Pep Guardiola says that Manchester City are up against an amazing challenge to win the Premier League title this season. Guardiola was speaking after his team picked up a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth on Sunday.
The margin of victory could have been even greater if not for a penalty that was denied for Manchester City. The decision – which was taken even after VAR consultation – appeared to make Guardiola quite angry at injustice for a second consecutive week. City were denied a goal in the last minute of their game against Tottenham and this led to just a 2-2 draw for the team.
Even though City were quite dominant against Bournemouth, Guardiola’s team did show a couple of frailties that could lead to opportunities for Liverpool. Even after winning the title for the last two seasons, complacency is not one of the attributes Guardiola is fighting against at City this season. He also has an amazingly strong squad that has just been strengthened even further by the arrivals of players like Rodri and Joao Cancelo.
Rodri had a clear penalty disallowed in the game against Spurs and Guardiola could not hide his frustration at the VAR system after the game. Speaking after the match to FourFourTwo, he said:
“No, no, no. Penalty? No. It was clear hands last game, clear hands. A penalty? No, please.
“The challenge this season will be amazing for us after winning two back-to-back titles, the challenge will be great. Ask the VAR people, please. Don’t ask me.”
A victory against Bournemouth is certainly not a difficult challenge for City, who have been able to overcome the Cherries in all of the nine Premier League games against this opponent. City have also scored a flurry of goals (28) and conceded just four. However, the latest match at the Vitality Stadium could have easily gone the other way if not for goalkeeper Ederson and defender Kyle Walker being extremely lucky to avoid red cards in the first half.
The squad strength may be impressive on paper, but City are not perfect when it comes to the full-back positions. Bournemouth were able to frequently take advantage of Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko being focused on offence. The approach by Manchester City is to push the full-backs higher up the pitch and this caused plenty of gaps at the back. This will not be a major problem if the fullbacks possessed a lot of pace.
Walker is extremely fast, but he is prone to the occasional clanger. Meanwhile, Zinchenko does not have a lot of pace. The 22-year-old has been able to become a regular against all odds, as Benjamin Mendy would have been the default pick in the most scenarios. Due to an injury, Mendy has been unavailable but his return to training will help City with certain strength.
Any other team with even greater pace than Bournemouth on the flanks will be able to make a significant impact.
Even though there are certain issues within the squad and Guardiola feels that there is a growing conspiracy against the team, there is little doubt that the team is head and shoulders above the rest of the Premier League in terms of strength and quality. City’s quest for a third successive league title leads them to a game against Brighton next weekend.