Football News

Pep Guardiola rejects Man City’s ‘set-piece weakness’ criticism

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 15:55, 15 September 2019

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has dismissed the notion that his side has a problem defending at set-pieces following their shock 3-2 defeat at Norwich City.

The defending Premier League champions suffered a first defeat of the season to Daniel Farke’s men which subsequently led to many questioning their defensive prowess.

Do Man City have a set-piece problem? Five key things to know…

  • No team has conceded more from set-pieces this season than Man City (3).
  • Kenny McLean’s opener in Norwich’s 3-2 win came from a corner.
  • It follows similar efforts from Lucas Moura (Spurs) and Harry Wilson (Bournemouth) earlier this season.
  • Guardiola, though, stressed defending set-pieces isn’t a weakness for his side.
  • Defeat at Carrow Road has left the defending champions five points behind pacesetters Liverpool.

City found themselves 2-0 down inside the opening 30 minutes with both Norwich goals easily preventable; the first via a corner and the second came after right-back Kyle Walker kept the Canaries’ attack onside.

Being the high-quality side they are, City got back into the game through a Sergio Aguero header, but the hosts restored their two-goal lead when Emiliano Buendia robbed compatriot Nicolas Otamendi to tee up Teemu Pukki for his sixth goal of the season.

Rodri pulled one back late on, however, the damage was already done. It means after five matches played City are five points behind early pacesetters Liverpool, who are yet to drop any points.

Guardiola, naturally, was pressed for answers post-match but the two-time Premier League winner was adamant defending set-pieces is not City’s kryptonite.

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“Sometimes games like this happen – we had our chances to score but didn’t, so congratulations to Norwich,” he said.

“It is football – we had many opportunities today, they had three or four and scored three goals. The first one was a set-piece we didn’t defend, the second we were caught on the counter-attack and the third came from a mistake, but we know what we are as a team, we know what we have done and we know what we are going to do.

“I love my players and it’s a pleasure to be with them. They didn’t create so many chances, but they got three goals – we played Bournemouth and they had more chances than Norwich did today, but we won that game – football can sometimes do this.

“We’ve defended set-pieces really well in the past and in four years, our standard has been so high, so it is not a weakness.”

Practice makes perfect

To say Norwich did their homework is an understatement. Heading into the game, Man City had previously conceded two goals via set-pieces one of which was Lucas Moura’s header in a 2-2 draw with Spurs.

McLean, who headed Norwich in front, revealed the work that took place on the training ground included practicing front-post runs after it was identified as one of City’s vulnerabilities.

“The ball from Emi was perfect,” McLean told the club’s official website.

“I usually make that front post run for set pieces and we felt there was a vulnerability in the front post area for Man City. It’s something we worked on, that’s not a coincidence. That’s stuff that we look at throughout the week.

“This isn’t luck. We’ve put the hard work and the practice in and we always believe we can get points.”