Pep Guardiola blamed Manchester City’s European exit on his players’ lack of conviction and desire in the first half against Monaco.
City went 2-0 down in a dismal first half in Monaco, and went on to lose the game 3-1. Guardiola blamed their defeat on the lack of personality in that first half, rather than on the defence or on his own tactics. Instead, he pointed to a failure to follow his instructions to press high and try to win the game on the night.
“The problem was the first half when we were not there,” Guardiola explained in an impassioned post-match press conference. “Our strikers have to be aggressive and pick the ball up, but we didn't, at this crucial time. That's why we are out. The gap between our first and second half performances was too big.”
Guardiola’s instructions to his players are clear but he said that they did not put them into practice on the pitch, and that they did not do what he most demanded of them, trying to win the game.
“I don't think it was down to a tactical mistake,” said Guardiola. “It's simple. The difference between the first and the second half, the second half we tried to win the game. We tried to play.”
Guardiola accepted some of the blame, but only insofar as he failed to get his players to do what he wanted them to do.
Monaco vs Manchester City player ratings
Monaco vs Manchester City player ratings
1/22 Danijel Subašić 8 out of 10
Had very little to do in the first-half but made some very important stops in the second, including a fine reaction stop to deny Aguero after the forward had raced through on goal.
2/22 Djibril Sidibé 7
Not quite as impressive as Mendy, but made a nuisance of himself whenever he got forward and largely kept the in-form Leroy Sane quiet.
3/22 Andrea Raggi 6
Imperious in the first-half, ran ragged in the second. At 32, he was always going to struggle against the pace of Sane but his positioning also let him down as City flooded forward late on.
4/22 Jemerson 6
Overplayed the ball on occasions and often guilty of making needlessly ambitious passes when there was a more simple option available. Did very well in the air though and denied Raheem Sterling in the second-half with a superb tackle.
5/22 Benjamin Mendy 8
The man of the match. No defender has more assists in this year’s Champions League than the 22-year-old. Dominated Sagna going forward. Dominated Sterling staying back.
6/22 Bernardo Silva 8
A typically bright performance from the forward. Always comfortable in possession and a threat whenever he picked up the ball and looked to play in one of Monaco’s forwards.
7/22 Fabinho 7
Took his goal very well, beating Caballero with a composed, first-time finish. Made a number of crucial tackles and interceptions, too.
8/22 Tiemoué Bakayoko 7
Not the 22-year-old’s finest performance with a number of his passes went awry, but what does that matter? Scored the winning goal, pouncing on an error from Kolarov to nod pass Caballero at close-range.
9/22 Thomas Lemar 7
A bright start from the winger who overlapped nicely with the excellent Mendy. It was his well-taken free-kick which led to Monaco’s pivotal third goal.
10/22 Valère Germain 7
Offered more of a physical threat than his strike partner. Won a number of his aerial duels with Kolarov and unlucky to see a long-range strike whistle over the bar in the first-half.
11/22 Kylian Mbappé 8
Hard to believe he is only 18. Took his goal with confidence and terrorised the City defence with his direct running.
12/22 Willy Caballero 6
Cannot really be blamed for any of Monaco’s goals. Always quick off his life and dealt with Monaco’s aerial threat well, confidently punching clear on a number of occasions.
13/22 Bacary Sagna 5
His lack of pace was ruthlessly exploited by the fantastic Mendy. Was guilty of wandering out of position for Monaco’s second goal.
14/22 John Stones 5
Should have done better with Monaco’s second-goal, when he was pulled out of position by Lemar. His partnership with Kolarov does not look convincing.
15/22 Aleksander Kolarov 5
Struggled against the pace of Mbappe, the strength of Germain and utterly at fault for the crucial third goal.
16/22 Gael Clichy 6
One of the few City players to venture out of his half early on. But his distribution was lacklustre and, like Sagna, he struggled to stop his opposition full-back from raiding forward.
17/22 Fernandinho 6
Preferred by Guardiola to Yaya Toure for his greater energy, but as City’s only defensive midfielder, spent much of the game chasing shadows.
18/22 David Silva 6
Completely overshadowed by his namesake in the midfield. Grew into the game and one of City’s better players in the second-half, but will be disappointed with his display.
19/22 Kevin De Bruyne 6
Did better for City when he dropped deep and played in Sterling with a superb through-ball in the second-half, which the winger failed to take advantage of.
20/22 Raheem Sterling 6
Largely ineffectual although he did turn Mendy in the second-half, leading to Sane scoring City’s only goal.
21/22 Leroy Sane 7
Ineffectual in the first-half, City’s best player in the second. Scored their only goal and twice put it on a platter for Sergio Aguero, who endured a night to forget.
22/22 Sergio Aguero 4
One of the Argentinian’s poorest performances in a City shirt. Missed a hatful of chances in the second-half.
“We wanted to show personality, not to let them think, but they could pass and pass the ball,” Guardiola said. “We forgot to do that in the first half. My mistake was being not able to convince them to do that. I did in the second half, but it was too late.”
Guardiola has nearly been at City one full season but clearly he does not feel that he has fully imposed his personality and his values on the squad yet.
“I tried to get them thinking about it, trying to get them to go and attack and score goals,” he said. “We have to have more experience of this, realising it doesn't matter if we win or lose, but we have to be what we are. Respect our style, our strengths. It doesn't matter if we lose but we have to be what we are.”