Manchester City have suffered consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time in almost five years. The last time it happened, Mikel Arteta was serving as Pep Guardiola’s assistant. Seven of their XI have since moved on.
The reigning champions have lost all three matches that key man Rodri has been suspended for, exiting the Carabao Cup following a 1-0 loss to Newcastle before further defeats in the league away to Wolves and Arsenal.
They’d boasted a 100% winning record before that point but have potentially blown the title race wide open with their blip.
But how did City respond last time they suffered a blip like this? We’ve taken a look back.
City had established themselves as a juggernaut back in 2018. The season before they’d won their first league title of the Guardiola era with a record 100 points and began 2018-19 in similarly relentless form.
They dropped just four points from their opening 15 matches and looked as though they might run away with it once again.
But they suffered a setback with a 2-0 defeat away to Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea in December, and while they responded with a routine 3-1 win over Everton there was worse to come that month.
Guardiola’s men suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace in their last outing before Christmas – you may remember that Andros Townsend wonderstrike – before losing 2-1 at Leicester City on Boxing Day, courtesy of a similarly sexy Ricardo Pereira belter.
“It was a similar performance to the Crystal Palace game, we started well but conceded a goal the first time they arrived in our box. Mentally we are lacking confidence in that situation,” responded Guardiola.
“We have to accept it, we have to realise that we have to work harder and try to get immediately one good result and get our confidence back.”
Much of the post-match discourse focused on how City struggling to perform without their key defensive midfielder (sound familiar?), Fernandinho, who was missing with a thigh injury.
Unlike the season prior, City could ill-afford a major wobble as Liverpool were on the ascendancy. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds moved seven points clear at the summit of the Premier League table on Boxing Day, while Tottenham – who fell away entirely amid their European exploits that year – sat in second.
Guardiola’s men didn’t panic, bouncing back from defeat at the King Power with a composed display to beat Southampton 3-1 away – a win they desperately needed before the title showdown at home to Liverpool.
Fernandinho had returned for the trip to St. Mary’s and was once again in the starting line-up against Liverpool in early January.
City beat Liverpool 2-1 in a breathless contest at the Etihad that ought to be remembered as one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever matches – a slugfest between two brilliant teams on top of their game.
Liverpool fans still agonisingly wonder what might have been had a remarkable John Stones goal-line clearance not denied them the lead in Manchester that night.
An epic encounter.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 3, 2020
The final standings
The vital win over Liverpool closed the gap to four points and from that point, City put on the afterburners. They stretched their winning run to four matches before suffering one last setback away to Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle in late January.
Sergio Aguero put City ahead in the first minute but the Magpies came back to win 2-1 after registering just 24% possession, prompting the BBC to ask: ‘Did City relinquish the title at St James’?’
The answer was quite emphatically no. They didn’t drop any points for the remainder of the campaign – and nor could they afford to. Guardiola’s side won all 14 of their remaining Premier League matches from that point on, which saw them finish on 98 points – one ahead of Liverpool.
Man City also completed a historic domestic treble that year, and they might well have done the quadruple were it not for Spurs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
You’d be braver than us to predict that City won’t do something similar again this year.