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Ilkay Gundogan rues Manchester City's self-inflicted setbacks but refuses to give up hope of chasing down Liverpool

Reigning Premier League champions are eight points behind the leaders after just eight games

As the gap grew, the warning was it could become a gulf. As Manchester City reflected on an eight-point deficit to the league leaders Liverpool, the message from Ilkay Gundogan was that, unless they improve, the champions will slip further behind. The irritation the midfielder felt was underlined by the sense that City could have also made an immaculate start to the season.

Liverpool have eight wins out of eight. City have dropped eight points: two in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, three in the 3-2 loss to Norwich City and another three in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Wolves.

A side that took consistency to new levels by posting 198 points out of a possible 228 in the previous seasons feel they have been unusually wasteful so far. Their wounds are self-inflicted.

“We have definitely dropped too many points in the early part of the season," Gundogan said. “If that’s the case in the next few weeks, the gap will be even bigger, so we have to win as much as possible. We need to fix our situation and drop as few points as possible.

“We know that all the points we have dropped we didn't drop because the opponent was so much better, we dropped them because of us. We were guilty for these dropped points. That hurts so much.”

The challenge for City is to channel those feelings of disappointment and to ensure they are not deflated by Liverpool’s winning habit.

“It’s not that easy to take these things and see your biggest rival win all the time, with things that you can’t control,” Gundogan said. “But we had the same, or a similar situation last year but at a much later stage. It’s quite early in the season, but if we want to speak about the Premier League title, we have to hope Liverpool will drop points.”

City also have to do their bit. “We have to play better, the 11 on the pitch, and do much better than we did on Sunday,” Gundogan added.

Past setbacks have brought emphatic responses. Last season’s worst performance came when they squandered an early lead to lose to Newcastle United. They made a perfect finish, winning their last 14 league matches.

Now imperfections have been apparent. It scarcely helped that City were without the injured quintet of Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Benjamin Mendy, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte. Gundogan did not use it as an excuse. “In the past we have shown we can resolve these problems, which shows we have enough quality in the squad to get away with it,” he said.

Even depleted, City were unusually subdued. “Wolves did well but we know how we can play and our qualities,” Gundogan added. “We could not put that on the pitch. We are disappointed, we are sad, and we are frustrated. We have to admit that it wasn’t enough which is very unusual for us."

Pep Guardiola, he stated, was phlegmatic. “He said everyone can have a bad day. It’s too late now, so we have to learn from the situation. It shows that we still have weak points which we have to fix as soon as possible.”

If City’s impotence was uncharacteristic, a fallibility at the back has been a common denominator in their setbacks. Part of the irritation for a team renowned for their precise passing was that they gave the ball away for both Wolves goals. “We have lost the game because of our own mistakes again, unfortunately,” Gundogan said. “It feels like we gave Wolves the three points.”

It completed a clean sweep for Wolves since their 2018 promotion. They have now beaten each of the ‘big six’ and this was their best win yet. “

I think so,” said striker Raul Jimenez. “Last year something similar happened with Tottenham. We beat them at Wembley. We had very good matches against the big six and we want to keep doing the same.”

Updated: October 7, 2019 07:01 PM

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