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Wagner’s deserving place amongst the managerial elite


Despite the enormous disparity between the two clubs and the fact that David Wagner and Pep Guardiola were at the opposite ends of the financial spectrum, the warm embrace shared between the two managers at the end of 90 minutes was telling.

It was a tussle between two managers who pride themselves on having distinct philosophies, two men who are sticklers for the meticulous details and both demand the utmost from their players.

However, despite the two clubs being worlds apart, on a sweltering afternoon in Manchester, the unstoppable juggernaut that was Manchester City was stopped by David Wagner and his well-executed plan.

On the day, they were more than equals.

In the first five minutes, it seemed that David Wagner’s devised game plan would be to crowd the central areas with a low block and stifle Manchester City.

I, like many others I imagine, was fearing the worst. We had seen what Manchester City could do when they were shown respect and given the freedom to hem their opponent into their own final third.

However, after surviving that five-minute onslaught, we saw Town do something that no team has managed to do convincingly at the Etihad, this season.

They pushed high.

Much has been said about Ederson, a remarkable goalkeeper who has springboarded a lot of City’s attacks with his excellent distribution.

And yet, it was Town’s brave, intense pressing which made life difficult not only for the Brazilian but for Manchester City as a whole.

On numerous occasions in that first half, it was Town’s willingness to get in the face of Pep Guardiola’s side which led to a turnover of possession in Manchester City’s final third and exposed frailties which the near flawless Champions hadn’t shown all year.

Coinciding with the brave pressing, it was clear to see that David Wagner had learned from the tight 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester City.

In the reverse fixture, it was Manchester City’s interplay out wide which proved to be so devastating.

He acknowledged that it wasn’t passes through the lines that would hurt his side but once again, it would be the tight interplay on the flanks which was City’s predominant means of getting behind their opponents.

Because of this, he instructed his side to block the passing channels out wide and invade the space that Manchester City wanted to play in.

In this spell of play, Town gave the Champions a taste of their own medicine by squeezing up the pitch and causing uncharacteristic, unforced errors.

These uncharacteristic, unforced errors exposed by Town are unlikely to be seen again, this season. Pep Guardiola will expect his side to finish strongly.

It was only a thirty-five minute spell of play but that alone was a demonstration that David Wagner can compete with the very best and that is why he deserves a place at the table amongst the managerial elites.

The result and the well-deserved invaluable point will undoubtedly give David Wagner and his side great confidence for the remaining games of the season.

But that first half, in particular, is why Town more than deserve their place in the Premier League.