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Pace or patience, Guardiola's big dilemma in the Istanbul final


Highlights: Manchester City faces Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on Tuesday. Pep Guardiola has warned his players to be patient against the Italian side. Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid drew 1-1 with City in the first leg of the semifinal in May. The Italian style match preparation model is older than the blackboards, says Diego Simeone. "For Italian teams, going 0-0 is equivalent to winning the game. They are not winning. We have to have stability," Guardiola says.

"We must think that if we go 0-0 we are not losing," warns the City coach, worried about the anxiety that threatens his players, great favorites against Inter Milan

"We have to be patient," Guardiola said, his voice hoarse, his brow furrowed, and the gestural tension of the great vespers. The Manchester City coach delivered in the conference room of the Olympic Stadium in Istanbul one of his most repeated speeches, not always successfully. In the second Champions League final of his career away from Barça, the coach returns to face a team that defends with five defenders and deploys quickly against with two laners, two interiors and two attackers who pose a constant threat against ball losses. When in doubt, the crucial dilemma arises: prioritize the conservation of the ball to avoid counterattacks or put the emphasis on the rhythm of circulation to prevent the opponent from asserting himself in his trench? The message of caution naturally tends to tip the balance in the first direction. For teams that make attacking a fanatical gamble, like City, patience can translate into virtue or venom.

There are coaches who, in order to activate all the alerts, warn their players that they must go out on the field as if they were losing 0-1. Guardiola sent a message of calm. "As a matter of principle, I don't think doing whatever you want is the best way to approach the finals," Guardiola warned. "You have to be stable, stick to the plan, defend well, attack with a lot of control, and be patient. The most important thing in this type of game is to think that if we go 0-0 we are not losing. For Italian teams, going 0-0 is equivalent to winning the game. But 0-0 is a draw. They are not winning. We have to have stability. To have rhythm and at the same time be balanced, and in bad times to step up."

The Italian style match preparation model is older than the blackboards. Experience indicates that every minute that passes without conceding a goal will exponentially increase the chances of victory of the team that gives up controlling the ball. It is empirically proven after decades of trials. The greatest expenditure of energy, physical and psychic, falls on the team that needs to handle the ball forced to a constant exercise of precision to avoid increasingly threatening errors. If City's players take to the field without being absolutely aware that they will have to live on the edge, they will expose themselves to setbacks from which they will not be able to leave without an overdose of adrenaline. Patience usually saves risks and turnovers. But it neither produces adrenaline nor increases aggressiveness. Ancelotti knew it, rubbing his hands when he heard that "patience" preceded Guardiola's messages on the way to the first leg of the semifinals, in Chamartín.

The report Carlo Ancelotti received from Manchester City ahead of the first leg in early May gave the Italian coach hope. According to sources close to Madrid, the news coming from the rival's headquarters indicated that Guardiola would prepare a game more focused on control than risk, avoiding vertical passes if the players did not see them absolutely clear and giving priority to security passes. No line breaking. Avoiding counterpunches was the slogan that weighed the most in the English dressing room. "Patience," was the resounding word. Exactly the kind of scenario that suited Madrid, in the opinion of Ancelotti, who understood that his players would resist lateral tilts better than forward-backward-forward races, typical of high-tempo matches. The lactic acid of accelerated transitions would destroy Benzema, Modric and Kroos, according to all calculations made.

Guardiola's patient approach in Madrid, which ended 1-1, gave confidence to the Real Madrid players and reaffirmed Ancelotti's idea in the same way that he alerted the City coaches in the second leg. If Madrid disintegrated in 40 minutes in Manchester it was because City played with everything but patience. His players lavished themselves in swaps and multiplied the filtered passes, the speed of circulation and the vertigo transitions. The inaccuracies, which there were, eventually favored the more daring team. City not only won 4-0. He played the most perfect game for a Guardiola team in the Champions League since 2011.

"A lot of pace but..."

Now Guardiola faces another opponent who closes in his field. You must decide whether to plug into your equipment by safe circulation or by aggressive processing. "What I'm trying to do is understand the game we have to play," he said Tuesday. "We will encounter many, many difficulties. It is not easy to attack Inter's defensive system. We have to play with a lot of pace but with a bit of patience. We can't solve the plays with two or three passes, we have to know the tempo, the exact rhythm. This is the most important thing in this type of game because the longer it goes without us scoring we can become a little more anxious and that can be a problem."

Rhythm is the question. The thin line that runs each of the coaches who bet on ultra-offensive football, the switch that turns on or off the soul of their teams, is always reduced to the same elementary dilemma: how, when, and where to pass the ball. Pep Guardiola's big decision on the threshold of becoming the greatest coach of all time, the only one who has been able to build two legendary teams, or the only one who has been on the verge.

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Source: elparis

All sports articles on 2023-06-09

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