The Etihad smacked of complacency – this was Pep Guardiola’s most galling setback so far


A fair few had scarpered for an early tram, Pep had pecked Sergio on the cheek, it hadn’t been Barca-beautiful but it would do.

The Etihad smacked of tired complacency.

Of the setbacks so far, this was the most galling for Guardiola.

He had called for the midweek Champions League performance to be a water-mark beneath which his squad should never duck.

Instantly, his idealism was pricked.

The challenge of unravelling well-knitted defensive systems such as Middlesbrough’s – and don’t forget they also got a deserved a point at the Emirates – is proving as tough as going toe-to-toe with Luis Enrique’s thrill-seekers.

You know how the saying goes.


City might be able to do it against Barcelona on a barmy Champions League night but can they do it against good, old, gritty Boro on a cold Saturday afternoon?

Getting past a Rolls Royce is sometimes easier than getting by a bus.

That makes it three home draws on the Premier League spin – compelling evidence that while Guardiola’s City might yet turn into a thing of beauty, they will not be disappearing over the title horizon any time soon.

For a selection of reasons – the main one being that whatever combination he comes up with, Guardiola’s defensive resources lack a depth of resilience and nous.

George Friend’s added-time cross was a cracker, Marten de Roon’s thumping header would probably have carried Claudio Bravo towards those trams, but it was an equaliser laced with poor defending.

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