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Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: Manchester City

Reports of a 4-0 defeat are not normally enjoyable and the reviews of Albion’s reverse at the hands of Manchester City were no exception. But most news outlets had at least some faint praise for the attempts of Graham Potter’s men to take the game to the Premier League champions.

By Nick Szczepanik • 01 September 2019

By Patrick Sullivan
Nick Szczepanik assesses the media's reaction to the game.

The Sunday Telegraph, for example, pointed out that, “despite the shellacking scoreline, Brighton’s Graham Potter can look back on this defeat with a degree of satisfaction.

“Brighton’s new boss is not going to die wondering what might happen if he attacked at Manchester City. Changing the system from three at the back, his team bravely took the game to their opponents at every opportunity.

“'The credit is for Brighton,’ said an impressed Pep Guardiola. ‘Few teams come here to play with this courage. Managers like Graham are good for football’.”

The Mirror reported that Guardiola had added: “’I love to see opposite teams play that way - that have that courage. They had chances to score as well but we were clinical’.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk

Nick Ames wrote in The Observer: “Brighton stuck to their guns, playing from the back in the face of a vigorous City press and creating opportunities to make things mildly awkward after going two down.

“It is easy to be magnanimous when you have won without reaching full throttle but Guardiola seemed genuinely heartened to have watched something he claimed was far removed from the timid fare visitors usually offer up.

“’Sometimes the opponents have the courage and personality to say OK, I am going to play,’ he said. ‘They played to hurt us and score goals. It is a good lesson for me. I learn from my colleague’.”

Word of Albion’s new approach has spread, if the report from Oliver Holt in the Mail on Sunday is anything to go by. He wrote: “Brighton, it was said, would try to beat the City press by playing the ball out from the back. They would beat Guardiola’s side at their own game. They would not sit back and try to soak up pressure as Chris Hughton’s side might have done when he was the boss on the south coast. They would come and have a go. They would take the game to City.

“Well, good luck with that. No one needed the benefit of hindsight to think it a little over-ambitious. It was a nice idea but it had about as much chance of working as trying to beat Lionel Messi in a dribbling contest. It did not take long for it to come unstuck, either. Just over a minute, in fact. Sixty-nine seconds, to be precise.

“Sure, Brighton were brave. And, yes, it contributed to a pleasing spectacle because Graham Potter’s side tried to play rather than park the bus. Guardiola said he learned a lot from Potter’s tactics. They even caused City some uncomfortable moments. But they lost 4-0.

“Brighton were not totally impotent. Nor did they abandon their style of play. And with better finishing, they could have put City under more pressure. Trossard was particularly profligate: one chance, just before half time was blocked by Ederson’s knee. Another, just after half time, with the goal gaping, was hit into the ground and nodded away by Fernandinho.

“City were not so charitable. Their finishing was merciless.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Leandro Trossard

What were Albion up against? According to Richard Jolly on The Independent website, “De Bruyne was superb, Aguero typically clinical. When his second goal flew past Mat Ryan, he had scored with seven consecutive shots on target in the Premier League. He has also found the net in every game this season: six in four games nonetheless feels routine for him.

“How Brighton, who carved out a couple of fine chances themselves but which the otherwise impressive Leandro Trossard missed, could have benefited from that cutting edge. Graham Potter had displayed his enterprising streak by switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation. The problem with a change of tactics is when they are rendered redundant before latecomers have taken their seats.

“City have the capacity to make the incisive appear easy and sliced through a recalibrated Brighton team. Zinchenko found Silva. He, in turn, De Bruyne, who found the net and, really, it seemed as simple as that.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Adam Webster

Ian Whittell laid out the facts even more starkly in the Sunday Times.

“City’s last 59 games against teams outside the recognised “big six” have brought Guardiola 51 victories, five draws and 158 points out of an available 177. The Premier League might like to trumpet itself as the world’s most competitive but the fact that Guardiola is guaranteed 2.7 points per game against the division’s 14 “other” clubs suggests otherwise.

“More worryingly, for that ever-dwindling group of clubs who believe they can prevent City winning a third successive title, the defending champions have seven more such fixtures before they travel to face Liverpool in November, by which point we may all be relieved if we can still consider this a two-horse title race.

“Guardiola rightly talked up the courageous approach of Brighton and manager Graham Potter to this latest non-contest, but, effectively, it was over inside 96 seconds.

“Potter emerged with nothing, apart from a painful lesson about the harsh realities of this division.

“'The result isn’t something we enjoy but the performance was one of real courage,’ he said. ‘Their application to try and do what we wanted was fantastic. We had a setback very early but they carried on showing great resilience, against a top, top, team’.”

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