Guardiola angered by ongoing Man City penalty issues
One of football’s most meticulous and thoughtful managers, Pep Guardiola seemingly can’t find an answer to a major flaw that is hurting his Manchester City side.
The relatively simple task of converting a penalty.
“It’s a problem,” a puzzled Guardiola said after watching Riyad Mahrez fail to score from a kick – again – in Borussia Dortmund’s 0-0 draw in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Since Guardiola took charge of City in 2016, the side have failed to score 25 of their 80 penalties in all competitions – excluding shootouts. No Premier League team has a worse record from the penalty spot in this era.
Nine players stepped up to take regulation penalties during that span, with Mahrez and now-retired Sergio Aguero being the biggest culprits at 12 yards (meters). Aguero has scored 20 of his 28 penalties while Mahrez also has a 71% success rate with 10 scored from 14 attempts.
While Mahrez’s latest failure didn’t prove too costly as City had already progressed to the last 16, there have been significant misses or penalties saved in recent years.
In the first leg of the 2019 Champions League quarter-finals, Aguero had a penalty saved by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to deprive City of a crucial away goal before Spurs won 1-0 . City left the competition at this stage on away goals.
Mahrez smashed a kick over the crossbar in the 86th minute in City’s 0-0 draw with title rivals Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League in October 2018.
Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan also failed to score penalties against Liverpool in the league under Guardiola.
There was even a game, against Wolverhampton, where Raheem Sterling – who is now at Chelsea – had a penalty saved before he was ordered to take it back because the goalkeeper was off his line. The second attempt was also saved, only for Sterling to score a rebound.
“We missed 25 penalties, most of them in the Champions League. It’s too much,” Guardiola said. “I always admire their courage, (taking) the responsibility to do it, but of course we missed a lot of penalties and that’s a problem.
“We have to improve otherwise it’s the small margins in this competition that could make the difference.”
And Guardiola knows all too well the pain of missed penalties in the Champions League.
When he was at Barcelona, Guardiola saw Lionel Messi hit a penalty against the bar in the second leg of the semi-finals against Chelsea in 2012. That would have put Barcelona ahead 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate, and the The Spanish team ended up conceding a late goal to get knocked out.
When in charge of Bayern Munich, Guardiola saw Thomas Mueller register a penalty against Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the semi-finals in 2016 and his side eventually dropped the away goals rule.
At City, Guardiola has previously suggested his goalkeeper, Ederson Moraes, could be the club’s best penalty taker. Ederson has yet to take one, however.
And City’s problem could be that penalties were spread too thinly during Guardiola’s time.
“I don’t think it helps that there hasn’t been that consistency,” former City defender Joleon Lescott has told BT Sport. “I think Riyadh was that taker, De Bruyne took them, Gundogan, now (Erling) Haaland.
“I think in all the teams we’ve played in there’s always been a consistent penalty taker.”
Haaland, City’s new star striker, was off the pitch when City won the penalty against Dortmund. Otherwise he would have taken it, having converted two from two so far in his first season at the club – most recently against Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.
Haaland was also not on the pitch when Mahrez picked up a penalty against FC Copenhagen in City’s previous Champions League game.
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This story was originally published October 26, 2022 6:23 a.m.