SOUNESS: Pep digging out De Bruyne in public is a big risk

GRAEME SOUNESS: Pep Guardiola can do as he likes at Man City… but he knows digging out De Bruyne in public is a big risk and the Belgian will not have enjoyed being criticised by his boss

  • Pep Guardiola criticised Kevin De Bruyne ahead of Man City’s clash with Leipzig
  • The Belgian midfielder returned with a point to prove in City’s rampant 7-0 win 
  • Top players don’t need coaches to tell them when their standards have dropped

When I was playing at Liverpool, you would know if the coaching staff thought you were off your game because they would casually ask you a question or two as they passed you in a corridor or on the training field.

‘You OK, son? Everything all right at home?’

And then you would know. You would know they were wondering about you. From that point on, it was up to you to fix it. I didn’t need to be told if I wasn’t quite on it. I would know and I would set about putting it right on the training pitch. Work harder.

I firmly believe not everything has changed between my day and this one. I still think top players know when their standards have dropped. They don’t need telling. On the whole, they will self-motivate.

And this in turn makes me wonder about Kevin De Bruyne and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola could regret criticising 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 for the last five years. He has been one of the top three or four players in the whole country. Four Premier League titles. An FA Cup. Almost 100 caps for Belgium. It’s some c.v. What a player.

Yet this season he hasn’t played in some important games. I was at the one City lost at Tottenham last month, for example, and he didn’t start that day. Strange. And now Guardiola has dug him out a little in public. 

This week he said De Bruyne had to get back to doing the simple things well.

I have my theories about why this may have happened. It could be part of a deliberate tactic aimed at motivating the whole squad.

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. It would send the squad a message that nobody – even two of the best players at the club – was safe from criticism.

It would help to make sure a talented group of footballers kept their feet on the ground. Fergie probably got that from his mentor Jock Stein.

Jock used to do that with me and Kenny Dalglish when we were with Scotland. He would dig us out in front of the rest. We knew what he was doing. 

Football is a team game, so sometimes you have to accept some of that treatment.

Sir Alex Ferguson (right) used to call out star midfielder Ryan Giggs (left) in an effort to motivate his entire Manchester United squad – much like Guardiola has done with De Bruyne

Maybe Guardiola is doing that. Maybe he is poking De Bruyne in order to make sure the rest are ready to up their levels ahead of the most important part of a season that has not always felt easy for them. For all I know, De Bruyne may even be in on it.

But I also know this. Criticising modern players in public is a risk for a manager. I would go as far as to say it is a last resort now and coaches and managers have to be really careful. Guardiola is safe as can be at City. He is almost unique in that. He can do almost as he pleases. But even he will know what can happen when a dressing room turns.

It is hard for managers these days. They have to speak so much to the media. It must be suffocating. Of the ones I played for, only Jock would have coped.

Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan were brilliant football men but they would not have been at home in today’s environment where every single thing you say or do as a manager is analysed and pored over.

When I was managing, I was careful. Criticising a player in front of the whole team carried risks of its own. Doing it in the media, even more so. These days players and their agents can run a guy out of town quite easily once the mood in the dressing room turns.

De Bruyne played well against RB Leipzig on Tuesday night so you could say that Guardiola’s tactic worked, that his words had the desired effect.

Equally, De Bruyne may be the type of player who doesn’t pay attention to the noise and just does his own stuff.

Guardiola’s bold decision to call De Bruyne (left) out may have the blessing of the Belgian 

I thought what he said himself at the World Cup was odd. 

With Belgium struggling in the group stage, he basically said in the media that some of his own team-mates were, perhaps, no longer up to it. If I was in that squad, I would not have accepted that.

All big players had egos in my day. It would be wrong to say otherwise. But they are on another level now. 

Premier League players are financially secure and that makes a difference in terms of how far you can push them. They are far more ready to challenge managers.

Given De Bruyne’s status within the game, I am sure he will not have enjoyed being publicly called out by his manager this week.

If Guardiola is playing a game, then it is one he must hope he wins. 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 on Tuesday and capped off his superb display with a long-distance strike

Casemiro will be a marked man among refs 

I enjoyed the physical challenges that football presented during my career but was sent off just once in the English game.

I was a relative kid playing for Middlesbrough and I threw a punch at Stan Ternent.

Stan, who went on to manage well at places such as Hull, Bury and Burnley, was a tough midfielder and he wouldn’t have flinched. I missed him anyway.

My point is that I knew how to keep myself in check, on the whole.

Casemiro at Manchester United is not a dirty player, either, but he does have 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 astonishing.

Man United’s Casemiro is not a dirty player – but you don’t get two quick red cards by accident

He has also been sent off three times, his latest red coming against Southampton last weekend.

As I say, I don’t think he is a malicious player but over the course of his 10-year career he has averaged about 15 yellows a season and you don’t rack up numbers like those by accident.

The upshot of his second red card for United in a short space of time is that when he returns from his four-game ban he will find referees looking out for him — and not in a good way.

In football, a reputation as being someone who likes to play on the edge of the law can be hard to shake.

Arsenal’s bizarre routines typify the modern game 

I read the story about Arsenal taking their home comforts into opposition dressing rooms and had to read it again to make sure it wasn’t a joke.

Really? Is this what the modern game has become?

So Arsenal players arrive at Fulham to find their own clock is on the wall along with their own pictures and stickers?

It’s extremely strange and only a winning manager can get away with that.

The Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is doing a fine 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 posted with a replica of the iconic clock that is positioned above the Clock End at the Emirates Stadium in the away dressing room after their 3-0 victory against Fulham

Last season he had You’ll Never Walk Alone played over the loudspeakers at training to prepare his players for a game at Anfield. They lost 4-0, so that went well for them.

When I walked into an opposing dressing 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 on enemy territory and I wanted to feel fired up.

If I had arrived at an away ground to find a clock from Anfield waiting for me on the wall, I would have burst out laughing.

And I would not have been alone.

Source: Read Full Article