This season’s Premier League was billed as a battle of Manchester between United’s Jose Mourinho and City’s Pep Guardiola.
City’s relative struggles of late under Guardiola will have the Basque boss bemused after the Citizens drew 1-1 with Southampton on Sunday afternoon.
Critics of the former-Barcelona boss stated prior to the current campaign that English football would be his biggest challenge yet.
So far it has proven a challenge, but it is easy to forget that the Citizens are actually top of the table, albeit on goal difference alone.
His worst spell as a boss
City started the campaign in indomitable style recording ten straight wins in all competitions. They looked like a shoe-in for the Premier League title. However, suddenly City have gone five games without a win in all competitions.
The run equals Guardiola’s worst as a boss. The only time Guardiola has ever failed to win in five consecutive matches came in February 2009, as boss of Barcelona. That poor run was followed by seven straight wins for the Catalan giants.
By Pep’s exerting standards five games without a win is a very poor run indeed. The former-Bayern boss has dismissed reports of an inquest after Sunday’s draw. However, he now finds himself in an unfamiliar position.
Not scared to make big decisions
Guardiola is not one of the most highly-rated bosses in the recent football history for no reason. Some have claimed that he is overrated and has been given comfortable jobs.
I have to disagree on that one. He came into a difficult situation at Barcelona and turned the team around. He did not shirk big decisions like some may have. Instead, he came in and imposed his authority and style on the players.
The likes of Ronaldinho and Deco were discarded, but Guardiola created arguably the best club team ever seen. It was not because he was lucky. It was because he has a really tactical acumen and is always willing to experiment.
Experiments do not always come off. However, he has the bravery to make big changes and decisions without feeling the need to justify himself. Guardiola would not have been one of the most wanted head coaches in the world in the summer if he did not get it right more often than not.
He has made some questionable decisions at City so far, though. The signing of Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is for me one of those. Some observers blamed Guardiola’s style of play for City’s humbling at Barcelona last Wednesday.
However, I would suggest that Guardiola cannot be blamed for Bravo’s lunacy. He can be blamed for signing the experienced ‘keeper, though.
If there is one blot on Guardiola’s copybook as a boss it may be his ability in the transfer market, although like most bosses at high-profile clubs he cannot get it every time.
Big derby against United
On Wednesday night City face rivals Manchester United in the fourth round of the EFL Cup at Old Trafford. The Citizens are underdogs to record a win at odds of 19/10.
However, United head into the clash on the back of a 4-0 mauling at the hands of Chelsea. It remains to be seen how seriously both bosses take this clash. The EFL Cup is regarded as a nuance by many Premier League bosses, including United’s Mourinho.
It is a derby though and Guardiola will be highly aware that if City do not win there will more critics out to get him and his team. The once much-praised boss is going through a rare tough spell.
Like all great football bosses, Guardiola is a master problem solver. He will no doubt get his team back to winning ways in time. It is hard to judge whether the Citizens will get back to winning ways on Wednesday night.
But, the Citizens boss is a creator of winning teams. He also, much like Frank Sinatra, will do it his way. The Citizens may be top of the Premier League pile, but Guardiola will be looking for his team to produce a far better standard in the future.
Have Manchester City made a good start under Guardiola?