Manchester City conjured their 9th Premier League defeat of the season against Southampton despite dominating the game.
This morning there must be much troubling Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola. He has watched his team repeat a similar pattern which has plagued them throughout the season, whereby they dominated the match in terms of control and possession, peppered the opposition goal with shots but made a single mistake resulting in a loss.
There is a famous definition of insanity credited to the renowned scientist Einstein where he said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result”. And that is exactly where Manchester City are at the moment, seemingly incapable of taking a result from every game. Struggling to overcome plucky challengers who counter and sit back behind massed defences.
In 2017/18 and 2018/19 season City did in fact find two different ways of winning these games. Firstly by speedy attack and wing play preventing the opposition from being set and causing panic amongst the massed defensive ranks. Secondly they powered through via intricate and intense passing movements, often straight through the packed centre of the pitch.
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This season though changes to personnel, conditioning and tactics have seen City struggle to get through. Too often the spark of inspiration has been missing and instead these games have become a drudge as each and every single City mistake is penalised and in return we need 500 chances to score once.
City seem to think relentless attack alone is enough and it is so clearly not. Teams are set up to repel and if City are missing their intensity then we can be quite easy to maintain. Sides can keep us at arms length like during a tired boxing bout.
The fact is Southampton did very well and deserve credit. Their energy frustrated our talent and in the end won through thanks to a wonderful chipped first half goal. City were punished after Zinchenko was involved in a sloppy piece of play, giving the ball away and exposing Ederson who was marooned in no man’s land. Frankly, I would have fancied my chances of scoring into that open goal but nevertheless the shot was well executed.
Yet, even then City should still have won through. There was plenty of time available but the finishing was not clinical enough. The movement not incisive enough and like all fans I was left with the view that even if we were still playing now we would not yet have scored.
In an attempt to shake things up Guardiola changed his system and removed both wingers, but it changed nothing and if anything we looked less likely to score after De Bruyne and Foden came on. Mahrez and Sterling at least threatened the potential to create a decent chance.
City did try really hard – the problems were not a lack of effort. The Southampton goal was awash with activity, but too often the chances were blocked or came to little.
Too many City players were not at their best. Zinchenko made too many careless errors exposing again the folly of having him as the only left back cover. Bernardo Silva continues to play with the weight of the world on his shoulders and Gabriel Jesus continues to amass a record for being offside.
The years have caught up with both David Silva and Fernandinho, both of whom still show that they are classy players but the lack of legs in both reduces our options and slows us down, making our play easier to nullify.
Guardiola should be deep in thought this morning looking for that stroke of genius to enable us to overcome these problems next season. Because it is next season which counts, hence this defeat was met with little more from the fans than a shrug of the shoulders.
The reality is that in these 5 remaining Premier League games City need 4 points to qualify potentially for the Champions League. Anything else is a bonus. And try as we might, we are just going through the motions in these final games.
Newcastle United beckon on Wednesday evening and that game will be similar. City will need a change of luck and to be more precise if they are to overcome a stubborn side who offer a potential speedy breakaway.