SOUNESS: Pep can do whatever he wants at City, but he knows digging up De Bruyne in public is a big risk
When I was playing at Liverpool, you knew if the coaching staff thought you were offside because they happened to ask you a question or two when they passed in a hallway or on the training ground.
‘Are you okay, son? Everything is good at home?
And then you would know. You would know they were wondering about you. From then on, it’s up to you to fix it. I didn’t need to be told if I wasn’t fully aware. I would know and I would dedicate myself to fixing it in the training field. Hard work.
I firmly believe that not everything has changed between my day and this one. I still think the best players know when their standards have dropped. They don’t need to be told. In general, they will be self-motivated.
And this in turn makes me think of Kevin De Bruyne and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola could regret criticizing Manchester City superstar Kevin De Bruyne last week
The Belgian midfielder returned with a point to prove against Red Bull Leipzig on Tuesday night
De Bruyne has been City’s best player in the last five years. He has been one of the top three or four players in the entire country. Four Premier League titles. An FA Cup. Almost 100 caps for Belgium. It’s some cv What a player.
However, this season he has not played in some important games. He was in the one City lost to Tottenham last month, for example, and he didn’t start that day. Strange. And now Guardiola has dug it up a bit in public.
This week he said De Bruyne had to get back to doing the simple things right.
I have my theories as to why this may have happened. It could be part of a deliberate tactic aimed at motivating the entire team.
Someone told me that Sir Alex Ferguson used to do this with Ryan Giggs.
He would deliberately pick on him and sometimes David Beckham in front of the other Manchester United players. He would send the team a message that no one, not even two of the club’s best players, was safe from criticism.
He would help ensure that a talented group of footballers kept their feet on the ground. Fergie probably got that from her mentor Jock Stein.
Jock used to do that with me and Kenny Dalglish when we were in Scotland. He would dig us up in front of the rest. We knew what he was doing.
Soccer is a team game, so sometimes you have to accept some of that deal.
Sir Alex Ferguson (right) used to call out star midfielder Ryan Giggs (left) in an effort to motivate his entire Manchester United team, just as Guardiola has done with De Bruyne.
Maybe Guardiola is doing that. Perhaps he is prodding De Bruyne to ensure the rest are ready to level up before the most important part of a season that has not always been easy for them. For all I know, De Bruyne may even be involved.
But I also know this. Criticizing modern players in public is a risk for a coach. I would venture to say that it is now a last resort and trainers and coaches need to be very careful. Guardiola is safe at City. He is almost unique in that. He can pretty much do whatever he pleases. But even he will know what can happen when a dressing room is turned upside down.
It’s hard for managers these days. They have to talk a lot to the media. It must be suffocating. Of the ones I played, only Jock would have managed.
Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan were brilliant football men, but they would not have been comfortable in today’s environment, where everything you say or do as a manager is scrutinized and scrutinized.
When he directed, he was careful. Criticizing one player in front of the whole team carries risks of its own. Doing it in the media, even more. These days, players and their agents can run a guy out of town pretty easily once the mood in the locker room changes.
De Bruyne played well against RB Leipzig on Tuesday night so it could be said that Guardiola’s tactic worked, that his words had the desired effect.
Likewise, De Bruyne can be the type of player who doesn’t pay attention to noise and just does his thing.
Guardiola’s bold decision to remove De Bruyne (left) may have the Belgian’s blessing
I thought what he himself said at the World Cup was strange.
With Belgium struggling in the group stage, he basically said in the media that some of his own teammates, perhaps, weren’t up to it anymore. If I was on that team, I wouldn’t have accepted it.
All the great players had egos in my day. It would be wrong to say otherwise. But now they are on another level.
Premier League players are financially secure and that makes all the difference in terms of how far you can push them. They are much more prepared to challenge managers.
Given De Bruyne’s status within the game, I’m sure he won’t have enjoyed being publicly called out by his coach this week.
If Guardiola is playing a game then you have to expect him to win. City have a title to defend and a Champions League to win. They will need De Bruyne every step of the way.
He was on a mission Tuesday and capped off his fine display with a long-range shot.
Casemiro will be a marked man among the referees
I enjoyed the physical challenges football presented during my career, but was sent off only once in the English game.
I was a relative kid playing for Middlesbrough and I punched Stan Ternent.
Coping well at places like Hull, Bury and Burnley, Stan was a tough midfielder and would not have fazed. He missed him anyway.
My point is that he knew how to keep me in check, for the most part.
Casemiro at Manchester United is not a dirty player either, but he has a record. Consider this: in his last three and a half seasons for Manchester United and Real Madrid, he has been booked 53 times! That is awesome.
Man United’s Casemiro isn’t a dirty player, but you don’t get two red cards quickly by accident
He has also been sent off three times, the last red card being against Southampton last weekend.
As I said, I don’t think he’s a malicious player but throughout his 10-year career he has averaged about 15 yellow cards per season and numbers like this don’t accumulate by chance.
The upshot of his second red card for United in a short space of time is that when he returns from his four-game suspension, he will find referees to take care of him, and not in a good way.
In football, a reputation for being someone who likes to play on the edge of the law can be hard to shake.
Arsenal’s strange routines typify the modern game
I read the story about Arsenal bringing the comforts of their home into their rivals’ dressing rooms and had to re-read it to make sure it wasn’t a joke.
Actually? Is this what the modern game has become?
So do Arsenal players arrive at Fulham to find their own clock on the wall along with their own photos and stickers?
It is extremely rare and only a winning trainer can get away with it.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is doing a good job, but he has form for such nonsense.
Mikel Arteta is doing a great job at Arsenal, but his bizarre routines typify the modern game.
Arsenal players displayed a replica of the iconic clock above the Clock End at the Emirates Stadium in the away dressing room after their 3-0 win against Fulham.
Last season he played You’ll Never Walk Alone over the loudspeakers at training to prepare his players for a match at Anfield. They lost 4-0, so it went well for them.
When I went into an opposite locker room I didn’t want to feel comfortable. I didn’t want to feel like I was in my living room at home. I was at work. I was in enemy territory and I wanted to feel excited.
If I had reached a far field and found an Anfield clock waiting for me on the wall, I would have laughed.
And I would not have been alone.