Pep Guardiola stated that he needed every player in his roster if Manchester City is to compete in all competitions in order to explain why he left so many Manchester City players on the bench against Southampton.
In addition to the Blues being eliminated from a competition they had made a practice of winning, a poor night at St. Mary’s failed to persuade any of the peripheral players who began that they can aid the squad going forward.
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In and of itself, City’s elimination from the Carabao Cup is hardly a catastrophe. They would have preferred to advance further, but this is not a trophy that will define their season, and it gives them more time in the middle of the week before league matches against Tottenham and Arsenal.
Guardiola will be more concerned about the performance or performances as he concentrates on helping City win the three competitions they are still in. It remains to be seen which ties the manager can put any of his squad in without much concern, given the abundance of tougher games that are coming up.
Although his tracking for the first goal wasn’t great, Kyle Walker can mostly be excused for playing out of position at center-back after playing so well against Chelsea. But Sergio Gomez will probably have to wait a while before he is pardoned.
At City, defenders are not expected to lose their man on goal kicks, give the ball away in their own half and fail to recover, or waste an opportunity to attack by throwing a foul. Of course, mistakes may be made, but Gomez’s first half was so bad that he managed to make all three in less than 45 minutes.
That Gomez performed well in the most recent Manchester derby seems like an illusion. The former Anderlecht left-back was making his second consecutive start, but he won’t be counted on to contribute on Saturday, and he’ll have to work hard to turn up again this year.
The opportunities for Stefan Ortega also seem to be dwindling; the free transfer has performed well in his previous games but was a big factor in both the first goal conceded and the second goal that was scored. Can Guardiola risk starting Ortega against Arsenal at the end of the month given that the previous No. 2 cost City dearly in the FA Cup semifinal last year?
As a replacement for Rodri, Kalvin Phillips likewise failed to demonstrate that he is up to speed, and Joao Cancelo once more struggled to demonstrate his abilities. Both of those players will probably play frequently in the upcoming months, while Phillips is undoubtedly Cancelo’s backup right now and it is difficult to argue that he should start any significant games given how well Rico Lewis is doing as a rookie.
Guardiola made five substitutions in the 18 minutes that followed the break, making it clear what he thought of the performance. The defeat was made worse by the dilemma it presents him with: flog the players he can rely on or take more chances on players who didn’t capitalize on their opportunity on the South Coast.