While Guardiola’s first season in England has been a mixture of brilliant attacking football and disastrous defending, with City left adrift in the title race, he said on Saturday night he had been struck by how forgiving the City fans had been. Even after consecutive bad results they have stuck by the team.
This is a good thing and Guardiola made clear how the fans have been “fantastic” and “perfect” with him. But he said that the best teams play in high-pressure environments where they are forbidden to lose. That has not always been the case at City this year but it will be this week.
Southampton vs Manchester City player ratings
Southampton vs Manchester City player ratings
1/22 Fraser Forster – 4 out of 10
The Saints keeper was a victim of City’s tantalising strike force. He made a handful of top saves, but this was outweighed by the three goals.
2/22 Cedric – 7 out of 10
The 25-year-old battled relentlessly with Sane today and he came out on top in the majority of the 50/50 challenges. Top performance.
3/22 Jack Stephens – 6 out of 10
Won a number of aerial balls and made some crucial challenges at the back.
4/22 Maya Yoshida – 7 out of 10
Defended bravely throughout and without it, it could have been a whitewash for City.
5/22 Ryan Bertrand – 5 out of 10
Was dragged out of position on several occasions and failed to keep up with the pace of the City strikers.
6/22 Steven Davis – 6 out of 10
Effective in picking up possession in the middle and spreading the ball wide, which opened up the City defence a number of times.
7/22 Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – 5 out of 10
Was reckless in his challenges, which gave away a number of unnecessary fouls for Southampton.
8/22 James Ward-Prowse – 6 out of 10
His deliveries into the box caused problems for City, but they just failed to find a final product.
9/22 Dusan Tadic – 5 out of 10
He failed to make his desired impact on the game. Missed an opportunity in the early stages to put Southampton ahead.
10/22 Nathan Redmond – 6 out of 10
He pushed up the pitch well, delivered balls into the box but defensively, there is room for improvement.
11/22 Manolo Gabbiadini – 6 out of 10
Failed to make his intended impact on the game due to lack of service, but his movement off the ball was impressive.
12/22 Claudio Bravo – 5 out of 10
Had a very quiet afternoon due to lack of activity within the Manchester City box.
13/22 Jesus Navas – 6 out of 10
Defended well and came close to scoring the goal of the season from 35 yards.
14/22 Vincent Kompany – 9 out of 10
His opening goal ignited a triumphant City victory. In terms of his defensive play, he was faultless.
15/22 Nicolas Otamendi – 6 out of 10
He defended well, tackled hard and made a number of key clearances.
16/22 Gael Clichy – 7 out of 10
He was charging up and down the left flank, putting deliveries into the box and using possession well.
17/22 Fernandinho – 6 out of 10
Spread the ball wide and used the width of the St Mary’s pitch to City’s advantage.
18/22 Yaya Toure – 6 out of 10
Controlled play from the middle of the park, but gave the ball away cheaply at times.
19/22 Kevin De Bruyne – 8 out of 10
His deliveries played a huge role in the success of the side. He bagged himself two assists.
20/22 David Silva – 7 out of 10
Assisted the first goal with his corner kick. Aside from that he was energetic and his movement off the ball added to City’s threat going forward.
21/22 Leroy Sane – 7 out of 10
He oozes confidence on the ball and proves problematic for any defence that he comes across. His goal capped a top display today.
22/22 Sergio Aguero – 8 out of 10
The Argentinian provided the goods once again. He made a nuisance of himself throughout and scored the third goal.
City play Arsenal in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday before hosting Manchester United in the Premier League the following Monday. Win both of those and they will have an FA Cup final to look forward to, as well as a secure grip on a Champions League place. Lose and this mixed season will become a disappointing one.
But for Guardiola, that must-win pressure is something he has not felt enough this season. “If you want to become a successful club, we have to live our professions,” he said. “Here I miss a little bit the pressure. In Spain, especially in Germany, the pressure is higher to the players, to the manager, to everybody. Here it is calm.”
Guardiola knows that pressure is the best way to force improvement. “Sometimes when you realise you cannot lose, when you feel the pressure, the real pressure, that you would be so criticised, the players make a step forward,” he said. “You have to create something for the players’ belief. They cannot lose. We need to put something in the heads and the hearts of the players.”
City are just emerging from a very difficult four-game spell. They went out of the Champions League losing 3-1 in Monaco, then they drew 1-1 at home with Liverpool, drew 2-2 at Arsenal having led twice, then lost 2-1 at Chelsea. Had they won those three league games they would be level with Tottenham. But Guardiola was struck by how the City fans still supported the team at the Hull City game last week.
“For example, we went out of the Champions League in Monaco,” Guardiola said. “We played three tough games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. We did not win one game. But our game against Hull City, our supporters helped us and supported us,” Guardiola said, imitating their applause. “That in Italy and Spain does not happen. That is why I am so, so glad for the fans we have. Because for the first time in my life I have experienced that.”
City’s home form, though, is the area that Guardiola most wants to improve going into next season. That is where they have dropped points, with avoidable draws again Everton, Southampton, Middlesbrough and Stoke City. Tottenham, as Guardiola knows, have taken 17 more home points than City this season. “If you want to become a stronger club and stronger team you cannot drop points at home,” Guardiola said. “Because our quality is higher, we cannot drop points. The difference is the mentality, not the quality which is always there.”
But before next season City have a week to define this one. They are playing better than Arsenal at the moment but when the two teams met two weeks ago City twice took the lead but could not put Arsenal away.
The big question for City is whether they can rely on Vincent Kompany, their inspirational captain who has only started eight games this season. He scored on Saturday and if he can get himself through the final weeks of season then City can still finish strongly. “I have been lucky I can make use of a tremendous amount of experience,” said Kompany, discussing his return. “Where I am at physically does not matter. I know what I have to do and as long as I can organise the people around , I can always get a performance.”
That is what Kompany delivered on Saturday but City are understandably cautious going into this week. Kompany will be carefully assessed but he is as important as anyone now that the pressure is back on.Reuse content