PEP GUARDIOLA was true to his word after Manchester City’s latest setback at Spurs.
In the Amazon documentary ‘All or Nothing’ in 2018, Guardiola revealed he would never publicly hang his players out to dry.
He told them: “Of course I’m going to defend you until the last day of my life at the press conference.
“But inside the dressing room, I’m going to tell you the truth.”
Sure enough, Guardiola was calm and measured as he carried out his round of media interviews following Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Tottenham.
But you can be sure there were a few home truths spoken in the City dressing room.
SunSport has been told there was no hairdryer from the Etihad chief — no paint peeling off the recently- decorated ceilings.
Instead, it was an open forum with Pep trying to get some answers out of his players ahead of a key few weeks.
If City can beat Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16 and Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup final then this difficult season could yet turn into a memorable one.
They are also still in the FA Cup, with a fifth-round tie to come at Sheffield Wednesday.
But the way Guardiola’s men have bossed games and lost them is a major worry — particularly with the Spanish giants looming in just three weeks’ time.
So what has gone wrong to leave the Prem champions a distant 22 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool?
CITY’S decision not to replace Vincent Kompany was a surprise. They looked at Harry Maguire but decided the England man was too expensive.
But it felt more like a big mistake when Aymeric Laporte went down injured in only their fourth game of the season.
The Frenchman is their best defender and has only played one game since then.
John Stones has also been hit by injuries, plus a lack of form, and did not even make the matchday 18 at Spurs — while Nicolas Otamendi always looks like he has an error in him.
The fact a 34-year-old converted midfielder, Fernandinho, has been City’s best centre-half this season tells you all you need to know.
LACK OF LEADERS
KOMPANY and to a lesser extent Fabian Delph were huge figures in the City dressing room and both left last summer.
David Silva, Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are all leaders but how many of them can rally the troops when the chips are down?
This time last year it was skipper Kompany who stood up and got chins off the floor after what looked like a fatal defeat at Newcastle.
And three months later it was the Belgian dragging his team over the line. He has been a huge loss.
ENGLAND winger Raheem Sterling was in blistering form in the first three months of the season, scoring 18 goals for club and country by early November.
However, he has only netted six more since then and has looked badly in need of a rest.
Is it just a coincidence that his form has dipped since his altercation with Three Lions team-mate Joe Gomez at St George’s Park — or has the incident affected him mentally?
Ironically, Sterling will get a rest now having picked up a hamstring injury late in Sunday’s game.
LET’S be honest, even if City were repeating their ‘Centurions’ season of two years ago they would still be lagging behind Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have been unstoppable and a City team which had won back-to-back titles has not been up for the chase.
It is probably human nature to lose a bit of edge after what they achieved in the past two seasons, which included the 100-point haul in 2017-18. But there does seem to have been a lack of hunger in the players, too.
SAME OLD SAME OLD
MUCH has been made of the club’s spending, yet in the last five transfer windows only four new first-team stars have arrived. Five if you include Angelino, who only lasted six months before being loaned out to RB Leipzig.
Laporte, Riyad Mahrez, Rodri and Joao Cancelo all came in at great cost, of course, costing more than £230million in total.
Yet the bulk of Guardiola’s squad has stayed the same for almost three years and has served him brilliantly in most cases.
Maybe now the time has come for a clearout. There has been talk of five or six new faces this summer and the chances are the same number would have to go.
THEY have played a part, for sure. Laporte is undoubtedly City’s best defender but was out for the best part of five months with a knee injury.
Elsewhere in defence, Stones and Benjamin Mendy have missed more than their fair share of games.
Winger Leroy Sane has been sidelined all season with a cruciate injury and is only on his way back, while 21-goal top scorer Aguero missed a month in the run-up to Christmas.
SOME of Guardiola’s selections and tactical changes have left fans — and players — scratching their heads.
Regularly playing Ilkay Gundogan AND Rodri together as holding midfielders suggests he is struggling to fill the gap left by Fernandinho, who he insists is now a defender.
On Sunday, he took off Aguero and replaced him with defender Cancelo just after City went a goal down to Spurs.
Last Wednesday, in a 1-0 Carabao Cup semi-final second-leg loss to Manchester United, he took off Aguero and De Bruyne in the closing minutes, even though another United goal would have taken it to a penalty shootout.
Could he be missing his trusty lieutenant Mikel Arteta, who left to take charge of Arsenal at Christmas?