Time Has Run Out for City and Kompany

Published: 19th March 2015 11:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th March 2015 11:10 AM   |  A+A-


Manchester City's Vincent Kompany had a torrid night at the Nou Camp on Wednesay.

BARCELONA: For the president this was less than presidential. For Manchester City this was a defeat by a landslide even if the majority was modest. But it felt like the end of a term and the need for a change of policy; a new manifesto.

That Vincent Kompany, the erstwhile "president" for club and country because of his influence, faced Lionel Messi and Barcelona in this form was a stroke of cruelty. Barca were breathtaking and Messi occupied a different stratosphere as he attempted death by nutmeg.

In the face of this beauty, City became the beast. Four yellow cards inside the first 35 minutes with the challenges by Samir Nasri and Aleksandar Kolarov imbued with an ugly kind of cynicism. They lost the tie and lost their heads.

It was ironic given the claims by City manager Manuel Pellegrini that his team had to keep 11 players on the pitch if they were to hold any chance. They were already a man down it appeared, given Messi's supernatural ability.

In the face of all this it was no shame to go out to Barcelona as the Premier League surrendered its last opportunity to have a team in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. After all City always faced the hardest draw and more blame is attached, in this round, to Arsenal and Chelsea.

But at least those clubs have gone further in the past - admittedly not for five years for Arsenal - as City have shown precious little sign of learning how to cope with this competition.

Of course they needed a special night from their big names, from Sergio Aguero, from Yaya Toure,who was a shadow of himself and eventually suffered the ignominy of substitution, from David Silva but above all they needed a big performance from the lynchpin of their defence, from their captain, in the face of this frightening, dazzling array of attacking talent. They did not get it.

Instead Kompany, who has struggled so badly this season through a loss of form, through the consequences of injuries perhaps that he can no longer be regarded as the finest centre-half in the Premier League, looked almost fearful.

City were creaking as early as the seventh minute when Kompany dawdled on the edge of his own penalty area to allow Dani Alves to steal the ball away from him. Messi quickly ferried it on to Neymar and his low shot cannoned of the inside of the post. Kompany was then at fault for Ivan Rakitic's goal. It appeared the blame lay with Bacary Sagna, who had a torrid evening, but for the goal it was because his captain had been drawn to the ball, drawn mesmerically to Messi like a moth to the flame, that the right-back was then himself pulled across to mark Neymar - leaving Rakitic on his own.

The Croat lifted the ball past Joe Hart as Kompany ran back to cover. Too late. Where was the covering midfielder also? Where was either Fernandinho or Toure?

Then Luis Suarez also struck the post as Kompany pushed up to create a high line in defence, which was sliced open with a simple through-ball. Again the Belgian was nowhere to be seen as Martin Demichelis desperately scampered back.

There was more.

Kompany was undone by a quick one-two between Messi and Andres Iniesta before Hart saved Messi's shot. Kompany then challenged Suarez only to send the ball straight to Neymar. Otherwise too often Kompany took the easy option. He stepped off rather than attacking the ball.

But he was not alone in making bad choices. Again Pellegrini got his approach and formation wrong. Playing Toure in a two in the centre of midfield did not work. The game passed him by before eventually Pellegrini changed tactics.

It was ragged and wrong until then.

No shame to be beaten in this company, then, but with a club of City's ambition and wealth the reality is they are serial failures in the Champions League and as they slowly trudged off the Nou Camp turf this may have been the last opportunity to defy that statement for several players.

They will reflect on the narrowness of the scoreline, on Joe Hart's heroics and Aguero's missed penalty but the gulf was there. City are getting old.

It has been well-documented that they have the oldest team in the Premier League and Kompany, for example, was their third-youngest player last night. And he is 28. The average age of the squad is 29. The average age of the team last night was 29 and two months. The bench was even older - an average age of 30.

The average age of the Barcelona team was 27 years and five months and that is a crucial difference of almost two years younger.

It showed while there is also time on the side of their team, it does not exist for Kompany and co.

City may need a new Kompany in more ways than one.


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