yesterday the team was set up to shut down Barcelona’s strengths and attack their perceived weaknesses.

Smart people call that setting out tactics to enact a larger strategy. The other kind of people call it a lack of courage and an excess of fear.

The Media

Normally I would not touch this subject with a bargepole for two reasons; 1) Getting angsty about an anti-City agenda in the media is a short path to an early stress-induced grave, and 2) Howard Hockin does it so, so much better in his regular Paranoia Watch sections.

However, this time I will make an exception. The vast majority of the press seems to have come down with the journalistic equivalent of rabies, foaming at the mouth as their brains melt with the excitement of being able to give City a shoeing.

For F365’s Sarah Winterburn, the Premier League Owl and Jonathan Wilson there were positives for City to take home and a recognition that misfortune had a large part to play.

For apparently every single other journalist in world sport this was a failure of the evil big money against a team who play a somehow purer football. There was a school cafeteria mentality where the self conscious, disliked, self righteous, self appointed moral warriors saw an opportunity to bag on a bigger boy who they normally can’t.

They have this morning proven themselves to be small people who City fans are best off ignoring. Life is too short.

Missing Men

Once again, last night was an illustration that whilst City have an admirable squad, there are a few men we really, really miss when it comes down to it.

The aforementioned Fernandinho was simply excellent. The Typical City writers have been banging this particular Brazilian drum since his third match and it is a viewpoint vindicated more and more every week. He is a step above and worth more than his weight in gold (oil?) in this current team. Fernandinho’s fitness is a non-negotiable part of any success we have this season and next.

Samir Nasri has also proved to be a vital part of this team. Fan favourite David Silva was outstanding last night, but there are levels even he cannot reach on his own. Silva and Nasri elevate themselves, each other and the team to greater heights when both are on the pitch. This season’s Samir Nasri is better then his best season at Arsenal. City looked instantly more dangerous when he was introduced last night. He visibly rattled Busquets and the Barcelona defence and will be a key player in the second leg.

James Milner was unfortunately suspended last night. Following the red card he would have been a perfect substitution. When your back is to the wall there are few better people to have at your side than Milner. He has the ability to turn himself into an immovable object which would have been invaluable against the relentless Barcelona.

Finally, Sergio Aguero. The team is built around him and is not the same in his absence. We should start getting our heads around the idea that he will not be with us until his retirement (however sad that is) but whilst we have him he has to be fit as much as possible. If he is fit and firing for the trip to Spain then I believe we will win. It is as simple as that. He has form for winning games single handedly over there and Barcelona are utterly terrified of him.

Heads Up, Blues

This is not over yet. Our players are never more dangerous than when they are out to salvage their pride. Ask Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

We still have so much to play for and I for one am looking forward to it.

Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter

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9 comments on “ANALYSIS: Manchester City 0-2 Barcelona
  1. Pingback: FEATURE: The Replacements « Typical City

  2. I’m not sure why you think Demichelis was “doing his job” by stopping a certain goal. I wouldn’t disagree that Messi was highly likely to score once he was through but a goal was inevitable from a penalty. I fail to see how getting himself sent off was the better option.

    • A defender job is to stop goals. A goal is not inevitable from a penalty. In fact, based on the past I’d argue that with Messi in that kind of position a goal was more inevitable from open play.

      Based on the reaction to him actually making a decision to do something today, I dread to think what would have happened had he just let Messi wander through. It was a group failing starting with the midfield waving Iniesta through. Demichelis had to do something.

  3. Fair analysis, I think, there, Alex.
    I thought the essence of the game was displayed in that first 10-15 minutes, when Barca dominated possession, and we gave it away too easily.
    I see your point about possession, but I just felt it could take its’ toll on us, and, enhanced by playing 1 man short for over 30 minutes, prehaps in the end it did?
    I think at 0-1 we still had a chance, but maybe now the task will be a little too far for us to overcome.
    I would now prefer to get through the FA Cup tie the weekend before the second leg, but you are right….there is still plenty to look forward too.
    I also avoid the media, and yes, Howard is an excellent commentator!

    • Hi Graham, I completely agree that the second goal will likely turn out to be the difference. 2 nil might be a step too far.

      We’ll never know what would have happened with 11 men, but I thought we looked fine before the red card.

      The key from your comment is “there is still plenty to look forward to.” There is indeed and I for one cannot wait 🙂

  4. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a Man City fan. If their supposed sanguine manager loses his rag and blames the ref for his side’s football lesson, it would be no surprise that a fan goes into the twilight zone or a parallel world far from reality. “Barcelona put on a demonstration of utterly pointless possession. Having 60% of the ball is great, but when it mostly goes from side to side it is not only boring but also a waste of time.” Who won the game? It is a simple concept and easy to understand, you don’t have the ball, you cannot score, simple! If your team has more of the ball, you have a better chance of scoring, again, simple. It was Iniesta’s brilliant pass that put Messi clear thru and one on one with Hart, and the bet would be that Messi would’ve probably score, hence a last ditch careless tackle from Demichelis and the impetus is with Barcelona. Blaming the referee is sour grape at best, and at worst an attempt by your manager to discredit Barcelona or to hide his inept against a better side. For all your analytical points regarding Man City’s heroics in defense and what could’ve been and should’ve been, blah blah blah, amounts to Man City losing. Regardless of what Man City fans think of the game, these facts still remain; 1) Your team playing at home basically parked the bus, Pellegrini’s team selection and playing with one striker up front suggested that much. 2) For a team who has been hail this whole season as having this free flowing attacking football and the best in Europe, against a supposed weak and leaky Barcelona defense, who by the way have Mascherano playing as a centre back( not his position) with not much height, but still your midfield and attacking forwards couldn’t take advantage of such a mediocre defense. What does that say to you? To me it points to a couple of answers, A) That utterly pointless( your words) tactic called possession, or B) Pellegrini’s cowardness to go toe to toe with Barcelona which by the way he promised he will do in his pre-match interview. You might be right, it’s not over yet and Martino pointed to the fact that there’s still 90 mins to play and in football anything can happen. Most pundits believe the tie is over, me included. I for one love to see a Man City open up and go toe to toe at the Camp Nou with Barca, most of those who have tried have failed miserably, but in Man City’s case is all you got……

    • Hi Ramon, thanks for all of that. A few comments based on what you wrote here.

      1) Possession stats without context *are* pointless. For something you describe as such a simple concept it is incredible how much of the point you seem to have missed. Possession stats on their own have nothing to do with who won the game. Absolutely nothing. Bayern Munich had 35% of the ball last year and won 4 nil. City had 35% (ish) of the ball last night and lost 2 nil. It’s as if other things have to be taken into account. You point out the one brilliant Iniesta pass as if that proves your point, when in fact it can be as interpreted as the opposite. Despite all of their magnificent possession stats, Barca had less shots on target than City all the way up until the red card. Possession can be great, possession can be pointless.

      2) You say you would have loved it if City had opened up and played a more expansive game? Bully for you. Do you know who else would have loved it? Barcelona. You are being naive if you think that opening up completely against teams who are better than you at this level is always the best tactic, without exception. Bayern Munich gave a salient example of this before Christmas and City learned from that defeat.

      Calling it cowardice simply betrays your true motives in disparaging City to be honest. I’ve said it before and will say it again: When it comes to City, the only people with larger blinkers on than City fans are fans of other clubs.

      There is no such thing as a neutral when it comes to our club anymore. Despite your best efforts to hide it, your glee at seeing City fail has seeped out. I get that, I understand it. But at least own it and say what you really think rather than this faux ‘neutrality’.



      • Thanks for getting back to me with a reply. First of all let me clear one thing. No where have I stated that I was a neutral fan, I’m a Barcelona fan, nothing more nothing less.
        Maybe you’ve assumed that I meant that possession is the beginning and the end with nothing in between as a tactic, who’s being naive? You’ve just stated “Possession stats without context *are* pointless.” Well lets analogise that. Barcelona are top of La Liga, are in the final of the Kings Cup, have one foot in the last 8th of the Campions league, and already one trophy under their belt this season. Along the way they’ve score 113 goals with the 2 against Man City last night in all competition. They’ve conceded 17 goals, and this second stats comes to my possession point. But first a little history regarding La Masia and the ethos that’s at the heart of is football teachings. one of the most important lesson that is drill into all of is academy students is possession of the ball! Playing with the ball at all times, never ever give to the opponent. Start the attack from the back and defend while attacking with the ball. Now it is an ethos that has been recognise not only by most of the football world, but by the club that you represent Man City. A testament why Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano now work at Man City. Just ask yourself why Barcelona for the last 3 years or so refuse to buy a proper centre back? They have won everything that needs to be won in club football and consider one, if not the best squad side of all time, while all along playing possession football and everything that encompass.

        Like I said above, the media in this country has hail the all conquering Man City as the best attacking side in Europe, and were boasting how Barca will get turn over with ease. Although I know the medial in this country is like a wind vane and anything to sell a story but, your manager has claim in his pre-game interviews that Man city will not abandon their principle of attacking football and to mine and most fans astonishment he did exactly the opposite. Instead of holding his hand up and take the blame, and give credit where credit is due, which funny enough is what his nemesis and someone I completely detest, Jose( The psycho) Mourinho did when Man City beat them a week ago. Instead Pellegrini when into an astonishing rant to basically put the game into disrepute.

        In any tactic there will always be exceptions to the rule, there will aways be variables that can change a fix notion like what you mention above. But the proof is in the puddling, not just last night against the new boys on the block, but in the amount of trophies in Barcelona’s trophy cabinet in the last 7 years or so. Would you like to compare with Man cities cabinet?
        All those trophies have been won with the ethos, possession football at is heart….. Thank you.

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