Manchester City’s title aspirations took a big blow on Sunday as it suffered a 4-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park. It was Pep Guardiola’s biggest defeat as City manager, and it leaves the team sitting in fifth place in the Premier League standings, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.
Ever since the influx of cash from the Middle East, City has seen itself as a title contender. It brought in Guardiola from Bayern Munich to take over from Manuel Pellegrini, but the Spaniard has had a tough adjustment to life in the Premier League. City has an extremely talented squad, but the players are still adjusting to the style of play that Guardiola promotes, and it might not be an instant success for the man who is considered to be one of the best managers in the world.
Against Everton, the team was exposed as the Toffees ended up taking a convincing win in front of a raucous Goodison Park. Romelu Lukaku gave the home side the lead in the 34th minute with his 12th league goal of the season. Goals by Kevin Mirallas, Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman followed in the second half. Everton manager Ronald Koeman, who is good friends with Guardiola from their time playing together at Barcelona, was delighted with the display put on by his side.
“I am really pleased with the team performance,” Koeman said. “It is a big day, a big win and a well-deserved one. In the second half we were perfect in every aspect. We played well offensively and defensively, and had good organization in the team. We were aggressive, and when we won the ball we played forwards and scored four goals.
“At half time, we spoke about high pressing because we knew City liked to build up from the back. You need to show your pressing and we did that really well. There were a few moments where they played through the lines and in the first half they had some good chances. But in the second period, that was the type of team performance you need to beat the big sides.”
The win sees Everton stay in seventh place, and opening up a four-point gap down to eighth-placed West Bromwich Albion who suffered a 4-0 loss to Tottenham on Saturday. City slipped down to fifth place and sits 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.
“We made a good performance in the first half and we created enough chances to score a goal,” Guardiola said.
“And what happened after, we were not able to score a goal and they arrived once and scored a goal and in the second half they scored another quick goal and that is so tough mentally for the players.
“We have said for a long time — I think it started in the Everton game at home when we missed two penalties and afterwards in many, many games — we create, we are there, we created chances but we don’t score and when the opponents have a chance, they punish us.
City invites teams to provide pressure as Guardiola’s philosophy is to play the ball out from the back. He is sticking by his guns, and it might just take some time before the team perfects the system and we see similar results to what he had at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
But the Premier League is a different beast, where there is little room for error and there are more teams fighting for the championship compared to Spain or Germany. Guardiola might have to go shopping for some new defenders, as the ones he has are having trouble playing the way he wants in an effective way. John Stones is promising, but he still makes way too many mistakes to be a cornerstone of a championship side.
The loss against Everton also puts a lot of pressure on the team in their next fixture, as it takes on in-form Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. A loss against Spurs, and City could be struggling to even get into the top four. And if Guardiola fails to get the team to qualify for the Champions League during his first season in charge, it would be seen as a huge failure.