By Matthew Schattner
Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday left the club winless in their last 5 matches in all competitions, conclusively placing the club in a very bad run of form. While this streak is concerning for Pep Guardiola’s side, the club is far from a state of crisis and City fans still have many reasons to remain hopeful this season.
There is no hiding the truth that City have not been playing at their expected level lately. The club has no wins in their last 5 matches in all competitions and none in their last 3 Premier League outings, with a 3-1 victory versus Swansea on 24 September marking their last triumph in the Premier League and in all competitions.
City’s current form has also been disappointing in regards to expectations for Guardiola’s abilities, as previously he steered Barcelona and Bayern Munich to league titles in all but his final season at Barcelona. Paddy Power reports that City’s current points total of 20 after 9 games is Guardiola’s lowest ever at this stage of a domestic campaign, and that had 27 at this stage last season in charge of Bayern Munich. Guardiola even earned 23 points after 9 games in his first season with the German side in 2013-14, ultimately winning five tournaments that year.
“In seven years I won 21 titles. I’m sorry guys. I won 21 titles in seven years.” Guardiola said in defense of his play style following his side’s 4-0 defeat to Barcelona last week in the Champions League, explaining that three months of work with his new side would never have been enough to dominate Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Guardiola is correct in his defense of his own career and abilities. His is one of the most successful managers of all time and arguably the most distinguished in the period since he began his career in charge of Barcelona in 2008-09. The signs of repeating his previous feats are have also shown themselves to be present at City. Guardiola began the 2016-17 Premier League winning his first 6 games, equally former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti’s record for winning start for a new manager. In all competitions, City won its first 10 out of 10 games, showing that the club’s has the ability to dominate in the manner of Guardiola’s previous teams.
Rumblings of City’s crisis are misplaced because of the unavoidable fact that they are currently top of the Premier League table. In fairness, it is not a particularly strong hold on the top spot. Guardiola’s men are tied on points with Arsenal and Liverpool, and only one point ahead of Tottenham and Chelsea. But for all of City’s woes, they are the joint leaders in goals scored with a Liverpool side that has been excessively lauded for its free flowing attacking play. City’s defense has long been a source of deserved criticism, but all teams in the top four have let in the same number of goals, except for Liverpool who have even conceded two more. Arsenal looked to threaten for the top spot until they were held to a draw against Middlesbrough, and Tottenham has looked increasingly vulnerable with three draws in their past three games in all competitions.
City’s slump coincided with an injury to midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, a vital part of City’s game plan and the league’s joint assist leader. De Bruyne is now out injured again with a calf injury sustained during City’s 1-1 draw with Southampton over the weekend, which is cause for concern, but the Belgian came to Guardiola’s defense yesterday, stating, “He just told us to believe. He doesn’t want us to have doubts in the way that we are playing.”
Pep Guardiola’s men will look to take advantage of a Manchester United side that just suffered a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea over the weekend when the two sides meet in the League Cup on Wednesday. Claiming a second Manchester Derby win this season, especially over rival manager Jose Mourinho, would decisively dispel any and all murmurs of Guardiola’s supposed crisis at Manchester City.