Paul Merson: Manchester City are losing their fear factor

Paul Merson thinks Manchester City are losing their fear factor under Pep Guardiola with opposition teams not scared to “have a go” at them.

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‘I can’t see how Man City win the Champions League’

For how great Pep Guardiola is, at the back they are struggling. Bournemouth ripped them apart, with chance after chance!

I think a lot of teams have lost the fear factor with Man City. They are great going forward, with some mind-blowing players. But teams now approach them and think: ‘If we play 10 behind the ball for 95 minutes, we’re getting beat, we’re getting broken down by the end of the game.’


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Teams are now having a go at them, because they know there’s a goal in it. I know teams are going to be on the end of a 5-0 or a 6-0, but they’ve lost that fear factor because the defence is not good enough. That’s been the case since the restart, too. I’ve looked at them in the last five weeks and I can’t see how they can possibly win the Champions League.

Every European team left in the competition are all top heavy with forward-thinking players. How are they going to stop Real Madrid scoring? I just don’t see it. PSG, Bayern Munich, whoever. I don’t see.

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They’ve lost nine Premier League games. That’s a quarter of their season! You cannot win the league like that! Nine games! That’s one more than Man Utd and Wolves, and the same as Arsenal!

One thing about City is they don’t go on long slumps; they might lose one or two but then they’ll win 5-0 and all is forgotten.

‘Arteta has done a phenomenal job’

Arsenal have a plan, they go and press when they have to, drop off when they don’t, they play with high energy and counter attack as a team.

They were outstanding against Man City. That was David Luiz – there’s no grey area – he’s either 9/10 or 4/10. But when he plays like that, he’s brilliant.

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Arteta has done an absolutely phenomenal job. It’s the first time I’ve watched Arsenal in many, many years, and they have a plan.

Man City were up for it in the second half, and Arsenal put themselves on the line. I honestly think he’s done a brilliant job. I can’t talk highly enough of him.

Against Liverpool, Arsenal rode their luck, but that’s Arsenal now. They can’t play against Liverpool and Man City as if they are the favourites, they have to grind it out like Sheffield United have to grind it out. That’s what Arsenal must do now.

‘You are judged on trophies!’

It’s clear that Man Utd’s next two league games are more important than the FA Cup semi-final. More important than winning a trophy. I cannot catch my breath.

If that’s Jose Mourinho, he is playing his strongest team. You win trophies. You are judged on trophies!

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to win something! If he wins the FA Cup it’s massive for him! There are only a few trophies he can win in a season!

This is on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He’s not going to be manager at Manchester United for the next 15 years, is he? Sooner or later when he goes on a bad run he’s going to be out of a job. That’s football now. When you lose games, you’re out. If he loses his job and he has an FA Cup, he has an unbelievable CV!

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If Mourinho was in Man Utd’s position yesterday, knowing he has Arsenal in the final, he plays his strongest possible team.

At the end of his career, Mourinho can say: “I won this, this, this, this, this, this and this. Oh, and this and this.” There won’t be an asterisks next to one FA Cup which says: “Oh, that year we finished fifth instead of fourth.” It’s all about trophies!

I was flabbergasted at his team selection. I couldn’t believe it.

Lampard manager of the year?

I thought Chelsea were outstanding, absolutely brilliant. Chelsea are in the same position as Man Utd, and they played a strong side. They’ve got to go to Liverpool and play at home to Wolves!

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Frank Lampard knows if he wins the FA Cup, it’s a huge achievement. We spoke about this being a consolidating year for Chelsea, well he’s two games away from the top four and he’s one game from the FA Cup. For his first year in the top flight, where he couldn’t buy a player, he should get manager of the year! It’s phenomenal.

‘Jose has won everything… players must change for him’

Jose Mourinho is a special manager, and Tottenham have to buy into him. He arrives at Tottenham with all of these trophies, he can’t change the way he plays to suit players who haven’t won anything. You can’t do that.

People say to me: “Jose has to change, the game has changed.” It hasn’t changed that much!

At the end of the day, you have to be very good defensively. If you’re not, you’re not winning anything. That hasn’t changed.

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There’s one thing I agree on with Jose Mourinho, and it’s that he is one of the top managers in the world, and you have to listen to him. I think the players will buy into it, and if they do, I think Spurs have every chance of finishing in the top four next season.

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