Gael Clichy admitted that the Manchester City players “have to take responsibility” for failing to implement Pep Guardiola’s plans as they went out Europe in Monaco on Wednesday night. Many of those defeated players are now likely to feel the consequences this summer.
Guardiola was furious with his players after the game, strengthening the suspicion that he is planning a major clear-out this summer of an ageing squad which is not going to get close to the Premier League or Champions League this season, the two trophies City want the most.
Clichy admitted that “of course there are going to be some new faces” this summer and there is now a prospect of Guardiola replacing older players who have struggled to implement his football with younger ones who can.
That would put a whole generation of players, including Clichy, under threat but there is a feeling now at City that Guardiola has taken these players, many of them bought back between 2010 and 2012, as far as he can. There are six senior players out of contract this summer and Guardiola wants them to prove that they deserve new contracts rather than simply handing them out as if by habit. This means that some of City’s most influential players, including Yaya Toure, are still in the dark as to where they will be playing next season.
While Toure’s dropping in Monaco raised eyebrows at City, and with the fans, Toure has been one of City’s best players since his reintegration into the team since last November. He has certainly been better than the other players whose contracts are up: Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta, Jesus Navas and Willy Caballero. The Argentine goalkeeper may have done enough since replacing Claudio Bravo as first choice to stay.
Beyond those, the players out on loan, Joe Hart, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony, Jason Denayer and Eliaquim Mangala are likely to make their moves permanent, while the club also decides what to do with their youngsters currently on loan all over Europe.
No matter who goes, Guardiola is sure to want plenty of new faces, especially in defence. Guardiola arrived at City last summer wanting a whole new back four. City only signed John Stones, who was one of their better players on Wednesday, and were left with four full-backs in their 30s, unable to provide Guardiola with the pace out wide that he needs.
Clichy acknowledged that the club would recruit heavily this summer as they seek to rebuild. “What’s going to happen in three months is up to the chairman, the boss and the club will carry on in its way,” he said. “Of course there are going to be some new faces.”
There is now real pressure on this City squad, and on Guardiola, to win the FA Cup this season. If they do that they can finish the season with some sense of pride and achievement. If they do not then they will have nothing to show for their first season working under Guardiola, to say nothing of the huge amounts of money they spent last summer.
“We can win something still this year so we have to believe and finish strongly,” Clichy said. “We still have the FA Cup, we want to be as close as possible to Chelsea as we can in the league and there are still some games to go so the message is to finish strong.”
Clichy know that they will need to play better than they did in Monaco though if they are to succeed, especially with a Premier League game against Liverpool on Sunday, and an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal next month.
“We did not play how the manager wants us to play,” Clichy admitted after the defeat. “We dropped, we did not press and he does not like that. At half-time his message was ‘if you have to go out of this competition, at least go out playing the way you want to play.’”
There is no doubt about how Guardiola wants City to play. The blame belongs to the players for not putting his plans into action. “We have to take responsibility because he never told us to play deep,” Clichy admitted. “So of course we have to take responsibility for that. When we play like the manager wants we can create problems for any team but we have to look forward to Liverpool now because the season is not finished so we have to make sure we finish strongly.” Whatever happens next, some of these players might be finished at City anyway.