No Pep, no pop. No Pep, no pep. This being the Champions League group stage it was only strike one for Manchester City. It was, however, a sobering reminder of what life may one day be like around here when the Catalan circus has left town. Perhaps an emboldening vision of the future for City’s rivals, too.
It was obvious the talismanic figure Manchester City were missing and it wasn’t a player. Not captain Vincent Kompany, the prolific Sergio Aguero, or record signing Riyad Mahrez on the bench — although any of that three could have made a difference in a deeply unsatisfactory, borderline disastrous, first-half.
No, the man they needed was imprisoned in the stand, looking as lost as his charges. Pep Guardiola, banned from the touchline for his sending off against Liverpool last season, his absence a hole in the space-time continuum. Whatever might be said of Mikel Arteta as Guardiola’s shadow, his right-hand man or possible successor, this defeat was proof, if any were needed, of the influence of the modern super-coaches.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson 6; Walker 5, Stones 6.5, Laporte 6, Delph 5; Fernandinho 5, Gundogan 5.5 (Sane 55, 6.5), D Silva 6; B Silva 7, Jesus 5 (Aguero 63, 6.5), Sterling 6.5 (Mahrez 76)
Subs not used: Muric, Kompany, Otamendi, Foden
Goals: B Silva 67
Manager: Pep Guardiola 5
Lyon (4-2-3-1): Lopes 7; Rafael 6.5 (Dubois 76), Marcelo 7, Denayer 6, Mendy 6.5; Ndombele 8, Diop 7; Cornet 7 (Traore 90), Fekir 7.5 (Tousart 79), Aouar 6.5; Depay 7
Subs not used: Gorgelin, Dembele, Traore, Ferri, Morel
Goals: Cornet 26, Fekir 43
Bookings: Fekir, Traore
Manager: Brunel Genesio 7
Referee: Daniele Orsato 6.
The same Manchester City players that frequently appear unstoppable under Guardiola’s intense pitchside tutelage were suddenly sloppy, even slow. City’s build up was ponderous, their use of the ball careless. Kyle Walker at one time passed directly to an orange Lyonnais shirt, almost unthinking.
For Lyon’s opening goal, City were shockingly slack from the heart of midfield, to their reaction to danger, to their defence of goal. Perched in the middle tier, Guardiola had been sitting with his feet up, but not in the confident way a man might rest his shoes on a polished desk in a corner office, king of the world. He looked hunched, he looked tense. He knew it wasn’t right. He could see things he did not like, unfamiliar attitudes, unfamiliar errors.
He must have wanted to go at them, as he would from his technical area, or in the dressing-room given the 15 half-time minutes to do his stuff. Instead, here he was; amid the prawn sandwiches and the fine diners. City have the swanky Tunnel Club. Guardiola was just in a hole.
The mood around the place does not help at times like these. It is not the fault of an empty seat that Fabian Delph misses his kick at a vital moment, yet when one recalls the atmosphere at Anfield last night and the way Liverpool swept Paris Saint-Germain aside, one cannot help but compare it unfavourably with City’s own European experience.
Booing the Champions League anthem is not the issue — more should do it — but it does begin the thought process that this is not a competition that the club takes to its heart. Then there are the empty seats. A significant number, all around, suggesting either complacency — ‘we’ll go later on, when it matters’ — or apathy, ‘it’s only Lyon, who cares’.