LONDON • Pep Guardiola wished everyone a happy new year on Saturday and publicly offered up some inoffensive answers when quizzed about Manchester City's problems, only for a truer insight into his mood to emerge when he believed that he was safely out of sight.
Standing in the entrance to one of the plush porta cabins doubling up as changing rooms while Anfield's refit is completed, an animated Guardiola was spotted deep in conversation with Txiki Begiristain, City's director of football.
The City manager paced around, yanking at his tie to loosen it from around his neck, waving his arms before punching his fist into the palm of his other hand.
Here was a picture of frustration, his actions seemingly lamenting his players' inability to match Liverpool's aggressive approach as another defeat - 1-0 - checked aspirations.
Usually at this time of the year, Guardiola's eyes are fixing upon the challenge ahead.
He is not used to downscaling ambitions, but top four, rather than top, now seems realistic for a side 10 points off the pace (before City's match yesterday) and the concern that he showed in the bowels of the new Main Stand spoke volumes.
City struggled to muster a coherent response to Georginio Wijnaldum's header and, while Liverpool's character saw them over the line, the visiting side melted into the background.
Guardiola will find a winning formula, but it does not look like being this season and the behind-the-scenes peek at him suggests that the Spaniard is worried that his methods have not elicited more improvement from his side.
"I'm not able to tell you that. I don't know," he replied when asked how long it would be before City start performing consistently.
"Jurgen (Klopp, the Liverpool manager) is here more than one season. I've been here just six months and the way we want to play in the league is not that simple.
"We need a little bit more time but I'm a guy who is so optimistic and we're going to try.
"Now we have to focus on the next game and not put a lot of stress on things by saying, 'Oh, if you don't win the Premier League, wow, that's not going to be a good season'."
Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus, 19, arrived on Sunday - for £27 million (S$48 million) from Palmeiras - but three new defenders would be as beneficial and too often City's attitude has been found wanting against their nearest rivals.
Replicating their status as flat-track bullies with a 2-1 win against Burnley last night was no mean feat, but it will also prove little.
The suspicion is that Guardiola has made his mind up on many players - Aleksandar Kolarov too flaky, Nicolas Otamendi an accident waiting to happen, Yaya Toure too many days when talent and application do not dovetail - but others should see that careers are on the line.
"In 2014, we had a very good run after the new year. We won nearly all the games," said Toure.
His comments seemed an exercise in protocol. City need to get back to doing - not just saying - the right things.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN