Belfast Telegraph

Guardiola left to ponder fifth game without a victory

Man City 1 Southampton 1

By Tim Rich

After a fifth match without a win, Pep Guardiola spent nearly an hour with his players to discuss the reasons why.

The Manchester City manager emerged after the 1-1 draw with Southampton to say that it was more than individual mistakes that were costing the club points.

"I was a football player and I know this can happen," said Guardiola. "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 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 yesterday.

"Against Everton we missed two penalties and we played amazingly and didn't win. It is something more, something about the team and it is about how you rebel against it and how you react.

"When you saw the second half against Southampton, it was better because 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, (the recent performances) 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, Manchester City were flat and listless against a team that had not won here in 12 years. Southampton had played against Inter Milan at San Siro on Thursday night and were entitled to feel tired.

"When you see the performance over 90 minutes, it is not bad," said Guardiola. "Sometimes you need something to react against and sometimes that is difficult.

"It is part of the process about being a new manager here. Football is complicated and I know when you start it is always difficult. In fact, 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 keeper, Bravo, who is still adapting to English football, Manchester City have kept a single clean sheet in the Premier League - at home to Bournemouth.

MAN CITY: Bravo, Stones, Kompany (Navas, 78 mins), Kolarov, Sane (Nolito, 90 mins), Gundogan, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, (Iheanacho, 46 mins), Sterling, Silva, Aguero. Unused subs: Caballero, Reges, Clichy, Otamendi

SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Martina, Van Dijk, Fonte, McQueen, Clasie (Hojbjerg, 67 mins), Romeu, Davis, Tadic (Boufal, 70 mins), Redmond, Austin (Ward-Prowse, 83 mins). Unused subs: McCarthy, Yoshida, Rodriguez, Stephens

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the match: Virgin van Dijk

Match rating: 6/10

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