Man City stars: We let Pep Guardiola down

Neither of Manchester City’s full-backs could defend the club’s players as the disappointment of Champions League exit lingers.

Man City stars: We let Pep Guardiola down

Gael Clichy insists the fault for a tame exit in Monaco lies more with the players than manager Pep Guardiola.

The left-back claims City deviated too much from Guardiola’s gameplan as they went down 3-1 on Wednesday to exit the competition at the last-16 stage on away goals.

Guardiola has been criticised for his determination to build on the 5-3 advantage established in the first leg by attacking rather than looking to sit back.

It was an understandable approach given the brittle nature of City’s defence but it backfired as Monaco established complete control early on, scoring twice in the first 30 minutes.

Clichy, however, felt it was the players who were to blame for not carrying out instructions. The Frenchman said: “He never told us to play deep, so of course we have to take responsibility for that.

“Since he took over at the club his philosophy is to go forward, to press the team we’re playing, to win the ball high up the field, and then pass the ball to a player who can be creative and make something happen, and we just didn’t do it.

“Willy (Caballero) made a great save in the first eight minutes and I just felt that first part of the game set the momentum, and it was not for us. We tried to react but they have quality and we suffered.

“We came back strongly in the second half and could have killed the game with those three or four chances in 20 minutes but we didn’t do it.

“It’s a big disappointment. When we play like the manager wants we can create problems for any team and if we’d started the game like we did the second half it could have been different.

“But we have to look forward to Liverpool (on Sunday) now because the season is not finished. We can win something still this year so we have to believe and finish strongly.”

Right-back Bacary Sagna admitted City “forgot to play” in the Stade Louis II.

“It is a massive disappointment. We forgot to play in the first half, we forgot to fight as a team, defend as a team, and press as a team. We gave them too much respect and against these kind of players, we put ourselves in danger.

“We have to congratulate them, they are through. We are out and we have to recover because on Sunday we have an important game.

“I expect a reaction from the team. I expect more desire, to show more passion. We did show passion in the second half but it is not enough.”

Clichy denied City lacked the mental strength to complete the job. He said: “Of course when you don’t win games people will talk and everyone has his own opinion.

“We are strong mentally but it’s never easy to come back into a game when you start like we did.”

Guardiola may have been heralded as the final piece in the jigsaw when appointed last summer but it now seems the Spaniard has a big rebuilding job on his hands.

Clichy and Sagna are among six players out of contract in the summer along with Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, and Caballero, while strengthening seems likely in a number of areas.

Clichy said: “Of course people will say things but we can only concentrate on the next game.

“What’s going to happen in three months is up to the chairman, the boss, and the club will carry on in his way.”

The head of the Manchester City Supporters Club believes the players will bitterly regret the opportunities they have squandered in the Champions League in the past two seasons.

Kevin Parker said: “It was very disappointing. It is difficult for me to understand how a team cannot be up for it. Every single player in the first half underperformed.

“I wonder when I look at players, do they not realise the opportunity that has passed them by? In the first half, it was reminiscent of the performance in the semi-final in Madrid last year.

“There almost seemed no belief in that semi-final. Even though they scored first, in reality all they needed to do was get a goal in Madrid, but there just seemed no belief.”

“That probably surprises me more than anything, that a player would miss that opportunity. They may think they might get the opportunity again, but in reality I don’t know how many of that group will get the opportunity again.”

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