On Monday night, Will Grigg sent Manchester City’s hopes for a quadruple up in smoke.
Wigan’s 1-0 win knocked Manchester City out of the FA Cup but, in a game dominated by events off the field, nobody was talking about the result
After Fabian Delph’s shocking tackle on Max Power, referee Anthony Taylor provoked the ire of Pep Guardiola by changing his initial yellow card to red.
Incensed, the Spaniard launched into a heated exchange with his counterpart Paul Cook which continued all the way down the tunnel at halftime.
The images are far from the cosmopolitan persona that Guardiola has cultivated, with the former Barcelona coach having to be restrained by several onlookers.
He wasn’t the only one to lose his cool, though. Sergio Aguero will likely face disciplinary action after appearing to punch a Wigan fan during a pitch invasion. The question is – are Manchester city choking?
It's a complex situation
Guardiola can ill-afford for his side to develop a complex now.
In the league alone, they face a difficult away trip to Arsenal before entertaining Chelsea and Manchester United.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they then have to travel to Wembley to face Spurs in April. City’s lead at the top might be yawning at 16 points, but there’s more than enough to put the champagne on ice for now.
Sunday’s League Cup final against Arsenal takes on a crucial importance. Guardiola will be keen to quash the ‘chokers’ narrative before it has a chance to develop – he’ll know that if City fail to win on Sunday, suggestions that his side are floundering will come to the fore.
That confidence will prove vital in the Champions League, too.
Guardiola’s men are virtually guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals, by dint of a routine 4-0 victory in Basel last week. They’re sure to face a sterner test in the next round though, with all of Europe’s top guns likely to progress.
Guardiola has won plenty of plaudits for his team’s displays this year, but the fact remains that they are yet to win a trophy since he arrived in the summer of 2016.
The Abu Dhabi Group are desperate to win the Champions League and a failure in this competition could – bizarrely – lead to tentative questions about the Spaniard’s future.
Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini know only too well the futility of winning domestic honours whilst struggling on the continent.
Enquires about Guardiola’s suitability would only deepen if failure in the Champions League arrived on the back of two cup exits in a week.
The importance of momentum
Momentum is a difficult thing to quantify in football but it’s paradoxically easy to observe.
In 2004, the supreme confidence of Arsenal’s Invincibles meant that, more often than not, actual results were an inevitability.
At times this year, Manchester City have approached similar levels of autonomic brilliance – teams have lined up, been trounced and discarded.
All it took to shatter the aura then was a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty. Manchester United ended Arsenal’s prolonged unbeaten run in October 2004, and the Gunners finished the season without a meaningful trophy.
Pep Guardiola will be hoping then, that the Wigan game won’t tear down his empire before it is even built.
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