Another weekend of Premier League football has begun and once again Manchester City have dropped points.
For the third time in just five fixtures so far this campaign, Pep Guardiola’s side looked flat and slow as they were held to a draw at the London Stadium against West Ham United.
Michail Antonio opened the scoring in the first half with a stunning bicycle kick as Guardiola’s side failed to register a single big chance against David Moyes’ defensive setup. A goal from substitute Phil Foden early on in the second half got them back level, however they could get a second goal and the points were shared.
Sergio Aguero is back from injury and started the game but he looked extra slow in comparison to when he’s previously come back from injury, while Kyle Walker struggled going forward and the midfield without Foden and Kevin De Bruyne from the start severely lacked creativity.
Riyad Mahrez couldn’t get the better of Arthur Masukau and Raheem Sterling had an off day as City were held to a stale performance where a win would have flattered them.
It’s not the first time they’ve delivered a performance like that either. Against Leicester they were flat all over the pitch and exposed defensively, while even this midweek against Porto the side really struggled to create chances in the first half before Porto tired.
While the schedule is definitely a reason behind the bad performances, as City aren’t alone in struggling, they seem uninspired and completely out of rhythm rather than unfit.
Guardiola’s meticulous approach has often been criticised by players who didn’t play much under him and even by those who did after he left. His philosophy requires extreme concentration and repetition and with games coming so thick and fast and players undeniably tired already even before that, it may just be getting to them that little bit more than normal.
It’s not a coincidence that City’s brightest players this season have been the ones who haven’t played as regularly under him in the past. Phil Foden, Ruben Dias and João Cancelo have been the stand-out performers thus far and have all played much less (or not at all in Dias’ case) than they currently are previously under Pep so they are still stimulated.
It’s also Guardiola’s fifth season at the club. He’s never stayed at a club beyond four years before and even then he blamed the reason for the poor performance in that fourth season on his own tiredness.
He looks worn out, City look worn out and stale and the whole club looks bereft of ideas right now. They will get results this season more often than not, simply because individually they have got better players than most sides they come up against. But they’re being found out more and more often now and it could be a case of Guardiola’s contract expiry coming at the perfect time for all parties.