Pep Guardiola’s greatest strength became Manchester City’s glaring weakness

As detailed in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the grandfather paradox determines that it would be impossible for a man to travel back in time to kill his own grandfather because he would then never have been born to travel back in time.

There is no solution because it is an unsolvable paradox.

In reality, we can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and that’s exactly what makes Pep Guardiola one of the greatest managers in the world, the Manchester City boss’ ability to make pioneering tactical changes has earned him extraordinary success.

However, the taste of success that City have become so accustomed to in recent seasons wasn’t served on the menu at the Estádio do Dragão on Saturday night, their first Champions League final ending in defeat when Kai Havertz bundled the ball past Ederson.

There were thousands of City fans – 6,000 in the stadium but more across Porto’s bars and marinas – that made the pilgrimage to Portugal, it was supposed to be the crowning moment of an incredible season, the fitting farewell for club legend Sergio Aguero.

Instead, the game ended with Aguero overwhelmed with emotion and in tears on the pitch – it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

The Blues’ greatest strength this season was their ability to evolve with every game, initially overcoming a disappointing start in the Premier League before embarking on an electric streak of form which allowed them to clinch their third league title under Guardiola.

Although it now seems an eternity away, Guardiola started the first game of the season against Wolves with two holding midfielders in the double pivot, entrusting Rodri and Fernandinho to protect his back four that was yet to be defined by Ruben Dias’ arrival.

That pairing of Rodri and Fernandinho was ruthlessly exposed by Leicester when they scored five goals at the Etihad in September and the ghosts of 2019/20 returned, but Guardiola reacted to that defeat and switched to this season’s brilliant 4-3-3 formation.

It’s therefore fascinating – or frustrating – that Guardiola finished the campaign with not one player protecting his defence in midfield, suddenly abandoning the very system that got City to the final and Fernandinho’s omission arguably proved their undoing.

Do you think Fernandinho would have made the difference in the Champions League final? Have your say in the comments here.

It’s apparent that Guardiola’s greatest strength of making tactical tweaks can become his glaring weakness at times and Saturday’s defeat was a timely reminder that the Catalan isn’t perfect, which is genuinely sometimes hard to propose considering his record.

Although it’s not as simple as suggesting that Fernandinho not starting was the sole reason for City’s Champions League humbling, it’s hard to imagine Chelsea’s goal would have happened if the Brazilian was on the pitch, sitting in front of Dias and John Stones.

But, Fernandinho didn’t start and we can’t change the past, we can only learn from it. Guardiola will certainly grow from the lessons of Saturday’s defeat and this City team will evolve and return better for it – it’s just a shame Aguero won’t be there to benefit.