City Get Back On Track With Luton But Issues Remain
By Bluemoon Staff, Wed 13 December 2023 11:23
It has been a troubling and disappointing period of time for Manchester City fans in more recent weeks, and there will certainly have been those in the fanbase who were relishing, what on paper, should have been an easy task, and a relatively straight forward victory over one of this years promoted sides, Luton Town.
The Kenilworth Road outfit are having the exact kind of season many in the wider world of football were expecting them to have given their time out of the top flight and the relevant finances available, but despite their results, they are giving almost everyone a game and as I type, they are more than in the mix for survival as we head towards the New Year. American punters can access a range of odds at Fanatics Sportsbook and for fans who like a flutter, City taking the title race with Luton surviving could potentially be a good option.
From the City side of life though, ahead of Sunday's Luton clash, we had slipped to fourth place in the table and we were a full seven points off Liverpool following their Saturday clash with Crystal Palace. From our perspective it naturally got worse, as we have only won one of our last five games, drawing three, and of course, there was the midweek clash with Unai Emery's Aston Villa side, and that is probably best described as a significant low point, and quite easily one of the very worst overall performances we have ever put in since Pep Guardiola arrived at the club.
Fans may pick out a key point or two from that game, just as they did the momentous Erling Haaland foul decision award in the prior match against Tottenham Hotspur, but there can be few fans (given Guardiola has quite vehemently addressed the issue himself) that can deny there has been a pretty drastic change in our approach to games this season.
The Villa match itself saw us allow 22 shots at Ederson's usually very well protected goal, and that is the most the side have faced since Pep first walked through the Etihad doors - and it feels even given worse given we only mustered two efforts towards Emi Martinez across the 90 minutes.
Even the most ardent fan would probably have to agree that with how bad we were on the day, taking anything from Villa would have been desperately cruel on them and akin to robbery really.
“As a manager I sometimes need that – I need that challenge. For everyone it is good. It’s necessary to live that. For a long time we’ve lived like a cat and known how good we are. We need it to say: ‘Guys this business – it’s terrible.’ You are unbeatable and then, oh my God, you cannot win one game – from nothing. Maybe for myself first, I need that challenge to prove myself, that I’m a good manager, to help the players overcome that situation. For the players it’s a good challenge to say: ‘Aston Villa were miles better than all of us, so imagine the other ones.’”
The gaffer went on to say that he more than accepted our qualification through to next season's Champions League was itself, in doubt, unless we could turn our form around again and get out of the 'slump' we now find ourselves in. He even went as far ahead of Luton as saying that it was a 'shake' that had been needed after our success, simply to rebalance all the praise our playing squad had received, and a winless run with a damaging defeat or two, would certainly achieve that.
However, he still naturally backed his squad and he rubbished any concerns about poor attitudes or lazy complacency having sunk in.
“It’s not about complacency. Complacency is arriving late to training, not training good, not doing a good job – it not mattering what happens. I’m talking just about bad results. Bad results help you to understand. When you lose games, it is necessary. It’s necessary to live that. After, you take a step forward. It’s the only way.”
So to Sunday, and in some ways the gaffer would have been better pleased with what he saw, but it was far from perfect, we were incredibly wasteful with the good chances we created, given we basically dominated across the 90 minutes.
But it was the hosts who again shocked, taking a late stoppage time first half lead and for a period it looked like we would suffer back to back defeats for the first time since December 2019. However, the squad regrouped and rallied well for the second half, and although it look a bit of time to arrive, Bernardo Silva broke through just after the hour mark and made his effort count in the 62nd minute.
Luton felt the pressure as we stepped up a gear and three minutes later Jack Grealish connected with a low cross from Julian Alvarez, and we finally held the advantage - and we kept it right until the final whistle to return to winning ways.
Far from perfect, but a dose of confidence again and hopefully our shooting boots will soon follow.