Pep Guardiola concedes title after Goodison Park rout

Where to begin with this latest shambolic Manchester City performance, the latest question mark to have been raised over Pep Guardiola and his efforts to turn the world’s wealthiest football club into its most successful?
Pep Guardiola concedes title after Goodison Park rout

The simple analysis involves the fact that goals from Romelu Lukaka and Kevin Mirallas put Everton firmly in control before teenagers Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman, with their first goals for the club, completed the rout.

But, as Guardiola all but waved the white flag of surrender towards Chelsea in this season’s title race, the questions mount above and beyond the sheer wonder of how the world’s most highly-rated coach has managed to lose four of his last eight league games and, at Goodison yesterday, fell to the biggest league defeat of his managerial career.

“The first one, yeah,” said Guardiola when asked if top place is now beyond his team. “The first one is a 10-point gap and that is a lot of course.

“The second one is three points, so we have to see. I spoke with the players for the last three weeks to forget about the table. Focus on the next game and do our best. After that, at the end of the season, we’ll analyse how our level was, our performance, the coach, the players. After we are going to decide.”

Those decisions will involve a massive overhaul of a squad that has too many glaring frailties and which is, clearly, struggling to adapt to the demands and the much-vaunted “philosophy” that Guardiola has brought with him to English football.

But, for now, the bottom line at Goodison was that City, as has too often been the case recently, failed to take multiple chances and conceded goals from their opponents’ first effort of the game.

“Believe me, I would like to know why,” said Guardiola. “I will be concerned and worried when they arrive six or seven times and create a lot of chances.

“That’s then our problem to control the game. I know in many cases the people don’t agree with me but to control the game means you have the possession to create enough chances and concede as few as possible.

“That has happened. But what happens when they arrive for the first time — it’s a goal!

“It is tough for the players. I was a player and understand how tough it is for them right now. We are trying to do absolutely everything. But it’s not the first time it’s happened this season.

“I had eight years as a coach and won seven titles. That is an exceptional situation. That is not a good argument for our people and I have to look forward for the best solution for our players to win again.”

Guardiola traced this current trend back to his meeting with Everton at the Etihad in October when City missed two penalties, a host of chances, and gifted Ronald Koeman’s team a point.

Yesterday, after dominating early proceedings and failing with a strong early penalty appeal after Joel Robles appeared to bring down Raheem Sterling, Claudio Bravo conceded from the opposition’s first shot on target for the fourth time in the last seven games.

Bravo will, rightly, be queried over his failure to stop Romelu Lukaku’s crisp left-foot shot but there were a litany of errors as Gael Clichy gifted the ball to Davies after 33 minutes and the teenager sent away Mirallas for the killer cross.

City could still sniff the chance of at least a point but were facing a major struggle two minutes into the second half when Lukakau’s through ball was deflected by former Evertonian John Stones into the path of Ross Barkley.

The England midfielder returned the ball to Mirallas whose finish again exposed the weakness in City’s goalkeeping.

Guardiola’s side continued with their pattern of possession but a pointless end product and, as they pressed forward, Yaya Toure’s lack of concentration and general bad defensive judgement throughout the team was exposed over and over.

On 78 minutes, Davies picked up the ball in his own half, sprinted half the length of the field, played a one-two with Barkley and then lifted the ball, coolly, over Bravo. Lukaku tried, but failed, to make contact as the ball crossed the line but Davies’ first goal in professional football was thoroughly deserved.

Like Davies, Lookman will long remember this game also. An 89th minute substitute, the recent signing from Charlton needed to wait only a couple of minutes before Seamus Coleman charged down a Stones clearance and the ball broke kindly for the teenager to convert past Bravo.

“It was a perfect afternoon,” said Everton manager Koeman. “How we played in the second half was really outstanding, really perfect.”

EVERTON (3-4-2-1):

Robles 7; Holgate 6, Williams 8, Funes Mori 7; Coleman 7, Barry 6 (McCarthy 73, 6), Davies 9, Baines 7; Mirallas 8 (Schneiderlin 64, 6), Barkley 8 (Lookman 89); Lukaku 8.

Subs not used:

Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Lennon, Valencia.

MAN CITY (4-2-3-1):

Bravo 5; Sagna 5, Stones 5, Otamendi 5, Clichy 5; Toure 5, Zabaleta 6 (Iheanacho 62, 6); Sterling 7, Silva 6, De Bruyne 8; Aguero 5.

Subs not used:

Caballero, Kolarov, Navas, Delph, Sane, Garcia.


Mark Clattenburg 7

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