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Pragmatist Guardiola has fine-tuned City’s balance between press and defence | Jonathan Wilson

It hard to be sure of anything in this oddest of seasons, but it could be that having to ease back on the press has brought Manchester City a more effective defensive balance

There is perhaps no word so misused in football as pragmatic. The tendency is to deploy it as a synonym for defensive, cautious or gritty, to be set against the attacking flair of the idealists. Coaches are divided into two groups: on the one hand the pragmatic Sam Allardyce, Tony Pulis and Neil Warnock, and on the other the idealistic Marcelo Bielsa, Pep Guardiola and Gian Piero Gasperini. But it is rarely so straightforward as that.

Bielsa is perhaps a special case. The Leeds manager has principles from which he never deviates and his family background means he has perhaps never quite needed a win bonus in the way some other players or managers have – he can afford to be principled. But equally the idea he went to Old Trafford just before Christmas to put on some kind of show or underestimated Manchester United’s threat is laughable. Leeds played that way because Bielsa thinks that is the best way to get results.

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