All the plaudits have quite rightly gone the way of Chelsea after Thomas Tuchel masterminded the club’s latest Champions League success courtesy of a 1-0 win over Manchester City in Porto.
Kai Havertz scored the winning goal five minutes before half time as the Blues lifted the trophy for the second time and in the process denied their domestic rivals a first.
Having cruised to a third Premier League title win in four years, Pep Guardiola’s side arrived at the Estadio do Dragao as favourites, yet came unstuck against a well-drilled and well-organised Chelsea team that were good value for their win on the night.
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Much has been made of Pep Guardiola’s team selection for the match in which he unexpectedly opted against starting with a recognised holding midfielder in his 4-3-3 formation, instead selecting the more forward thinking Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan. Making up the trio was Phil Foden, with the Englishman playing much deeper than in his more familiar role further up the pitch.
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The experiment unfortunately didn’t work, playing right into Chelsea’s hands, and looking back at the game on the latest Beautiful Game Podcast for Eurosport, Deji Odedina says Guardiola has to carry the can for his team’s failings in the biggest game in the club’s history.
“You can make tweaks to the system but when you make fundamental changes to a team in a Champions League final, it doesn’t make sense,” claimed Odedina.
“If we’d seen Pep Guardiola play this system in the last two or three games so the team can get adjusted to it, then yes, it makes sense but to do this, it doesn’t help yourself.
“Manchester City could have won that final. Take Bernardo Silva out of the team, drop Kevin De Bruyne back a peg, play Raheem Sterling in the false nine position, Phil Foden on the left and Riyad Mahrez on the right. That could have been a team that could have potentially beaten Chelsea.”
Another unusual decision from Guardiola was to play Kevin De Bruyne as a ‘false nine’ rather than his usual playmaker position – something Odedina was also unimpressed with.
“De Bruyne’s main forte is setting up players,” he added. “When he’s occupying the centre backs, they haven’t got that hub of creativity to provide goals.
You’ve got to blame Pep. He has to take the blame and I think he will.
Dotun Abijoh had a slight difference of opinion, suggesting to that regardless of the tactical failings, City’s players also let themselves down on the big occasion.
“Pep has to take some of the responsibility but too many big players did not turn up. De Bruyne, arguably the best player in the world, didn’t show up.”
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Odedina retorted: “But Yeah, but on the biggest stage, why are you making these changes? Surely, if you’ve done something 59 out of 60 times, you expect it to be similar. When you change it, surely that falls on the manager.
“The job of a manager is to mask the flaws of his team. Why would he change something that’s working?
We saw them unravel on the biggest stage.
Abijoh was adamant that the players were as responsible for their poor showing as their manager.
“I think it’s harsh to put it all on Pep Guardiola when some of the key players did not turn up.”
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