It has been four games now since Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City last won a game in any competition, a far cry from the team that steamrolled through their first 10 games of the season.
Not to take anything away from Guardiola and City, but in all those games they have failed to win, they have been outplayed at their own game – bar the 1-1 draw with Everton.
The rot started against Celtic in the Champions League, a thrilling 3-3 draw in Glasgow, followed by the 2-0 defeat at Tottenham, the draw with Everton and the latest – the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona – but Guardiola is adamant he will not change his principles.
So will it be same of the same against Southampton today in terms of tactics and result? We will find out in a few hours but if head-to-head form is taken into consideration, then the former Barcelona manager may have very little to be worried about.
City have beaten Southampton in their last four meetings at the Etihad in all competitions, as the last time they lost at home to the Saints was in April of 2004, in a 3-1 defeat but then, this present Saints’ side are an improving side.
And given how difficult the past few weeks have been, Guardiola recognizes the fact that they must improve in both ends of the pitch.
“We have to improve in the boxes, defensive and offensive, to be more clinical because everything happens there,” he said ahead of the clash with the Saints.
“We didn’t draw with Everton because of the penalties, there were many other options to score. They have to understand how important these moments in the box are. The ball is a bomb in the box and you have to score with it or get rid of it as quickly as possible.”
The last sentence of his quote will probably ring more prominent in his mind, seeing as their quest to pass the ball out of danger rather than make a quick clearance, has cost them in recent weeks, most notable in the loss to Barcelona, which also saw goalkeeper Claudio Bravo sent off.
However, Southampton manager Claude Puel is adamant Guardiola will not change his philosophy despite the recent challenges.
“I managed against Pep early in his career and he has not changed his philosophy,” said Puel.
“It’s difficult to defend against them, because they like to have good possession.
“But for us it is important to play our football, and I think we can have a good game.”
Striker Charlie Austin has scored seven goals in 10 games in all competitions and four in seven games in the Premier League and he is one player that Puel must be counting on, and that Guardiola will be hoping his defence can nullify.
The City boss is expected to recall Sergio Aguero to the starting lineup after he started the Argentine from the bench at Barcelona and the striker’s 11 goals in 10 games in all competitions will bother Puel and his defence.
There are also injury concerns for both sides, as City will most likely be without Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta, who are both nursing injuries, while skipper Vincent Kompany could make the bench after he was left out in midweek because he was not fully fit.
For Southampton, Shane Long is out after suffering a hamstring injury against Inter Milan on Thursday, while Matt Targett, Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares are doubts.