If Man City keep talking about being tired they’ll start to believe it

GRAEME SOUNESS: Never in my 50-odd years in this game have I heard a player say he had to come off the pitch because he was too tired. I was surprised to hear about Man City’s substitutions.


Never in my 50-odd years in this game have I heard a player say he had to come off the pitch because he was too tired.

So I was surprised to hear Pep Guardiola say that Kevin De Bruyne, Erling Haaland and Manuel Akanji had asked to be substituted against Real Madrid the other night because they ‘could not continue’. That’s something I’ve never witnessed.

I can only presume that Guardiola was protecting De Bruyne and Haaland, that they were feeling something or carrying knocks, as that’s the only explanation surely for taking off your most creative player and top goalscorer when chasing the game in a Champions League quarter-final.

De Bruyne is 32 now and has been picking up a few muscle injuries while Haaland has had one or two niggles, so I could understand, with City still having so much to play for, that they would be taken off for their own good in that respect but tired, surely not.

I was never tired by the demands of a game when I played and yes, of course, it was different in those days, when for most of the season we were playing on pitches that resembled a farmer’s field and you were allowed to be aggressive in the tackle too.

In Joe Fagan’s Liverpool side of 1984, we won a league title using just 15 players, no-one was complaining of tiredness then, that squad also won a European Cup and the Milk Cup with four players clocking up 67 games while I managed 61. I found that after three days rest between games I was ready to go again. The only time you would see a player coming off was for their own protection. As a manager it was either myself, or the physio or doctor saying ‘Hey, get off, you’re done.’

The danger is we heard it the other week from Guardiola and then Rodri that they were too tired and needed a rest. It’s not helpful when you keep talking about it as your brain starts to believe it and then you will feel tired. I fear it may be more to do with sports scientists and the enormous influence they exert on our big football clubs today. They just need to park those comments and move on.

To be fair to City they must be scratching their heads how they didn’t win anyway against Real Madrid.

It was quite amazing how our best passing and pressing team made the biggest football club in the world look very ordinary. It says something when you see Carlo Ancelotti resorting to telling his goalkeeper to just launch it because they couldn’t play out from the back and had no answer to City’s pressing game. City had 67percent possession and 33 shots, so that defeat will be a really hard one to take because they are not doing a lot wrong.

Similarly with Arsenal, they lose to Bayern Munich and novice analysts of our game are looking for reasons that aren’t there. That Bayern side has not been consistent enough this season, the first time they haven’t been dominant in the Bundesliga for 11 years, but the stars they have in that team mean that they can turn it on against anyone on any given night. Arsenal looked a bit laboured and they lacked creativity in the centre of midfield. They are over reliant on Martin Odegaard for the cuteness of pass, but they are still better than they were last season.

It’s early doors for this Arsenal team, they are not quite good enough at this level yet. A Champions League quarter final is about right for where they are. They lost to Aston Villa last week and people are saying the failings from last season are coming back. That’s nonsense. Their season isn’t over. You can’t say they haven’t improved on what they were last year. The test for them is to deal with the disappointment now and go again. It’s the same for them, City and Liverpool – the title race is still on.

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