Football Betting

Josh Barker: Manchester City are still title favourites despite unwanted Pep Guardiola record

Manchester City took on Crystal Palace in a Premier League meeting this past weekend in what has been something of a bogey fixture for Pep Guardiola.

The Sky Blues lost and drew their two meetings with Palace in 2021/22 but their struggles against the Eagles looked to be over last term after Erling Haaland netted four goals in two games to hand City wins in both meetings.

However, Haaland was sidelined this past weekend and Man City once again failed to beat Roy Hodgson’s side, blowing a 2-0 lead to settle for a 2-2 draw.

A City blip against Palace is somewhat expected now and it does not usually derail their season too much, but this loss happened to come during what is a tough period for the treble winners.

Man City have now won just one of their last six Premier League fixtures, moving them down to 4th in the table and five points adrift of Arsenal.

Following Saturday’s loss, Pep Guardiola gave a rather scathing assessment of his side.

“At the end, be patient and don’t concede transitions and don’t concede like we have done in seven or eight years in these type of games,” he said. “But of course in the first action they run and score a goal and in the last minute we give them [a penalty]. In the 18-yard box you have to be careful and we weren’t. We don’t deserve to win.

“It’s not bad luck, it’s deserved. We give away two points. When you give away this penalty, you deserve it. You see the chances we created and conceded it’s quite similar to all this season apart from the Chelsea game - but we are not able to close the games. That is the feeling.”

The result also means Man City sit on 34 points after 17 games this season, which is the lowest under Pep Guardiola since he took over. Even his first campaign in 2016/17 saw City sitting on 36 at this stage.

This poor run is, of course, likely to set alarm bells ringing across the City fanbase, but the Manchester outfit are still likely to go on and win the league this season.

Arsenal and Liverpool are currently the main challengers for the league title. But the duo play each other this weekend, meaning at least one of them will drop points – handing City a boost.

Also, Liverpool are set to lose Mohamed Salah for around a month in January, which will likely lead to them dropping more points.

Arsenal, meanwhile, had a similarly impressive start to last season before their lack of experience and squad depth saw them collapse in April.

Granted, the Gunners have since signed a few new names, but they still have a young squad, a young manager and Arsenal will have to contend with Champions League football in the second half of the campaign.

And as the north Londoners showed last term, one injury to a big name, such as William Saliba, is likely to all but end their title charge.

As for Manchester City, they have played out the first half of the season without Kevin De Bruyne and still only ended up five points off top spot. So, when KDB returns in January, he will provide a huge boost for the Sky Blues and likely kick-start a winning streak that pushes them back into 1st place.

It is also worth noting that Manchester City’s recent run came against some very tough opponents. Barring Luton – who they beat – and Crystal Palace, Man City faced Aston Villa, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Their fixtures going forward are much more favourable and by the time City have to play the big sides again, they should have a fitter squad.

Neutral fans may wish to see Pep Guardiola’s side’s dominance over English football come to an end, but ruling City out of a title race because of some bad form in the first half of a season while they are still only five points off top spot is not a wise move.

Manchester City normally start seasons slowly but when it comes to the business end of the campaign, they always step into 5th gear just at the right time, and this term is not expected to be any different.

Josh Barker

Josh Barker

Middlesbrough fan from the North East of England. @JoshBarker979 on Twitter.