Football News

Pep Guardiola’s worst ever start to a season opens up Premier League’s runner-up spot

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:00, 11 November 2019

For many fans the Premier League title race is all but over after Liverpool moved eight points clear at the top of the table.

The Reds beat defending champions Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, which was widely billed as a title decider – despite the 2019/20 campaign being just 12 games old.

But one thing the Liverpool victory did confirm was Pep Guardiola’s worst ever start to a top-flight league campaign since he started life as a manager in 2008.

It also continued Guardiola’s poor run of form at Anfield, with the 48-year-old having tasted defeat at the home of Liverpool on four occasions across all competitions – more than he has lost at any other stadium as a manager.

As we head into the final international break of 2019, Manchester City sit fourth in the Premier League, one point behind second-placed Leicester City and Chelsea in third.

Guardiola’s side have accumulated 25 points from their opening 12 games, winning eight, drawing one and losing three times – already dropping 11 points. Last season they dropped 16 in total and the campaign before just 14.

Having won the Premier League title in each of the past two campaigns, Guardiola’s Manchester City built off good starts, sitting top after 12 games in both 2017/18 and 2018/19. Last season they had 32 points from 12 games while the campaign before they were even better, winning 34 points from their opening 12 matches.

Guardiola’s previous worst start to a season came in his first in England as his Manchester City side won 27 points from their opening 12 games to sit third; they would eventually go on to finish fourth.

At Bayern Munich, Guardiola always managed to be first after 12 games, accumulating 32, 30 and 34 points in his three seasons there. And at Barcelona, Guardiola’s lowest tally was 28 points from 12 games in his final campaign at the Nou Camp – though the Catalan giants were second.

What makes Manchester City’s start that much more worrying though is the standing of Leicester and Chelsea between them and Liverpool.

Leicester and Chelsea – the only other two sides to win the Premier League since 2013/14 – have been surprise packages this season with Brendan Rodgers and Frank Lampard getting their teams to play expansive attacking football.

Chelsea may be expected to fall away, as the Blues still have weaknesses in defence and have struggled in games against bigger opponents – with Manchester City up next after the international break.

But Leicester have proven themselves as genuine top-four contenders, losing only narrowly to Manchester United and Liverpool – the latter in a controversial manner. The Foxes boast the best defence in the league, having conceded just eight goals, with their back four marshalled by Caglar Soyuncu who has ensured Leicester are not missing Harry Maguire.

Rodgers’ side also have the second-best attack in the league, scoring 29 goals – bettered only by Manchester City’s 35 – but their team is the most clinical. The Foxes have a shot conversion rate (excluding blocks) of 22.31% – the best in the Premier League – with top scorer Jamie Vardy boasting a simply ridiculous conversion rate of 47.83%.

The Premier League was initially expected to be a two-horse race between Liverpool and Manchester City, but the latter now appear to be facing stiff competition to even finish as runners up.

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