Reality check for Pep

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After remaining unbeaten under new manager Pep Guardiola and being the early season pace setters, there was talk that Pep could stroll to a first league title in his first season. However, after being abused at times during their loss to Spurs yesterday afternoon, Pep clearly still has work to do if he wants to win it all.

Despite their emphatic start to the season, City had only kept one clean sheet in the league going into their encounter with Spurs on Sunday, their 4-0 whitewash of Bournemouth at home, and even though they spent £50 million on John Stones, it’s clear there are still frailties at the back. The warning signs were there during their 3-3 draw with Celtic in the week and if not for good attacking play, the outcome would have been a City defeat. They didn’t have such luck against Spurs yesterday as they fell to their first defeat in the Guardiola era. They weren’t outplayed by Spurs as they themselves had their fair share of chances, but at times they couldn’t cope with the high press. Forced into mistakes on plenty of occasions, the City defence was tested to the full and they just couldn’t cope. The most high-profile of those mistakes was of course the Kolarov own goal. Praised this season for his ability to bring the ball out from the back, Kolarov’s at times average defending has gone under the radar. Well it certainly came to the surface against Spurs. At fault on more occasions than I can count and frankly scoring an embarrassing own goal, the Serbian international had a nightmare at the back. He may well offer something in the attacking sense,but when it comes to doing the job he is there to do, defend, he simply isn’t good enough.

One player City were truly missing is of course Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian has been one of the stand out performers in the league this season and you could see from the off that he was missed. His energy and quality in the final third was what City needed at times to gain a foot-hold in the game and perhaps get on the scorsheet. Whilst Silva is a phenomenal player, he lacks the pace and ability to drive with the ball that De Bruyne has and Fernandinho, Silva’s partner for the day, may have the energy, but he certainly isn’t the architect like De Bruyne. It is only one game and City have countless players who can fill in, but if they are to keep up their good start then they need him to be fit and firing sooner rather than later.

City aren’t the first and will unlikely be the last team to lose to Spurs this season, but after such a good start Pep surely will be disappointed. It’s far from a crisis, not even close. Still sitting at the top of the league and with the international break comes a time to regroup. However, the defeat does give Pep some food for thought. It has shown him that this league isn’t as easy as perhaps he might have thought. It’s not like Spain or Germany, you can’t roll teams over every week. It is the most competitive in the world and Guardiola must grasp that, or Spurs wont’ t be the last defeat he suffers this season.

Problem’s mount for José

Despite only losing 2-1 in the Manchester Derby yesterday, though he dare not admit it, the loss highlighted a number of problems in Mourinho’s side. City ran them ragged for the majority of the game, and if it wasn’t for a gift from new goalie Claudio Bravo, it could have been rather embarrassing for José and his team.

Many predicted United to edge the derby on the day, and without Aguero, many thought City didn’t stand a chance. However, it was in fact United who looked like they didn’t stand a chance having to chase City’s player’s all over the park. A key example was the performance of Kevin De Bruyne, a player sold by Mourinho at Chelsea back in 2014, who at times ran the show at Old Trafford and the United player’s simply couldn’t cope with him. Every single one of City’s player put in a tremendous performance, perhaps bar the goalkeeper, and overall they thoroughly deserved the win.

On the other hand whilst City were at their best, United were well off the pace. It was frightening at times the gulf in class between the two teams and problems were there for all to see. Perhaps the most disturbing thing was the anonymous performance of Paul Pogba. Critics of Pogba often argue that he disappears in the big games and based on yesterday’s performance, they may have a point. Marshalled brilliantly by the energetic Fernandinho at times and often being outshone by the likes of David Silva and De Bruyne, Pogba barely if at all influenced the game. Of course he wasn’t the only player who had an off day for United, but for a player who cost £100 million, you expect him to come to the fore in the big games and there certainly isn’t a bigger game than the Manchester derby.

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Pogba hasn’t registered an assist or goal in his opening three games on his return to United (see above)

Another issue was how easily City opened up the United back-line at times. This was the first big test for the United back-line because with no disrespect to Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull, they didn’t offer a lot when it came to an attacking threat. However, if I was grading the performance of United’s defence I’d probably give an F. The gaps at times were shocking with a clear lack of communication and ultimately that lead to their downfall. Daley Blind has been praised at the start of this season for his versatility and ability to play in a range of positions, but whilst he is calm with the ball at his feet, and times his decision-making is frankly diabolical. City’s first goal is a prime example whereby Blind simply watches the ball float past him as if his feet were glued to the ground.It’s only one game of course but he still has to improve a lot if he is going to become a quality United central defender.

This is perhaps the first time in his career that Mourinho is under serious pressure. After being sacked by Chelsea, he has a point to prove but after a solid start, when it came to their first major test, Mourinho and his side choked. They looked short on fitness at times yesterday and with the Europa League starting on Thursday it doesn’t get any easier. If he truly is still the special one, it’s time to show it.

£50 million for Stones is Ludicrous

Pep Guardiola is hailed as the best coach in the game by many and he is responsible for the rise of many great player’s including Gerard Pique and even the little man himself Lionel Messi. Manchester City fans will be hoping that he can continue to discover world-class talents during his team in England. However, if reports are true, and £50 million is prepared to be splashed out on Everton’s John Stones, perhaps the hype about Guardiola’s arrival is a little over-stated.

Guardiola has made it clear that he wants defenders who are good with their feet and can distribute the ball across all avenues of the pitch. Looking at John Stones over the last few year’s, he certainly aligns with the new City manager’s ideology.  Sadly, when it comes to the job defenders are actually supposed to do, defend, Stones has looked well short. Everton had arguably one if not the worse defence last season and whilst other’s in that back line had a poor season, Stones was the one that stood out. Constantly losing the ball in area’s that left his team vulnerable, it was clear that Stones had yet to master when to dribble out or simply punt the ball up field. Perhaps some of the blame must lie with manager Roberto Martinez who was set on playing the game the ‘beautiful’ way  believing  the only way to win in his book was passing the ball from side to side. Furthermore, in Stone’s defense, that Everton team lacks leader’s and at his age as a player, you need someone to direct you and let you know how to adapt to the current situation. Maybe, with Kompany’s guidance at City , Stones may take his game to the next level.

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Stones struggled for form for much of last season (see above)

Although, £50 million for a player who has yet to really impress across a consistent period is an awful lot of money. You only have to look at fellow Englishmen Raheem Sterling to see how even a slight drop in form can mean you suffer large amounts of criticism following a big money move.

Centre-backs are few and far between these days, good ones especially, and with City having struggled to find a decent partner for Kompany over the years, you can understand why they want to spend big. But City are hailed for having this illustrious youth system, so why not give one of your own kid’s a go rather than spending big on a kid who is yet to hit top gear. We have seen that recent centre-back signing haven’t worked out with Mangala failing to live up to the hype surrounding his arrival and Otamendi spending more time rolling around on the floor rather than defending. Guardiola is supposedly the best in the world but he must be blind if he really thinks John Stones is worth the bother. The craziest thing, is that Everton think he is worth more.

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Otamendi struggled at times during his first season in English football (see above)