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Pep perplexed as City's slump deepens

Updated: 2023-12-08 09:04
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BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom — Pep Guardiola admitted he has to "find a solution" to Manchester City's woes after the Premier League champion crashed to a damaging 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Guardiola's side was rocked by Leon Bailey's second-half winner at Villa Park.

Fourth-placed City is now languishing six points behind leader Arsenal after a fourth successive league game without a victory.

Villa has climbed above City into third place, with the treble winner looking more vulnerable than any time in recent memory.

Guardiola had no immediate answer as to why City has stumbled of late, with the lethargic Villa loss coming after draws with Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.

But the City boss conceded he must get to the bottom of their alarming blip quickly.

"Six points (behind Arsenal) and we would prefer to be top of the league but we made three draws and lost today," he said.

"In these years we have found a way to win games but we struggled a bit and we have to find a way.

"It is my job to find a solution. The dynamic changes by winning games. When a team is better you have to recognize it."

Villa outplayed City from start to finish, with Guardiola's team failing to muster a shot on target after Erling Haaland's two efforts in quick succession early in the first half.

Guardiola admitted City never looked comfortable, saying: "Aston Villa played better. The first half we didn't move in possession and the second half was much better and we had chances, but we struggled to find the pass and movements in the right moments.

"We have scored four or five goals with deflections so it is what it is and we have to accept Aston Villa was better and go to Luton on Sunday."

City's four defeats this season have come without Rodri in the lineup, with the influential Spain midfielder serving a suspension at Villa.

City is unbeaten in its last 43 games with Rodri in the team and Guardiola said: "Rodri is an important player of course but when he is not there we have to find a way to win without him."

Fourteen was the magic number for Villa. It was Villa boss Unai Emery's first career win over Guardiola in 14 attempts and the team's 14th straight home win, tying a club record.

For Villa, it was a 23rd home win of the calendar year. The Birmingham club can match a top-flight club record that dates back to 1931 when Arsenal visits on Saturday.

If Villa wins it will be just one point behind Arsenal after nearly half the campaign.

"We have to be excited but we need to keep the balance," Emery said. "I want us to be a team with a winning mentality and be balanced.

"We are aware of where we are in the table. But behind us is Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham and it is going to be very difficult."


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