The honeymoon period is now over and reality has dawned. Pep Guardiola started out with a 10-match winning streak. Manchester City are winless in the last four. On Sunday, if they don’t snap the streak against Southampton, it will equal Pep’s worst. The last time this happened was over seven years ago. City have their defensive frailties, but things are not as bad as it looks for the Blues.
Make no mistake, leaking four goals at the back is lousy. Eyebrows were raised by Sergio Agüero’s omission. But Manchester City sans the Argentine is still a strong team. I actually liked Guardiola’s approach in starting without his star striker. It wasn’t defensive. Purely tactical — he wanted an extra man in the middle to choke Barcelona. Guardiola had the players for it and it was the right strategy from the Catalan. Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne has the pace to run through. And Pep is not a defense minded manager. The errors from City did not help their cause. But they kept fighting. It was a great contest and it really was killed off by Claudio Bravo’s red card. For a keeper of his class to make an error of such magnitude is just unacceptable. It was elementary and there is no excuse for Bravo’s horror show. And from there, City were doomed. It was a terrible homecoming for Pep. Yet again.
Despite the loss, Guardiola’s team are only second in the group and should reach the knockout. And they will. It’s not often that you find positives in a four goal loss, but for City there were. I was rather impressed with their defense and especially with Jon Stones. Despite burning a chance for an equalizer, he was all calm against the most lethal attack in football. It was a very matured performance by the England center back. Sterling and KDB were up to the mark as well. Despite the scoreline, most of City’s players showed some good football — expect Bravo of course.
Manchester City was expected to be the toughest challenge of the Spaniard’s managerial career. An exceptional start saw City being the bookmakers favorite for the Premier League title. It was Brendan Rodger’s Celtic that first managed to take a point off the Citizens in any competition — a match against the Scottish giant at Celtic Park is a challenge for the best of teams. Against Everton, City were unlucky. One mans stood between them and victory — Maarten Stekelenburg. Barcelona, anytime and anywhere was always going to be difficult — when you are a man down, it’s a loosing cause. It was only Tottenham that really ran over the Blues. So it’s just one out of the four where they totally lost the plot.
The loss against Spurs and draw against Everton has taken some shine off Pep’s team but they still remain top of the pack and should still be the favorites for the league title. Kun Agüero will certainly start on Sunday. I expect a resurgent Citizens to bounce back against Southampton. Manchester City may have hit a road block, but they should power through. There’s too much quality in the team.
P.S. Gone are the days when Simon Mignolet was the most scrutinized keeper in the league. The dubious honor befalls Claudio Bravo.