Manchester City back in front but find it hard going again

A frustrated Manchester City midfielder David Silva after another missed chance against a disciplined Southampton side. Pep Guardiola's team have not won in five games in all competitions.
A frustrated Manchester City midfielder David Silva after another missed chance against a disciplined Southampton side. Pep Guardiola's team have not won in five games in all competitions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Manchester City 1

Southampton 1

LONDON • Pep Guardiola is not used to going a month without a victory, but a frustrating period for Manchester City continues.

Yesterday, Southampton produced a disciplined and dynamic display at the Etihad Stadium to deny City a first win since late September, on an afternoon John Stones will want to forget.

A bad error from the City defender handed Nathan Redmond a goal in the first half - the defender woefully misplacing a pass - and he also had an effort of his own ruled out moments later.

Kelechi Iheanacho's equaliser could have prompted a swift resurgence but it is easy to see why this Southampton side have progressed so significantly in recent weeks.

Claude Puel has established a high-pressing attack and well-organised defensive unit.

They thwarted City's attempts at a comeback and the result means that Guardiola has not won a league game in three attempts for the first time since the end of the 2014-15 season at Bayern Munich.

It is the first time he has gone without a win in five games overall since 2009.

Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero returned to the City starting line-up after the 4-0 defeat in Barcelona, with Guardiola selecting a three-man defence including the Belgian, Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov.

Yet the same back-line were put under intense pressure by Southampton's forward triumvirate of Redmond, Charlie Austin and Dusan Tadic during the first 35 minutes, when City could not register a single shot on target for the first time in 15 matches under Guardiola.

Credit must go to Puel and Southampton, who never allowed Claudio Bravo an easy option when the Chilean goalkeeper was looking to distribute the ball quickly.

In the second half, City finally started to assert some control. Their passing, so inconsistent in the first half, also improved markedly. But, despite a concerted effort, they could not find the net, with Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Sergio Aguero either shooting wide or seeing their shots blocked.

"Against fantastic players it was good to take a point," said Southampton manager Puel. "It was hard to defend at the end of the game but I am very satisfied."

The 1-1 draw helped City return to the top of the Premier League, although the performance again raised question marks over the title credentials of Pep Guardiola's team.

After winning their first 10 games under the Spaniard, City have suffered a major dip in form.

There were signs yesterday of the home support becoming frustrated with Guardiola's build-from- the-back approach, not least when many could be heard jeering their team off at the break after Stones' error.

"We have to analyse what is the situation," said the City manager. "In the period, apart from at White Hart Lane against Tottenham (losing 0-2) it's been good. Against Everton and Barcelona - when it was 11 v 11 - the displays were as good as those in the first 10 games."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'City back in front but find it hard going again'. Print Edition | Subscribe