City’s opening game of pre-season ended in a 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
What did we learn from this first game under Pep Guardiola? Club journalist Mark Booth picks out five topics for discussion…
1 Pep Effect
It was always going to be a tough first assignment for Pep Guardiola, taking on a side he built over three years with one he’s worked with for only a fortnight but a youthful City side showed that they have started to assimilate their new coach’s ideas, as well as his mentality.
There was no faulting the application of Guardiola’s men against a more experienced Bayern outfit and they could consider themselves unfortunate to lose to a deflected goal scored in a second half they edged.
On top of the pressing game which is an established part of the Pep playbook, City demonstrated great character, as well as tactical flexibility in this narrow defeat to the German champions - after riding something of a storm in the final 15 minutes of the first half, the away side played with greater confidence and intensity in the second period.
Although the team is still missing all of the players who took part in the Euros and Copa America, there were signs of progress already evident and Guardiola told journalists after the game that he was pleased with the workout.
2 Case for the Defence
With 19-year old’s making up three quarters of the back four, facing off against the likes of Franck Ribery, David Alaba, Xabi Alonso and Phillip Lahm may have been cause for frayed nerves but the opposite was true on Wednesday night.
Tosin Adarabioyo, Angelino and Pablo Maffeo all earned universally positive reviews from supporters for their assured showings, helped on by the experience of Aleksandar Kolarov who played in an unfamiliar central defensive position with distinction.
For the trio of teenagers, this was a night they’ll never forget and each did their prospects of featuring in the upcoming Manchester derby at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing no harm whatsoever.
3 Play the best
Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United is a pretty formidable line-up of pre-season games but Pep Guardiola believes that this is the perfect way for City to get ready for the campaign ahead.
As he pointed out in his post-match press conference, Pep’s understanding of areas for improvement would be limited against lower quality opposition where mistakes could easily be glossed over with moments of individual brilliance.
Accelerating the squad’s development is the name of the game with that UEFA Champions League qualifier coming up over the horizon and, considering this group of players and their coach are only just getting to know one another, this was a hugely encouraging night in one of the great theatres of European football.
4 Caballero's hat-trick
Willy Caballero reminded all watching what a fine shot-stopper he is in the first 45 of this entertaining clash at the Allianz Arena.
The experienced Argentine ‘keeper came to City’s rescue three times as Bayern’s brilliant midfield four started to combine and build momentum for their team in the second half of the first period.
It was the only spell of the game where the away side seemed in the least bit overrun but Caballero was there to repel the waves of attacks, with the second of his three stops – a brilliant parry from Julian Green, the pick of the bunch.
On a night where England under-21 international Angus Gunn came on for his City debut in the second half, it’s clear we’re blessed with an abundance of talented goalkeepers at this club.
5 Result Secondary
It’s a well-worn cliché that the result is secondary at this stage of pre-season but it’s especially true when a defeat comes as a result of a chain reaction of bizarre incidents.
If City were unfortunate that Adarabioyo’s pass out of defence hit the referee and fell kindly for Bayern, they were doubly so a moment later when Erdal Ozturk’s effort took a deflection off Gael Clichy, wrong-footing Angus Gunn in the process and rolling into the opposite corner.
There was nothing that the goalkeeper or his teammates could have done to prevent the goal and, after creating a number of chances to score themselves, they could walk away from the game feeling as though a draw probably would have been a fair result… if results mattered in pre-season, of course!