January 16 – Hailed as a Messiah and the most sought-after coach in Europe when he joined Manchester City after blazing a trail at Barcelona and then Bayern Munich, Pep Guardiola appears to have conceded that winning the Premier League title in his first season in England is over.
After one of the most chastening defeats of his managerial career, a 4-0 loss at Everton, Guardiola’s team are 10 points behind leaders Chelsea and, even more alarmingly, out of the top four.
Asked if that meant City’s title challenge was over, Guardiola told reporters: “By the first one (Chelsea)? Yes. Ten points is a lot. The second one (Tottenham Hotspur) is three points (ahead). We have to see.”
Without a world-class fit defender, City have now lost four of their last eight league games and next take on second-placed Tottenham who are on a run of seven straight wins in all competitions but do not have as strong a squad as City and have lost their influential Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen to a serious ankle injury.
Guardiola has quickly discovered that winning Premier League games is not nearly as easy as succeeding in Spain or Germany.
City are the only team in the Premier League to have over 50% of possession yet although his ‘pass, pass’ mantra is pleasing on the eye it is too often exploited by counter-attacking teams with the firepower to unlock City’s shaky defence. Guardiola looks likely to strengthen that defence in the last two weeks of the winter transfer window.
The obvious culture shock is clearly taking its toll by Guardiola but he is adamant he will not change his philosophy. “Of course, I prefer to win than to lose but I’m so happy. The way I will try to do it until my last day is the best way possible to achieve what I think is the best way to play.”
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