If I was going to write a list of the coolest things I’ve had a chance to do in my life, this would easily make the list. Bitter and Blue got an invitation to take part in a practice session while Manchester City trained at the NYCFC facility in Orangeburg, NY in preparation for their preseason match against Liverpool at MetLife Stadium. Fortunately, I was the lucky individual who got to take advantage of this, mostly because I was the closest one of us to the facility but that’s neither here nor there.
I’ll will readily admit that I spent most of the day feeling like a fan in awe at my fortune, constantly forgetting that I was supposed to be there as a member of the press. In the brief moments where I didn’t forget this, I noticed a couple things that you City fans may find interesting (forgive me if any of this is common knowledge).
Pep Guardiola doesn’t run all the drills, but he does see everything.
After stretching, the players went through station to station passing drills. They were split into two groups, with assistants Mikel Arteta and Lorenzo Buenaventura managing one side each. Pep wasn’t involved in organizing this part of practice but you could still feel his presence. You could tell by his comments to players that he’s noticing every touch the players are taking, getting on guys who were regularly off point during the drill.
City creates unique drill structures for each practice.
Overlooking the small sample size (one training session) that led me to this conclusion, I found it interesting that the passing drills setup was clearly new to the squad. They obviously must do some iteration of this passing drill each practice but the way the stations are positioned and the movement between those stations is flexible. The version of it I saw was definitely new based on the fact that there was mass confusion among the players on the first cycle through and I think I heard Nathanael Ogbeta say, “I don’t know where I’m supposed to be right now.”
Training sessions are high interval, high intensity, and over quickly.
I wasn’t keeping track exactly but the team couldn’t have training for much more than 70 minutes. It seemed like it over before it even starting. They were wasn’t much down time as the team moved from one thing to the other. The team moved to the passing drills after a warmup session followed in quick succession to 7-on-7’s (with a designated attacker) while the rest of the team did rondos.
Pep waits to get specific until after the session is complete.
Guardiola must be making a mental checklist of things he wants to go over with players throughout the practice, and that checklist must get pretty detailed. As soon as the training session came to an end, he pulled Tosin Adarabioyo aside to show him how to improve the way he received the ball and turned with his first touch. We all know Pep coaches down the finest detail and this was just another example of that.
Joe Hart is as passionate as ever and I love him.
You can never question how much this man cares, especially after the passion and professionalism he’s shown with City even with it being clear he had no place in the team for some time now. If you watched him participate in this 7-on-7 without seeing his surroundings, you would have thought he was playing in the Champions League final. He was constantly getting on his teammates and screaming curse words at the top of his lungs whenever anything went wrong. I will forever appreciate this man.
When the practice concluded, some guys like Leroy Sane and Lucas Nmecha worked on free kicks for a little and the whole team gathered around for some Ping Pong soccer as well. It was nice seeing the team building aspect of City’s day-to-day as the on-field training wrapped up. Some of the more high-profile players had to do some media sessions afterward and that is where my day at training wrapped up! Here are some sound bites from Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden as they reflect on the World Cup and offseason.
When asked to reflect on the World Cup Experience - “Of course we wanted to do better. We know we could have been better. We’re not happy about it, but for me, that was the first big competition that I’ve played for Portugal and it was a great experience. The World Cup is a different competition; it was great to be there even though our campaign was not what we were expecting.”
On what he learned from world cup - “Learned a lot, learned a lot, like I said it’s a different competition. It was really hot because the World Cup is played in the summer. The teams are not as used to playing between each other, as for example in the Champions League. But it was a great experience, I learned a lot of things from it and expect on the next one to not make the same mistakes.”
On whether there was disappointment with first game against Spain - “That first game against Spain was a very exciting game, 3-3 on the end of it. We were playing against one of the best national teams in the world; they started the world cup as one of the favorites. We knew we were playing against a great team and to get one point on the first game against such a good team was not as bad as that. We thought we were doing well when we passed through the group stage and we were playing against Uruguay. We had a lot of expectations, unfortunately we couldn’t beat them and that was it.”
About losing coach Dome Torrent to NYCFC - “First of all, the way this team played last season, not only Dome and not only Pep but the whole staff, the ambition of always wanting to win more. New York City are lucky to have him here because of the way he looks at football, the way he looks at the game, his passion and his ambition to always win more. ”
On his improvement from last preseason to now - “I think my first preseason was just for experience, learning how to play with the first team. I think he brought me in as a player and now I feel more mature and more comfortable playing first team minutes.”
This season feeling different now that he’s more established - “No, I think it feels similar but we’ve got a young team so it’s good to help the young lads to try to give them information and help them out.”
Surprised by England’s World Cup run? - “No, I think I had a good feeling they would get far. I didn’t think we would win it but I knew we could have gotten far.”
U17 World Cup title motivating senior squad - “Yeah, I think might have given them some confidence. I’m not sure if they all watched it but I know some of them watched it here.”
On his expectations for joining the national team - “I’m going to give it my best shot. I’ll try and see if I can be part of Euro 2020.”
Luckily for all City fans, everyone can look behind the curtain of the team’s daily routine with the upcoming Amazon Prime series, All or Nothing: Manchester City, premiering soon. Check out the trailer here for a taste of what the series will show!
Chills. Literal chills.
This series is a City fan’s dream to witness the full story behind the greatest season in Premier League history. If you don’t already have Amazon Prime this is as good a time as any to get on board or at the very least find someone willing to give you their login. Stay tuned for Bitter and Blue’s upcoming review of the series and for the debut on August 17th!