Pep Guardiola was hardly expecting a walk in the park this season, but it’s fair to say the Premier League has been a shock to the system for the Spaniard.
Gone are the days of Bayern Munich and Barcelona where the fight for the title was no more than a two-horse race. That was no more apparent than during this week’s round of fixtures and a bitterly frustrating defeat to Chelsea.
A brace from Eden Hazard not only stalled City’s run for the top four but tore up their title hopes beyond any doubt at all. Moreover, and perhaps most damningly though, it carries quite the set of consequences for Guardiola himself.
Despite having a reputation as one of the world’s greatest managers and an eye-watering transfer budget at his disposal, the 2016-17 campaign has been somewhat underwhelming for Guardiola and City.
To say it’s been a poor season would be taking it to the extreme, yet City were looked upon by many as title favourites.
Since the 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane and the 4-0 thrashing at Barcelona in October, the Citizens have struggled for consistency. Brilliant results often emerge back-to-back with surprise losses and unexpected draws.
As a result, the trip to Stamford Bridge this week was the chance to make a statement, even if it would carry little weight in the title race. After all, Chelsea had suffered defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace just days earlier.
Despite Sergio Aguero pegging back the champions-elect, Hazard struck again before half-time to steal a 2-1 win. It proved a hard pill to swallow as Guardiola’s men played impressive football for large periods.
Defeat in west London proved City’s sixth league loss of the season and, consequently, means Guardiola is in the midst of his worst ever season as a manager. That’s got to hurt.
Since inheriting the Barcelona job in 2008, the 46-year-old had never lost more than five league games in a campaign, until now.
His full record, as highlighted by the research of Marca, can be seen below:
Barcelona (2008-09): One defeat
Barcelona (2009-10): One defeat
Barcelona (2010-11): Two defeats
Barcelona (2011-12): Three defeats
Bayern Munich (2013-14): Two defeats
Bayern Munich (2014-15): Five defeats
Bayern Munich (2015-16): Two defeats
Manchester City (2016-17): Six defeats
Considering the season isn’t even over yet, it doesn’t bode well for Guardiola. After all, he has lost as many times in the league in eight months with Manchester City as he did in 42 months at the Nou Camp.
It took until a 3-2 upset at Osasuna in February 2012 for the Spaniard to slump to his sixth league defeat with Barcelona. Ouch.
The culprits behind this unwanted statistic prove Tottenham, Everton, Liverpool, Leicester City and Chelsea twice. Guardiola will be particularly irked with Hazard considering his three goals proving crucial in a third of those losses.
Is it really the end of the world, though? If City maintain their place in the top four, the answer is probably not.
After what proved a comprehensively underwhelming season under Manuel Pellegrini last year, Guardiola will be sure to settle for some sound consolidation. Besides, he has two more years to turn it around.
But winning the Premier League title he craves so much, however, won’t be easy.