T after morning Images had an unforgettable quality for Manchester City fans the night before. Never mind seeing many players collapse or lie on the grass field in Estádio do Dragão after the Champions League dream, it was inevitably Pep Guardiola who captured the disappointment and despair best.
The city manager had wanted to clarify one thing after losing 1-0 to Chelsea in the final at Porto. “I would like to say it was an extraordinary, exceptional season for us,” said Guardiola, and nobody agreed. A third Premier League title in four tries, 12 - point margin, Appendix A for defense, and then the quality of football: fast, sharp, technically perfect.
There are critics who claim that Guardiola failed at his job when he fell short in the Champions League as City did five times. The theory suggests that the Champions League is the most desired trophy for the club and its owner, Sheikh Mansour, and so Guardiola will be damned forever if he can't deliver it.
it is nonsense and ignores the rest of Guardiola's work; indoor silverware, weekday for City fans, weekend entertainment, wider influence on the English game. Still, at the same time, there is no doubt that the gap in his resume will affect the City heritage. There will be an asterisk when staying. Just like now, he has one against his team's season.
Guardiola spent all his little ticks touching the stubble above in a post-match press conference he didn't want to give. Her lip was wiggling, scratching her scowl, she was shrugging. He barely knows what it means to lose a grand final - it was just the second opposite, the other was Copa Del Rey's loss to Real Madrid by Barcelona in 2011. This season, earlier this season, Chelsea had only one chance to win in the FA Cup semi-finals. He lost the match.
The novelty factor deepened the pain, emphasized the spirit. Searching. At best, it's a scar that will take some time to heal given the distance to next season's finale. At worst it might never do that, and if that sounds like an exaggeration, then it's Guardiola's 2014, again with Barcelona.
“Pointing over one of those you don't want to hide,” City winger Raheem Sterling said with a blank look. "Go on." Good luck with that.
Guardiola and its players suddenly have unwanted baggage to stay with them over the summer and possibly most of the next season. How they carry it will be the ultimate psychological test, especially deepening an unwanted narrative as defeat will be regularly talked about.
His defeat to Lyon in last season's quarterfinal was bad, mainly due to his self-inflicted nature. This was worse. Against Lyon, Guardiola started off with a surprising 3-4-2-1 system, this match with Fernandinho to the right of the third defense, and it didn't work. However, City returned after a tactical defeat, and despite his mistakes, he could mourn Sterling for a clear missed goal at 86 2-2 minutes. How to legislate for this?
Against Chelsea, the margins were similarly good, although City did not give the impression that they had a goal in them. In the second half, they created almost nothing. Chelsea were the team that did better in the first half and once took the lead and supported itself to close the result.
A year after Lyon, City became the Premier League champion. than the second. Alongside the season's player Rúben Dias, there were many others who made great progress, notably John Stones, İlkay Gündoğan and Phil Foden. Yet they hit the wall.
Guardiola definitely picked a pretty good moment to start without being an Expert defensive midfielder, with both Fernandinho and Rodri remaining on the bench. One or both of the club had begun on 60's Champions League group stage in November, beating Olympiacos to match this season.
Instead, Guardiola used Gündoğan, the team's top scorer this season, as the deepest midfielder. Unprotectedness for defense was a feature of the first half, and it hurt the most as Chelsea quickly broke the Havertz goal. Sterling was asked if Fernandinho and Rodri's absence was a problem. "I thought we started really well," he replied. "We were in the game and [the goal] was a counterattack… we knew exactly what to do and what exactly happened."
Guardiola had lost an infamous Champion. In the second match of the semi-finals from Bayern to Madrid, according to the 4-0 score line, it was formed by the attacking staff. His team was torn apart on the bench and he swore he'd never be this open again The flaw, though, was there against Chelsea in a roster filled with offensive midfielders and wingers. They had a hard time executing a complex game plan.
What was interesting to hear from Guardiola were repeated references to City and most of its players for the first time. Champions League final. Before, only Gündoğan had played in the finale of the most important part of Europe.
The subtext was that the experience would hold them a good place for the future. All clubs must be heartbroken before triumphing in this most capricious competition. Yet their Chelsea blue conquerors were equally inexperienced, only Thiago Silva had made it into the previous final. The city's regret goes deep. The coming days will be difficult.