The supposedly best and broadest squad in the world is eliminated in the League Cup by the league’s bottom team. City coach Pep Guardiola is putting himself under pressure ahead of the Manchester derby.
Officially, of course, no one at Manchester City had underestimated Southampton FC. But it would have been only human, should it have happened unofficially after all. A League Cup quarter-final at the Premier League bottom, whose coaching effect was that four league games with four points under Ralph Hasenhüttl had been followed by four league games without a point under Nathan Jones: What did the supposedly best and broadest squad in the world have to fear?
But on Wednesday evening it was not Pep Guardiola who blissfully formulated meaningful sentences after the final whistle, but Jones himself. “People have said to me I’m not good enough, but this is the reward for the last few weeks,” spoke the 49-year-old Welshman, who is a Premier League head coach for the first time. “I am very proud of the players, myself and my coaching team. Rome wasn’t built in a day either.”
Haaland again spared – Guardiola takes Phillips to task
Southampton ran out 2-0 winners against a City side that played arguably one of its worst halves in the Guardiola era. The Catalan had rested many of his top players, as he had done on Sunday in the FA Cup, except that even without Erling Haaland or Kevin De Bruyne he had managed an easy 4-0 win over Chelsea. This time, City’s B-team – which included a 118-million-euro man (Jack Grealish) and a world champion (Julian Alvarez) – looked sloppy defensively and offensively inhibited.
“I know my players well and today was not even close to what we are,” Guardiola criticised the unexpected performance. “When you are not ready, you are a few centimetres late and you don’t score. When you are ready, you score it.” Southampton, who face Newcastle in the semi-finals, deserved to progress, he said.
Kalvin Phillips, recently in the spotlight for returning from the World Cup overweight according to Guardiola, was also noticeable for being in the starting eleven for the first time in more than half a year. “It’s not just about Kalvin,” Guardiola took this time to defend the €49m summer newcomer. “Everyone is responsible on a bad night like tonight.” In goal, for example, substitute Stefan Ortega Moreno also fluffed.
Guardiola’s ‘ridiculous’ ideas for Saturday’s city derby
The chance to catch up with Liverpool as record league cup winners were thus literally given away by ManCity. The pressure ahead of Saturday’s city derby with in-form record champions (and League Cup semi-finalists) Manchester United has thus grown unnecessarily – especially on Guardiola, who explicitly spared Haaland & Co. twice in a row with this game in mind.
The coach had already announced something special during the week for the showdown at Old Trafford, in which the five-point gap to leaders Arsenal is not to increase at all. “I have a few ideas and thoughts – ridiculous ones for a game against United.” They certainly won’t be so ridiculous that Haaland or De Bruyne find themselves in the wild card role again.