Southampton prove Pep Guardiola right as 'boring' Man City claims are made to look foolish

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After a 1-1 draw with Southampton on Saturday ended Manchester City’s 12-match winning streak in the league, Pep Guardiola repeated the message he has been giving for weeks.

“I don’t need a good result – even today winning the game – [to know] the title race will not be over,” the City boss said after his side failed to beat the Saints for a second time this season. “In January no one is champions. There are many games, many tough games like today and that’s all.”

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Guardiola is of course right, although you wouldn’t know it judging by the frenzy that has erupted about City’s lead at the top of the Premier League table.

With City beating Chelsea last weekend to establish an 11-point lead at the top, neutrals and opposition fans alike started lamenting the unfairness of it all, how City were impossible to compete with and that the title race was already over.

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As Southampton showed City in a tough contest at St Mary’s, neither of those statements are even remotely true.

Guardiola has been warning us for weeks that this kind of result would eventually happen and the signs have been there. City were lucky to leave Arsenal with a win on New Year’s Day and haven’t been at their resplendent best for around a month now.

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The popular narrative is that City’s wonderful players and infinite resources allow them to steamroll everyone, but that does a great injustice to well-organised and tactically brilliant teams like Southampton.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side were the first to take points off City at the Etihad Stadium this season when a disciplined strategy stifled City’s creativity.

When facing City, it is very easy for opponents to go to one of two extremes. They can park the bus and hope to nick a goal on the counter late on, but City have so many weapons that eventually they will find a way through.

Alternatively, some try to replicate the relentless pressing that has brought Liverpool joy against the Blues in the past. Rarely is it performed well, meaning that City pick them off and exploit the gaps left by unorganised pressing.

Back in September and on Saturday, Southampton did neither. Hasenhuttl had his team limit the passing options available to Rodri (in September it was Fernandinho) by blocking passing lanes. It’s a strategy that is difficult for City to overcome, as much of their attacking play relies on good build-up from defence and holding midfield.

Certainly, Southampton did not give the impression that it is impossible to compete with City.

The notion that the title race is already over is bizarre. City know better than anyone that until it is mathematically confirmed, the leader of the pack is never fully out of sight.

In 2011/12, City squandered a commanding lead a the top to fall eight points behind Manchester United with just six games to go – we all know how that turned out.

Two years later, a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool left City seven points adrift – admittedly with two games in hand – but still they rallied to become champions.

City are now 12 points better off than Liverpool, but that gap will shrink to six if their closest rivals win their two games in hand. With over a third of the season still to play, catching City is by no means an insurmountable task.

As Southampton showed, any team is capable of taking points off Guardiola’s side. Because of that, the title race is far from over.

Do you think the title race is very much still alive or are City in total control? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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