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Pep Guardiola’s Orchestration Of Manchester City’s Semi-final Entry

Pep Guardiola, Phil Foden and Kyle Walker celebrating City's goal against Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park.
BEVERLY HILLS, April 15, (THEWILL) – Manchester City’s dreams of an unprecedented quadruple were kept alive by resilience, grit and tactical infusion of football efficiency, youth and talent. That was why, on Wednesday, Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, reached his eighth UEFA Champions League semi-final and, in so doing tied one of his fiercest rivals, Jose Mourinho, for the joint-most semi-final appearances in the history of Europe’s elite football competition.
It is a testament to the tactical bearing of the Spaniard, which was again evident in how he approached the second leg quarter-finals fixture against Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.
Guardiola decidedly stuck to his preference for a False 9 system. For the second time, the Etihad manager picked the young Foden ahead of the more established Raheem Sterling, which led some City fans to question his selection for the crucial decider in their pursuit of four titles but Guardiola was proven right as City looked calm and in control early on and finished with aplomb at the final whistle.
City’s close control was interrupted by another English young star that stole some of the headlines on the night. Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham pounced to give the Cityzens something to worry about with his goal after only a quarter of an hour played. Bellingham therefore became the youngest English Champions League goalscorer with a arrowing strike past Ederson Moraes, in goal for City.
City responded as Guardiola’s planned them to. His positioning of the tireless Belgian midfield enforcer straight in the central attacking slot allowed Kevin De Bruyne champion City’s attack against Dortmund. He took it upon himself to switch it up and hit the crossbar with a powerful strike after winning the ball back on the edge of the penalty area. Everything forward for City, bore De Bruyne’s signature.
It was the pattern of play Guardiola desired seeing as Dortmund had planned to close out City’s attack. By moving his midfield into the Etihad attacking framework and allowing Foden the liberty to operate from the wing in, Guardiola unsettled the backline of the hosts such that Bellingham needed to be at his defensive best to clear the ball off the line to deny Riyad Mahrez after the Algerian nearly got the equaliser.
Yet, Mahrez it was who levelled the scores for City 10 minutes into the second period with a well-struck penalty kick. The pressure from the Sky Blues peppered the Dortmund defense into error and Emre Can, who escaped giving away a penalty in the first leg with VAR intervention, was not so fortunate this time. Although Dortmund queried the decision, given that Can’s arm was in such an unnatural position it worked against them in City’s favour.
The possession statistics, 62%, reveal what a Masterclass Guardiola was having with City showing too much quality against their hosts. With four big chances out on the 12 created by City and a Pass Accuracy of 91% to go with the possession, the men from the Etihad were running Dortmund hard in their own Stadium. City knew they had to make something out of their chances as the game began to near its end.
That was where the decision to have Foden run in from the wing worked like a charm. He picked up a short corner, and giving himself time to pick his spot, arrowed a superb strike that just squeezed home. The clearest evidence of who he felt responsible for the goal was apparent when Foden ran straight to Guardiola, as the pair embraced, safe in the knowledge it was game over.
Over time many Football pundits have questioned Guardiola’s reluctance to push Foden, to give the young man the game numbers that will make his talent shine, that will establish him as the star he is meant to be or to let him leave on loan to a club where he could feature week in, week out, if there were no slots for his skills at City. All the while, Guardiola knew what he is doing.
He knew from experience not to exert so much pressure on a young player simply because of the player’s talent only to have him burnt out when needed the most, especially given the strain and injury-prone nature of the modern game. Following Guardiola’s strategy appeared to have benefitted the 19-year-old Foden, who is playing more games now, because he is both ready, and has been managed properly. And, the youngster recognises this.

His stunning strike earned City a comeback 2-1 win at Borussia Dortmund to book their a first Champions League semi-final spot in five years after a 4-2 aggregate scoreline. For a moment on Wednesday, it seemed history was about repeating itself for City. It appeared as though they were about to suffer a fourth successive Champions League quarter-final exit only for Can to be penalised for a handball and Mahrez equalised to calm City nerves.

But, Guardiola’s tactical master plan shone throughout the encounter, from his False 9 team selection, to the inclusion of Foden, to giving a directional advance authority in the midfield to the capable hands, and legs, of De Bruyne, it all panned out with their masterful play and youthful passion for the result that City desired.
For that, he and his charges have banished the demons of three quarter-final exits at this stage of the competition to once again submit their credentials as title contenders and keep on course, their drive for an unexampled quadruple.