Pep Guardiola comments suggest Man City biggest issue cannot be solved in this transfer window
Perhaps the most alarming review of Manchester City’s disappearing act against Leicester came from their manager.
Speaking after the game, Pep Guardiola saw the seeds of their destruction while they were still 1-0 up on Sunday as the players put too much pressure on themselves to add to their lead and then started to believe they were playing badly when they weren’t.
They went in at the break level after the first penalty of the afternoon, and were met in the dressing room with words of encouragement from their coach. They weren’t playing badly, he insisted, they just needed to be patient and things would come.
Five minutes into the second half, Guardiola sought to further reassure his team by throwing on rookie Liam Delap to give them an aerial presence in the middle. Instead, the players caved and conceded more goals than a City side has ever done since they left Maine Road, and more than a Guardiola side ever has.
Ruben Dias is arriving to add what the club hope will be some much-needed solidity at the back, others are returning and the shock of such a mauling could yet send the Blues back into the transfer market before the window shuts.
Yet will new additions be able to transform a team that has lost confidence in itself?
Guardiola’s title-winners in the Centurions campaign were fused by an immense collective belief – think back to the stirring comeback victories and last-minute winners – that left opposition sides feeling helpless.
As Mauricio Pochettino noted ahead of playing them in December 2017, the aura around the team made it feel as though they started every game 1-0 up. Tottenham went to the Etihad “to fight, to kill them and try to win”…and left with a 4-1 tonking.
That seemed to shatter in the following season with back-to-back defeats around Christmas and then defeat at the end of January to Newcastle but slowly built back up into the climax of the 2018/19 campaign.
Last year, it disappeared. City lost their edge as they started to get more bothered by things not going their way, and other teams grew in confidence as they began to see that. Leicester dared to think that their gameplan would come off on Sunday and it did because they kept their nerve while City lost theirs.
As Rodri said after the game, nobody has died. One defeat is not terminal for City’s hope of silverware this season and, as Guardiola noted, “they want to play well” still.
New arrivals can lift the squad, but more important if they are to have any chance of winning their league title back is to regain that swaggering sense of authority that puts them back in control of matches.