While the full-time whistle blown on the south coast and Che Adams’ first blow in a Southampton shirt Manchester City delivered their NINTH Premier League defeat of the season, Pep Guardiola was amazed at words as he pondered how their title defense had gone so wrong .
Just days earlier, City had recovered some pride after a thunderous 4-0 win over newly crowned champions Liverpool – the team they’ve been riding back and forth over the past few seasons – but the crushing blow of yet another unexpected and embarrassing defeat they are injured, vulnerable and insecure about herself.
“It’s hard even for me to find a reason why,” said Guardiola after the defeat of the Saints marking their third away game loss on the bounce – a first such run for the Spanish manager so used to being a champion .
Manchester City suffered their ninth defeat of the Premier League season at Southampton
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was unable to explain what went wrong at St Mary’s
So where did things go wrong for City?
These are tough favorites to take home three points in Newcastle tonight, but remember that Liverpool, Manchester United, Wolves and even Arsenal – the league’s apparent crisis club – have all suffered fewer defeats than City this season. Both newly-promoted Sheffield United and Leicester City are also on nine defeats, most of which Guardiola has ever bossed in one season.
Any Premier League defeat this season
September 4 – Norwich 3-2 Man City
October 6 – Man City 0-2 Wolves
November 10 – Liverpool 3-1 Man City
December 7 – Man City 1-2 Man United
December 27 – Wolves 3-2 Man City
February 2 – Tottenham 2-0 Man City
March 8 – Man United 2-0 Man City
June 25 – Chelsea 2-1 Man City
July 5 – Southampton 1-0 Man City
Can the finger be pointed at him? The series winner is about to end his fourth season with Etihad and is approaching his longest stay with a football club.
Some might argue that he is losing his ability to motivate his players for yet another league title, while others would say he has lost his lead and is a boss who can never build on success for a long period of time. Recent history suggests that the latter may be true.
He started his career with Barcelona, a club with which he had made great strides as a player, and was the mastermind behind one of the biggest games ever to play the game from 2008 to 2012.
When he left the Catalan club, he called his reason for running as fatigue and claimed that his four years of leading the first team felt like ‘eternity’.
After several national and European victories, he moved to Bayern Munich, where he confirmed their dominance in Germany, but was unable to achieve another Champions League trophy.
It seemed that he had rediscovered the shine of his former Barcelona squad – 10 years earlier – when he sent City to their second straight league title in 2019.
However, creating the dynasty that only seemed possible last season has become a distant dream after Liverpool’s success.
Liverpool, Manchester United, Wolves and even Arsenal all suffered fewer defeats during this period
City have surpassed the losses of their last two seasons added up in 33 games
Is it the players? The team has character, proven by bouncing back after their first loss of the season; who came up against Norwich in a rather surprising way when they went down 3-2.
City wiped themselves to respond with an 8-0 win over Watford. After five goals in the first 18 minutes, that defeat in Norwich seemed like a blip, nothing more.
However, as the season progressed, they fell into the hands of Wolves, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham as the Reds continued an unbeaten march at the top of the table. City have surpassed the losses of their last two seasons together in the 33 league games this time.
Sergio Aguero has become the last major player to be injured for City being teased
Injuries are also a problem for Guardiola after notable absences from the start – with Leroy Sane (now at Bayern) and Aymeric Laporte both out for months.
He’s also faced his first choice left back Benjamin Mendy who is constantly battling minor glitches and has now knocked out Sergio Aguero with a knee injury for the rest of the season.
Off the field, City have also had to overcome some obstacles pending the outcome of their appeal from the Court of Arbitration for Sport after receiving a two-year ban from the Champions League for violations of FFP by UEFA.
The club is also facing a two-year ban on the Champions League following a financial fair play violation
If the club’s appeal doesn’t work, they can lose some of their best talent at a fire sale
The potential domino effect if their ban is in effect can be huge. Players like Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are shining despite their undersized season and are unlikely to be happy with a two-year hiatus from the Champions League.
Big clubs may want to lure City’s best talent with a chance of European glory.
They will remain in the Champions League this period, which will resume in August, and will defend a 2-1 lead against Real Madrid in the second leg of the last 16.
If they went all out and eventually won their first Champions League trophy, they could become the first club ever to have the chance to defend it if they are banned from next season and their spell lingers.
European glory would give Guardiola a respite from this season’s domestic woes. But rest assured, the City hierarchy won’t be kind enough to be so far from Liverpool again next season.