Date: 24th October 2016 at 8:10pm
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The Abu Dhabi Honeymoon looks to be over for Pep Guardiola as his interstellar side one again stalled at the buffers at the Etihad yesterday. Fended off more or less at ease by nothing more than a workmanlike Southampton, Guardiola has now equalled his winless record amassing five matches without collecting 3 points.

And it is becoming a concern around the stadium. With the Bookies all but ready to pay out a month ago we are now witnessing the team in a different place in terms of the football, but still, just about, top of the league, albeit on goal difference.

Indeed, only one point separates the top five and one goal separates City and the Ashburton Grove Bottling Factory.

There is little doubt that City should today be sitting four points clear at the summit of the Barclays Premier League, but the performances against Everton and Southampton could well come back to haunt Guardiola come next May.

The chances thrown away last week are well documented, but after the on-paper thrashing by Barcelona in midweek, City needed to get the fans back onside and what they saw in the first half had them wishing there had been another turnstile failure.

Gone was any sight of the fluency that destroyed allcomers in the opening ten matches. Gone was the “if someone`s in a better place to score, give them the ball” routine as Aguero selected to turn back the clock to post an almost Sturridge-like performance where he was only intent to score himself regardless of the fact he was at times surrounded by giants in the shape of Fonte and the impressive “come to City” Van Dijk. I would like to see Virgil take over from Kompany. Instead of paying £50m for the likes of Bonucci, here we have a seasoned Barclays Premier League campaigner who can tackle, head, pass, get on the end of things from dead ball situations and is a leader.

You only have to look at the way he marshalled his troops towards the end of this match when facing a barrage of sky blue. A ramrod straight back line, protected by two holders and the wider men shutting down the wings. BY contrast, City`s defence was a laugh a minute.

After just short of half an hour of practical boredom, the expensive Stones decided to light up the stadium, in pretty much the same way Fernadinho did at the Camp Nou. No danger, so why not give Redmond a free pot? He may not be Messi but , hey, he was not going to miss once Santa had arrived. I have a limited amount of sympathy with Stones. The destination of his “blind” pass was in fact Kompany who instead of making the angle as Kolarov would, he pressed up on Redmond. Once Stones pass went behind him there was only one winner and Redmond took no prisoners.

As usual this signalled the commencement of time-wasting tactics from a team who didn`t look threatening at all, but would have been content with a 0-0 draw, but who now had a 1-0 win in their sights. City were doing nothing to combat that.

Aguero was hopelessly out of touch adding fuel to reports of a contretemps with Guardiola and playing as if he had a point to prove, but badly. Silva danced around without finding space although in the first half the Southampton lines had left him room for manoeuvre. De Bruyne looked injured from the start and it was a surprise that he was sacrificed for Iheanacho at the break.

Elsewhere, Gundogan looked as though he had already lost the apparition quality I reported in earlier versions of the Ped Report and Sterling for reasons best known to his manager was asked to play down the left. Ineffectively. He is much more dangerous on the right where he has the pace to turn defenders and take them out of the game. On the left, he has to check inside giving the full back the chance to stand him up and the rest of the defence to take shape before his eyes.

In the second half he was much better down the right and perhaps even more so when he moved to number 8 and drove directly into the heart of the Saints defence.

The only plaudits for me go once again to the evergreen Fernandinho, Barcelona excepted. The Brazilian put in a shift, showing why he is the one who will be offered a new contract. He was strong in the tackle, leaving a snidy one in here and there, tidy in front of the back three and actually commanding when he replaced Kompany at centre back towards the end of the game. At least today Kompany ran off the field, to highlight that this time his replacement was not due to injury.

On those odd occasions Fernandinho has dropped into the centres, I like the look of him even more. He reads the game well, passes out well and positions himself well. He is probably on a par with Mascherano in that respect and could be a solution in the future.

Indeed it was no surprise it was his long ball out of defence that enabled City to get in behind the sturdy Saints defence and for once catch them flat-footed. Although the pass was intended to release Sane for a shot on goal, it was a little too long, but Sane recovered it and promptly sent it in the direction of Iheanacho who without hesitation hammered it into the net. I love Kelechi`s decision-making. No switch of foot, no extra touch, just “bang” and into the net before the goal tender can even move. Sergio take note.

The Blues now needed to move up a gear and promptly did so. Sterling, now restored to the right was starting to cause issues especially as the focal point of the attack was not Iheanacho and not Aguero who had been moved into a deeper position. Iheanacho started to move people around in the box and holes started to appear. But City simply could not take advantage as they were quickly sealed by Fonte and Van Dijk.

Aguero seemed to be lumbering and labouring most times, was selfish and totally disenchanted with the idea of lining up goals for his colleagues. At one point he went on an incredible mazy run, but when the angle was against him he ignored the claims of Sterling and Iheanacho and shot into the side netting. This will further fuel the duel with him and Guardiola because it is against the Pep Principles.

For the life of me I can`t work out why, when Kompany went off, he brought on Navas when the front line was crying out for Nolito, who was to make his cameo as the game headed into added time. Clearly the success Sterling was having inside was visible and maybe Pep envisaged Navas adding to that along the right, but a concerted effort at blocking, kicking clear upfield and the ubiquitous time wasting which, finally saw Forster awarded a yellow card, enabled Southampton to get out with the draw they came for and sent the City faithful home in a quandry.

Have these teams sussed City out, or has plan D not been formulated yet? In La Liga or the Bundesleague, when you play the eighth team it is pretty much a cakewalk if you`re Barcelona or Bayern. The Barclays Premier League is different. Pellegrini and Mancini discovered that underestimating anyone in this league adds fuel to the fire once the exit door is ajar. Guardiola needs to get to the root of his team`s problems and fast.

Yes, I get it that this new “winning philosophy” needs time to bed in. Our players are not as fit as his charges in Spain and Germany were, but this is mainly a team that won the title in 2014 and is Premier League savvy. Add to that De Bruyne, Gundogan and Nolito, who, in principle should improve the squad, and it shouldn`t be difficult. True we don`t have a rampaging Yaya in amongst us right now, nor is there the 20 plus goals that “the Beast” struck before he was struck down with the shoulder injury that enhanced his exit from the Etihad, but I`m convinced we already have enough here to bag the title. As Iheanacho said in today`s papers, it is about focus. It is also about the level of teamwork we were enjoying a month ago. It is not about the “Aguero Show”. We have seen already that the stalwarts of the recent past in the shape of Yaya and Hart cut no truck with the Catalan Burghermeister. And if Sergio continues to see his backside and not play for the team, he will see more of the bench than the field, before he too stares at Rowsley Street from a different angle.

Maybe his penalty misses are a burden on his shoulders. If so Guardiola should appoint someone else. It is hard to see that Fernandinho would lack the focus or Nolito for that matter, but whoever presents himself at the 12-yard line has to be someone who is going to convert the chance.

I thought Sicknote Kompany felt his way back into the team soundly, although I do believe he didn`t fully understand what happens now when we get the ball at the back and this lack of understanding contributed to Southampton`s goal. Other than that Fernandinho was City`s most consistent player and Kolarov looked as though he`d left his Tottenham Blues behind him.

With the Stretfords getting caned at Stamford Bridge, it is difficult to see them play that badly on Wednesday and, of course, we wouldn`t want to see Pep break his winless record against them. We need to see some positive team football, like the first 40 minutes there in September.

I do have to ask who Moaning Maureen thinks he is giving grief to Conte. You cannot blame a manager for feeling elated when his team has pasted United. Then saying Conte has no class? Mourinho is the one manager in the Barclays Premier League short on class. Look at his latest record at Chelsea and then the comments he posted about the referee for the Liverpool match.

He is simply one of the most despicable people I have seen and the only good that will come out of him remaining at Sold Trafford will benefit the only football team to come from Manchester, plus one or two others.

I have to say that watching TV and reading the blogs over the weekend has given me a chuckle. First among equals was Arsene Wengers declaration that you need good red wine after a match. If you win you deserve it, if you lose, you need it. Brilliant! And then in a blog that was reporting the ineffectiveness of Pogba was a comment that said what a waste of money he was?.he`s just Carlton Palmer with a series of stupid haircuts. Love it!

Well, Sue said, as I left for the Etihad?It`s all yours today, sweetheart, I think she meant three points, but once again it proved to be the kiss of death. Her team are sitting proudly in the thick of it now and they, Liverpool, and Chelsea look set to be the ones who cause City additional trauma if Guardiola doesn`t stop the rot.

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