Pep Guardiola

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Report: Van Bronckhorst to take NYCFC job as Man City pre-test

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Giovanni van Bronckorst is going to get a sort of Man City dress rehearsal in Major League Soccer.

On the heels of a September report that Van Bronckhorst was being eased into City Football Group with an “all-access pass” to Pep Guardiola, The Daily Mirror has issued a new one.

[ MORE: 1-on-1 with Claudio Reyna ]

Van Bronckhorst has been familiarizing himself with all of City Football Group’s clubs, the report says, and will take hold of New York City FC under old friend Claudio Reyna with a view to a bigger job within the company.

Sources in Holland insist that Van Bronkhorst would be unlikely to accept the New York job if there was no plan for him to eventually move into a more prominent role inside the CFG.

He has Champions League experience and has a number of close friends inside the group, including former Rangers team-mate Claudio Reyna, who is New York’s director of football.

The idea is that Van Bronckhorst is of very similar mind to Pep Guardiola, and that Man City wants to keep the same style of football once the Catalan genius decides to leave Manchester.

Here’s the only odd note of that report, assuming that Van Bronckhorst brings the A-game that saw him win the Eredivisie and two KNVB Cups with Feyenoord: This appointment seemingly presumes that Mikel Arteta is not considered first choice to replace Guardiola when he leaves town (although perhaps Arteta has told the club he’ll be looking for a first chair job before Pep skips town, or has been told he needs first chair experience to be under consideration for the gig).

Guardiola is contracted through 2022, and it’s reasonable to think he could leave early if the side wins its first Champions League or comes back to claim the Premier League’s first league three-peat since Manchester United turned the trick in 2009.

Guardiola’s postmatch stubbornness is petulant, not defiant

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“What happened today, we showed why [we] are champions,” Pep Guardiola said with a shake of the head, his arms crossed and wry smile creeping across his face. “I am so proud of my team, more than ever. We can be proud of how we played against the strongest team in Europe. We played like back-to-back champions.”

[ MORE: PL title is Liverpool’s to lose ]

Those were his words after a comprehensive 3-1 defeat at Anfield where Liverpool yet again confounded one of the game’s greatest managers at maybe his most imposing House of Horror. Manchester City was time and again ripped apart at the back by Liverpool’s class on the ball and cunning off it.

Yet here was Pep Guardiola, fresh off a vigorous handshake with the referees at the final whistle that dripped with the sarcasm of a child having recently been grounded, claiming his team produced “one of the best performances we have played.”

Liverpool was, to put it simply, better than Manchester City on the day. The players Guardiola picked in the team struggled mightily, with his full-backs Angelino and Kyle Walker both culpable on Liverpool goals while Joao Cancelo looked on from the bench and expensive Frenchman Benjamin Mendy wasn’t even in the squad. Sergio Aguero toiled through yet another fruitless performance at Anfield and Gabriel Jesus was too little too late as the only Man City substitute of the day. 34-year-old midfielder Fernandinho was preferred to natural defender Nicolas Otamendi at center-back alongside John Stones.

Guardiola’s rage stemmed mostly from an early penalty decision that went against the visitors, with the ball clearly striking Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s arm in the box just moments before Fabinho‘s sixth-minute opener. Referee Michael Oliver had an excellent view of the incident and judged Alexander-Arnold’s arm to be in a natural position, and while that original decision could be coherently argued as controversial (not by this article’s author), VAR finally handled a judgement call correctly by not reviewing the incident, as the debate proves the potential refereeing error was far from “clear and obvious.”

After Guardiola’s embarrassing post-match handshake, he was naturally asked about the early decision. While the City boss averted the question, he made his thoughts clear enough by calling out not the on-field referee Oliver, but instead the booth officials in his thinly veiled deflection “ask [PGMOL chair] Mike Riley and the guys who are in the VAR, don’t ask me.” He believed the decision should have been reviewed. Sorry Pep, but quite plainly, it should not, and was not. Move on.

The manager was far from the only party to shoulder blame in defeat. Kevin De Bruyne‘s usual brilliance eluded him from the opening whistle through the final push. Raheem Sterling, who has so often shouldered Man City’s burdens the past two seasons, was dangerous throughout but lacked a finishing touch. Ilkay Gundogan‘s laziness contributed heavily to the Liverpool opener. Even Man City’s best player Rodri was yellow carded for dissent on a frustrating day.

The flaws of the defending champions were on display for all to see. Injuries have ravaged this team’s back line with defenders Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko out long-term, while goalkeeper Ederson was felled midweek in Champions League play. Jose Mourinho made a handful of enemies during his Premier League tenures by claiming his teams played well when they clearly did not, and Guardiola’s post-match defiance was a page out of Mourinho 101. The Spaniard has not yet gone down that road entirely, but he would be wise not to take more steps in that direction, for it is petulance, not defiance, that his post-match antics oozed after Sunday’s humbling loss.

The season is far from over – an eight-point lead in November is far less than many have made it out to be in yesterday’s aftermath. How quickly we forget just last season City’s title run included erasures of a seven-point deficit by New Year’s and a five-point Liverpool advantage in early February. Still, for the Man City boss to pass a sound defeat as “so good” and cast doubt on solid refereeing is not a show of fortitude, it is a child-like tantrum that denies the eyes and ears of the fans who watched, clear as day, their two-time defending champions beaten soundly at a stadium that continues to get the best of Pep Guardiola.

This is now Liverpool’s Premier League title to lose

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LIVERPOOL — November 10 may be too early for the title race to be over, especially if you are Liverpool.

But boy, it feels like Jurgen Klopp‘s side already have one hand on the Premier League trophy.

Right now it is the gigantic elephant in the room for everyone connected with Liverpool.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

They beat Manchester City 3-1 at a raucous Anfield on Sunday to pull nine points clear of the reigning champions as they’re now 12 games unbeaten and eight points clear at the top. Everyone is ready to call them the champs.

“Other people have said, 100 percent, ‘from now on Liverpool can only lose it.’ That is a very negative approach. You can see it like this but I don’t care. I can promise you we don’t care,” Klopp explained afterwards. “Today we were completely focused on this game and not the situation in the table or whatever. How many points we are ahead of City or whatever. That is crazy! Nine points, you cannot imagine something like this happens. But it is not important.

“Who wants to be first in early November!? You want to be first in May. We all know that but we don’t have to say that because it is clear. We just try what we can and in the end we will see what happens. The pressure is not there yet. It will come. At the moment it is only opportunity, go for it, do the work, throw everything in and see what happens.”

With their lead now eight points atop the table, it would take a monumental collapse from Liverpool for them to not win their first league title since 1990. Luck is on their side, they are looking more ruthless than ever and other title rivals are suffering badly timed injuries or a loss of form.

The stars are aligning.

Liverpool have lost just once in their last 51 Premier League games. That defeat came at Man City in January, as Leroy Sane’s late goal effectively cost them the chance to win the title last season.

This season there will be no fine margins deciding the destination of the trophy. There are still six months and 26 games of the season to go, but I’m ready to call it.

Unless Liverpool lose Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Fabinho all at the same time to lengthy injuries, they’re going to win the Premier League title.

Liverpool’s fans have been here many times before over the past 30 years. Under Roy Evans, Rafael Benitez and Brendan Rodgers, and then Klopp last season.

Nobody connected to Liverpool wants to mention the ‘t word’ right now after all of their near misses. That was evident in and around the city before the game, as even when they welcomed Man City’s team bus to Anfield it was all a little subdued.

Stewards, fans, car parking attendants and those flipping burgers in the vans lining Anfield Road all have that same look in their eye as they smirk. They know they’re so close to the holy grail. But like a banker knowing the biggest deal of his career is 99 percent done, they remain wary of a late rival bid. There’s still a sense of foreboding hanging over Liverpool.

We can’t underestimate the mental strength needed to put aside the pressure Liverpool’s players are under. Even when they were 3-0 up and Bernardo Silva made it 3-1, there were moans and groans inside Anfield. Klopp tried to rally the crowd and liven them up to help get the team over the line. They did. But it was reminiscent of the nervousness shown at very points last season when they were top of the league.

Last season their seven-point lead evaporate due to draws against Leicester, West Ham, Man United and Everton. Liverpool had the title in their grasp but it slipped out, once again.

Even if they draw four games this season and win the rest, that will now be enough to win the title on goal difference at the very least. Man City would have to win all 26 of their remaining games and hope Liverpool slip up a few times. That probably isn’t going to happen, as Pep Guardiola is clearly more focused on winning the UEFA Champions League.

Why the sense of worry, then? Last season Liverpool didn’t have any real challengers outside of Man City. Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United and Arsenal were so far behind. This season Chelsea and Leicester City are much better equipped to take points off both Man City and Liverpool.

There will be twists and turns ahead but this Liverpool juggernaut, hardened by close calls in recent seasons, hurtles on.

An image of Klopp gleaming in front of the Kop at the end of the final home game on May 9 against Chelsea with the trophy balanced on his head just became something we expect. Unless you’re Liverpool.

The only thing that can stop them now is, once again, themselves.

Guardiola: ‘Ask the referees, don’t ask me’ about handball non-call

Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
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“Ask the referees, don’t ask me.”

That’s how Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola dismissed talk of the uncalled Trent Alexander-Arnold handball that came moments before Liverpool scored its wonderful opener in a 3-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.

“Ask Mike Riley and the guys in VAR,” he said. “I would like to talk about our performance, it was so good. It was one of the best performances we have played.”

[ MORE: Match recap | JPW’s 3 things from Anfield ]

The relative calm was a massive departure from how Guardiola left the pitch after a second, less intriguing handball shout to Alexander-Arnold after City had cut the three-goal lead to two.

Waving his hands frantically with two fingers raised on the touch line before sarcastically shaking Michael Oliver’s hand after the game, Guardiola struck two very different figures in a short period of time.

Guardiola went on to laud both teams for their performances.

Although we think he liked his team’s performance a bit more than he should — the last pass/decision was not where it usually is — City did have more possession, more shots, better passing, and won the aerial battle.

“We played like back-to-back champions. We cannot deny how good Liverpool are but the way we played, the personality, it was good.

“It was quite similar to the Champions League game. It was an incredible situations in that game too but the performance today was so good. Always we try, never give up that is why we are back-to-back champions. Always fight until the end.

“It is important to grow as a club and as a team. It was an honor for both team to show Premier League to spectators this type of game.”

Three things we learned: Liverpool v. Man City

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LIVERPOOL — This was billed as a decisive day in the Premier League title race and it duly delivered.

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool now have one hand on the Premier League trophy after a 3-1 win against Manchester City, as they moved nine points clear of Pep Guardiola‘s reigning champs and eight points clear of second-place Leicester City.

Liverpool remain unbeaten through the first 12 games of this season, they have lost once in their last 51 Premier League games and they are unbeaten in their last 29 games in the competition.

Here’s what we learned from a dramatic battle at Anfield, as the lopsided scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.


VAR DRAMA ‘HANDS’ LIVERPOOL HUGE TITLE ADVANTAGE

Man City should have had a penalty kick but 20 seconds later they trailed 1-0. There was a clear handball in the box as Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s outstretched arm flicked onto his leg and as Sergio Aguero stopped and remonstrated with the officials, Liverpool broke and the ball was half cleared to Fabinho who drilled home to make it 1-0. VAR was then used to have a look at the goal and although Bernardo Silva did touch the ball with his arm just before Alexander-Arnold did, there was no advantage to be gained as it was clearly accidental as his arm wasn’t in an unnatural position like TAA’s was. Unlike the IFAB rules which were made clearer after Aymeric Laporte handled in the build up to Gabriel Jesus‘ later winner was chalked off against Spurs in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg last season.

VAR got this big call wrong. Referee Michael Oliver had a clear view of the situation but waved away the penalty calls from Man City. VAR didn’t deem it to be a clear and obvious error. It was. VAR has become a farce and it set the tone for Liverpool to take the lead early on and go nine points clear of Man City in the title race. Pep Guardiola and his staff were livid in the technical area all game long as a few other penalty calls were checked and waved away by VAR. The first one was the most clear and obvious and it was obviously, and clearly, a mistake.


MAN CITY WERE THE BETTER, MORE DANGEROUS TEAM

In the first half alone Alisson denied Sergio Aguero twice, Aneglino hit the post and Kevin De Bruyne flashed across some wicked deliveries which John Stones and Fernandinho couldn’t get on the end of. In the second half Raheem Sterling was denied by a great block and Aguero somehow missed the ball totally when he was two yards out and the goal was gaping. Man City weren’t clinical enough and Liverpool made them pay. That coupled with VAR calls going the other way on Liverpool’s two first half goals culminated in a lopsided defeat for Man City.

Pep Guardiola’s side controlled the game, Fernandinho and John Stones looked fairly assured and although Claudio Bravo was partly at fault for the third goal he looked solid enough. After this game Man City will be scratching their heads as to how on earth they lost. But they did, and Man City have now failed to win on any of their last 17 Premier League trips to Anfield. Sergio Aguero has never scored there. Klopp has beaten Guardiola more times than any other manager. Man City’s players were cagey at times with Sterling, De Bruyne and Aguero all guilty of uncharacteristic mistakes. City played well enough but the reigning champions were taught a ruthless lesson by the champions elect.


LIVERPOOL A DIFFERENT MACHINE AS TITLE GLORY AWAITS

This Liverpool team are ruthless. When they sense an opportunity to win, they take it. And they did just that on Sunday. That is why they will win the Premier League this season. They are a different machine in 2019-20. Klopp’s side are eight points clear atop the table and yes, there are still 26 games to go, but something absolutely unfathomable would have to happen for them not to be crowned Premier League champions this season. Liverpool have addd a steely edge to their play, a ruthless streak which enables them to make the most of their opponents weaknesses.

They now bend but don’t break. It’s crazy to say this, but Liverpool weren’t at their best on Sunday and they haven’t been for much of this season. But they are nine points ahead of Man City and beat them 3-1 to extend their unbeaten run at home to 46 games. These are the kind of results which sum up why teams are destined to win titles. Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a title is so close, but still so far, from being over.