Saturday 22 July 2017

An hour's Pep talk for City as Iheanacho rescues point

Manchester City 1-1 Southampton

Manchester City's John Stones stands dejected after Southampton score Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester City's John Stones stands dejected after Southampton score Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Tim Rich

Pep Guardiola equalled the worst run of his managerial career as Manchester City were held to a draw by Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.

A mistake from John Stones presented Nathan Redmond with the opener in the 27th minute.

Southampton's Jordy Clasie tackles Manchester City's Raheem Sterling Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Southampton's Jordy Clasie tackles Manchester City's Raheem Sterling Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

City, who failed to have a shot on target in the first half, dominated after the break and substitute Kelechi Iheanacho equalised 10 minutes after the restart.

But, that was as good as it got for City and, to add to their woe, Kevin De Bruyne suffered a calf injury which makes him doubtful for Wednesday's League Cup tie against Manchester United.

After a fifth game without a win - the only other time Guardiola has experienced such a sequence of results was at Barcelona more than seven years ago - City's players were kept in the dressing room for more than an hour.

When he finally emerged, Guardiola insisted it was more than individual mistakes that were costing the club points.

Nathan Redmond goes round Claudio Bravo to score for Southampton Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Nathan Redmond goes round Claudio Bravo to score for Southampton Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

"I was a football player and I know this can happen," he said. "You are able to win 10 times in a row and afterwards you are not able to win once in five. But I have to discover the reason why and I have fight for that."

On the surface, it would not require a Sherlock Holmes to analyse why Manchester City are stumbling.

They missed two penalties in the 1-1 draw with Everton, had Claudio Bravo sent off during the rout by Barcelona and now saw John Stones (pictured above after his mistake) gift Southampton their opening goal with a disastrous back pass.

Guardiola, however, thought it was something more.

"Today with John and Wednesday with Claudio was not the reason," he said. "Against Everton we missed two penalties and we played amazingly but didn't win.

"It is something more, something about the team and it is about how you rebel against it and how you react. These guys are good and I have to help them reach their level.

"When it was 11 against 11 in Barcelona and the second half against Everton, we were very good. Except for the first half at White Hart Lane, we have been quite similar to the start of the season."

Asked why he had spent so long with his players after the final whistle, Guardiola joked that "the red wine was good". He added: "We spoke but it was nothing special. We spoke about what is the situation."

Nevertheless, for the first time at the Etihad Stadium under Guardiola, City were flat and listless in the first half.

Yet, Guardiola insisted: "We started quite well but now we are not in the rhythm we had before. We didn't have 90 bad, bad minutes but when we are not perfect we concede a lot."

That in a nutshell is Manchester City's great weakness under Guardiola. Playing with the bare minimum of defenders and with a goalkeeper, Bravo, who is still adapting to English football, they have kept only one clean sheet in the Premier League - at home to Bournemouth.

Independent News Service

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