Pep Guardiola: Struggling Manchester City must find a way to win without Rodri

Catalan coach searching for answers after worst run since 2017

Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City, gestures to his players during the Premier League match against Aston Villa. Getty Images
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola admits his side must find a way of winning matches when key midfielder Rodri is unavailable.

The treble winners slipped to fourth place in the Premier League after their 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday night.

The loss at Villa Park followed a run of three successive draws meaning Guardiola and his side have gone four games without a league win for the first time since April 2017.

For a side used to setting benchmarks for excellence, they are currently facing a few stats they'd rather forget.

Their 17 goals conceded in the first 15 games of the season is their most since 2009-10 when they finished fifth.

Meanwhile, the two shots they mustered against Villa is the fewest ever for a Guardiola-coached side, a run that stretches back 535 games in La Liga, the Bundesliga, and the Premier League. The 22 Villa shots that rained down on their goal is the joint-most in that same period.

But perhaps the most telling stat is that they have lost all four games this season when midfield linchpin Rodri has been absent – he was suspended on Wednesday having already collected five Premier League bookings – as opposed to being unbeaten in the 43 previous games where the Spanish international has featured.

“Rodri is an important player of course but when he is not there we have to find a way to win without him,” conceded Guardiola, who has this season tended to use either John Stones or Manuel Akanji to plug the gap.

“Six points [behind leaders Arsenal] and we would prefer to be top of the league but we made three draws and lost today,” he added.

“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 recognise it.”

Aston Villa were indeed the better side, with Unai Emery's upwardly-mobile team leapfrogging City into third place thanks to Leon Bailey's 74th-minute deflected shot.

“Aston Villa played better,” continued Guardiola. “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.”

The good news for Guardiola is that Rodri will be available at Kenilworth Road.

Emery, meanwhile, did his best to play down Villa's rapid progress, with this latest win seeing them move firmly into the picture for Champions League qualification. The Spaniard even had to fend off questions about a potential title challenge.

“We are not contenders. There are seven teams who are contenders more than us,” Emery said.

“Now we are on game 15. We are going to play game 16 on Saturday against Arsenal and we are going to focus on it.

“We are happy to be third but to keep it is going to be very difficult.

“While we are there we are going to try to keep it. If we keep progressing during the season, playing matches and winning like we are doing maybe we can be a contender but I think we need more time,” he said.

“We can believe but we are not contenders. Maybe by game 30 or 32, but not yet.

Updated: December 07, 2023, 2:41 PM