Rodri’s excuses expose the naivety holding Manchester City back
Have they never heard of a counter-attack?
"The opponent do nothing, they just wait and wait and wait, even if they're winning. You're a bit confused. You don't know what to do."
On the surface, Rodri was just reflecting on a frustrating game for Manchester City, who once again fell victim to the counter attack. More specifically, Leicester City's counter attack, spearheaded by Jamie Vardy, who has been a thorn in their side ever since Pep Guardiola was appointed City boss in 2016.
But dig a little deeper and his remarks reveal a tactical weakness that City should have resolved by now, and the naivety - or arrogance - that has ultimately been their downfall too often.
Leicester scored five goals, lest we forget. Call their approach defensive and boring if you must, but ultimately the scoreline doesn't lie. Brendan Rodgers took a pragmatic approach to the game, rather than blindly believing in a dogmatic style regardless of the risks.
"We tried to get a second, a third, that makes us lose balls and concede little things to them. For me, they're lucky. You have to congratulate them, but it's not the way I like to play," the City midfielder told Sky Sports after what for many would have been a humbling defeat.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 28, 2020
Guardiola's managerial record speaks for itself, he's one of the best coaches of all time and has the trophies to prove it. But if his players cannot recognise that their opponents will sit back, soak up pressure and hit them on the break - the most obvious method of combatting City's slick passing between the lines - it's difficult to envisage them mounting a proper title challenge this season.
There are of course mitigating circumstances to City's sluggish performance. They've not had a proper pre-season after reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, and they were missing both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus. But Rodri's post-match comments were nothing to do with the physical conditioning of the City team, they were indicative of an entitled belief that every team should try to play City at their own game, and thus concede goals galore.
The most surprising aspect of his comments were perhaps the fact that Rodri's footballing education does not solely come from the Guardiola school, or managers who subscribe to his fundamentals. He spent a year at Atlético Madrid under Diego Simeone, Guardiola's peer but pole opposite in terms of coaching philosophy.
Granted, Rodri left Atlético, partly to play in a more progressive team better suited to his style of play, but you'd think he would be familiar with the 'soak up pressure and hit them on the break' approach? A tactic as old as time that has brought success to his former club.
Most of the time, City's plan A will work. They have the players to pass teams into exhaustion and cause mistakes at the back. But sometimes it won't. Sometimes, teams will remain resilient and make the most of their limited opportunities, exploiting City's weaknesses. City need to look introspectively and acknowledge their own flaws before they can think about regaining the title from Liverpool.
When teams complain of their opponents parking the bus after a defeat, it is usually a convenient excuse for the team expected to win simply running out of ideas.