Premier League

Guardiola facing the most difficult period of his career after Mourinho masterclass

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are languishing in the middle of the Premier League table, having been victim to a classic Jose Mourinho display by Tottenham

9:48pm on Saturday 21st November 2020
Robin Bairner

Manchester City might have awarded manager Pep Guardiola with a new deal on Friday, but there are signs that his side are in danger of becoming stale.

Given a masterclass in counterpunching football by Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho, Guardiola’s City were consigned to a 2-0 defeat in London on Saturday.

Goals from Son Heung-Min and Giovanni Lo Celso acted as blows to the solar plexus of the Etihad side, from which their campaign will struggle to recover.

While victory carried Spurs to the top of the Premier League table at the end of the day for the first time since August 2014, it also consigned City to 10th place.

Already Guardiola is eight points off the pace of his old foe Mourinho, and while City have a game in hand, there are some worrying signs for his team.

The numbers speak for themselves.

Already they have allowed 12 points to be spilled. For regular teams, this is no disaster, yet City are a club that has grown used to pushing above 90 or even 100 points each term.

In the 2016-17 campaign, they became English football’s first centurions. If they were to match that achievement this season, they would have to win 29 of their remaining 30 matches and draw the other.

And even if we consider that was an exceptional side, there is no hiding from the fact that City’s return of 12 points from eight matches marks the lowest tally they have managed at this stage of a season since 2009/10. With 10 goals scored, they have not fared worse since 2006/07.

There is a danger, then, that the club’s owners are caught in a thrall to Guardiola. Sure, he excelled at Barcelona and enjoyed a trophy laden spell with Bayern Munich, but it is hard to feel that he has not lost some of his lustre in recent months.

City were, after all, blown away in incredible style by Liverpool last season. For some, it was a mark of brilliance from Jurgen Klopp’s side. Realism should have bitten when the Etihad club were knocked out of the Champions League by a Lyon side that failed to finish in the European spots in Ligue 1.

After four attempts, he has still not got the Citizens beyond the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

City may have celebrated as Guardiola signed his new deal, but after a difficult 18 months, it is up to him to prove that his ideas can still work when faced with fresh difficulties.

In the past, he chose to spend spells of four years at Barcelona and three years at Bayern, arguing that any longer might result in staleness – the type of which appears to have taken hold at the Etihad.

While Mourinho hits the heights with Spurs, Guardiola’s City languish in midtable. It is a position he has never found himself before.

Less than a quarter of the way into the season, all is not lost, of course, but this promises to be a decisive period in the Catalan’s footballing legacy.

So far, the signs are not promising.

Latest news

Player Ratings

North Macedonia 0-3 Netherlands Player Ratings: Depay celebrates Barca move with stunning display

Netherlands beat North Macedonia 3-0 to finish their Euro 2020 group with a perfect nine points, with Memphis Depay and Gini Wijnaldum starring.

  • 1 hour
Predicted XI

Kane keeps his place – How England could line up against the Czech Republic

Despite a difficult start to the tournament, Gareth Southgate has thrown his support behind captain Harry Kane.

  • 11 hours
Predicted XI

De Bruyne and Hazard to make first start – How Belgium could line up against Finland

De Bruyne and Hazard both came off the bench against Denmark but could start Belgium’s final group game.

  • 11 hours
Predicted XI

Changes from De Boer - How the Netherlands could line up against North Macedonia

The Netherlands have already secured top spot in Euro 2020 Group C so Frank de Boer may rest some of his players

  • 11 hours
Player Ratings

Italy 1-0 Wales Player Ratings: Verratti runs the show & Bale struggles as hosts top Group A

Roberto Mancini's side were already assured of a place in the last 16 but they made it three wins out of three with a narrow triumph.

  • 1 day
Player Ratings

Spain 1-1 Poland Player Ratings: Morata strikes as La Roja struggle

The Juventus striker netted the opening goal but missed a golden chance to seal three points as Spain are held to a draw.

  • 1 day

Most read