The Travel Challenge
After a match away to Newcastle United on Wednesday night, Manchester City’s squad find themselves facing an unusual travel predicament. Under normal circumstances, the preferred modes of transport back from away fixtures are either by plane or train. However, the night’s end revealed no late-night trains available for their journey back to the North West. Additionally, soaring back to Manchester via flight wasn’t on the cards either.
The solution? A somewhat tedious coach journey that spans 145 miles, with an expected arrival time of about 2am on Thursday.
What This Means for The Squad
On the surface, it might seem like a trivial hitch in plans. However, the ramifications of such a disruption are substantial, especially given the team’s rigorous schedule ahead. Manchester City are set to face Wolverhampton Wanderers by 3pm on Saturday, a Premier League showdown. Further intensifying their schedule, City have the daunting task of four away games in a mere span of 11 days.
Guardiola elucidated, “We will try to handle the minutes [of the players] because after [the match], we cannot come back by plane because of a problem or something with the planes. We don’t have planes to travel back, so we have to take a bus, it’s two or three hours [longer].”
Furthermore, as reported by The Times, Guardiola continued, “We arrive here so late — I’m not sure what time — and on Friday we travel to Wolves. Then we go to Germany to play [RB Leipzig] in the Champions League and that is a really important game for us.”
Squad Dynamics in Focus
Guardiola, known for his unique approach, operates with a small squad, ensuring each player feels an intrinsic part of the team throughout the season. Currently, his senior outfield roster consists of 20 players, a mix of young talent and established names. Yet, this strategy comes with its own set of challenges. Injuries or suspensions, like the absence of Bernardo Silva and John Stones for the Newcastle match, force Guardiola to rely heavily on his key players, leading to potential fatigue.
Guardiola admitted, “This competition [the Carabao Cup] is perfect in the first round and second rounds when you have a full squad because you have a few players who can play who have not played much and you still get rhythm — but in this situation we have now, you have to approach it differently and prioritise other things.”
Guardiola’s keen observation hasn’t missed the evident fatigue in Kyle Walker. “Kyle Walker is exhausted. He has played 90 minutes after 90 minutes, up and down, up and down like a full back — not like last year when he was controlling play in the middle.”
Acknowledging the high stakes and the risk of injuries, he added, “He has spent a lot of energy so he has to rest, otherwise he will be out for weeks and we don’t want that.”
As the team gears up for the series of matches ahead, one can only hope that Manchester City’s travel woes don’t translate into their performance on the field.