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Is this Pep Guardiola's biggest challenge?

Guardiola concedes title to Liverpool, but how does he rebuild Manchester City?

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Graeme Souness believes there are issues for Man City to sort out - but insists it is far from crisis time for Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola conceded the title to Liverpool as Manchester City suffered a sixth Premier League defeat of the season at Tottenham but how worried should he be about the bigger picture?

City remain two points clear of third-placed Leicester and 14 points better off than fifth-placed Tottenham while they are still involved in three cup competitions.

Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during Manchester City's game at Spurs
Image: Guardiola's City are 22 points behind Liverpool with 13 games still to play

But Guardiola has never lost as many league games in a single season during his management career, and City's latest setback leaves his side 22 points adrift of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool.

City have gone consecutive games without scoring for the first time under Guardiola, having last done so back in March 2016 under Manuel Pellegrini (three games without a goal).

The challenge now is to take stock of the season's objectives, but is this the most testing period of Guardiola's time in management?

Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness said: "You can trace this back to August and the Vincent Kompany situation.

"Did they know that was coming? They didn't know their best central defensive partnership and they went and bought another full-back in Joao Cancelo.

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"That's come back to haunt them as they've taken their mainstay out of the midfield Fernandinho, your best holding midfield player. That weakened the midfield and it has caused a major issue.

"Sergio Aguero's goals are still there, but in the wider areas there's enough there even though Raheem Sterling has gone off the boil. In the centre of midfield, David Silva is going, Bernardo Silva comes in and Ilkay Gundogan's still there and they've got the best one of all in Kevin De Bruyne.

"They certainly need another centre-half and will start to look long term at who will replace Sergio Aguero, but I don't see City as being a side that's in a crisis.

"Some of the football they played today was sensational. Right now, there's not a lot wrong with City."

Pep: Liverpool are unstoppable

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham's win over Manchester City in the Premier League

Asked whether Liverpool have won the title, Guardiola said: "Yes. They are far away, they are unstoppable, a lot of points. Of course, now the target is for the competitions and to qualify for the Champions League next season.

"Two seasons ago when we had 100 points, around 19 ahead of [Jose] Mourinho, and 20 or so from Liverpool. In that period Liverpool were strong, they are stronger right now, but they were strong, but today is not the day to talk about a rebuild.

"I think the team is good. I like the way my team play, but it is not enough, we are far away and the distance is so big. Next season we have to do better."

'Liverpool's dominance must be concerning'

Guardiola also referenced a 2018 interview with the then-Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, who admitted he'd like a team to rival Manchester City after they won the title by 18 points.

Guardiola said on Sunday: "The last two seasons, an owner from the Premier League said: 'That cannot happen again, it's not good for the Premier League that City win the title in that way' [by so many points]. So now, with Liverpool, you have to be concerned for the Premier League!"

'It happened again'

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Pep Guardiola was pleased with Manchester City’s performance despite losing 2-0 to Tottenham

Despite another stutter, Guardiola insisted City played well, with Spurs' first shot on goal coming in the 63rd minute after Oleksandr Zinchenko was sent off.

But for Guardiola, for all City's dominance, it felt like déjà vu.

"We played well but we lost the game," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "It's happened again so it's something we have to discover.

"They arrived twice and scored two goals. All the season, it's been quite similar in many games. I don't have too many things to say about the performance but this business is about how many goals you score and how many you concede.

Oleksandr Zinchenko is shown a second yellow card after 60 minutes
Image: Oleksandr Zinchenko is shown a second yellow card after 60 minutes - before City fell apart

"Against Man United, we lost 1-0 and it was the same story. We created a lot of chances and didn't score. We have to accept it and work on that, but sometimes, it's not easy. We did well in duels and runs and the chances we created."

Guardiola spent a lengthy period of time in his dressing room with his players following the defeat but he refused to reveal the reasons for his delay in conducting his post-match interview.

"Never," Guardiola added when asked if he was critical of their performance. "How could I be critical of my players with this performance? I was talking with my staff, my wife and with some players.

"With this performance, it would be an incredible mistake to say how bad they are, because it's not true. With the concept of creating more chances than your opponent and limiting theirs, I believe this is how you win matches.

"A few times, though, this hasn't happened. The sending off was a key point, in terms of finishing with 10 or 11 in terms of quality. Within a few minutes, they scored a goal but we still showed good mentality."

    What's next?

    Tottenham's winter break has been cut by half a week, with Southampton at home next on Wednesday in the FA Cup fourth-round replay at 7.45pm, before Spurs go to Aston Villa on Super Sunday on February 16, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 2pm.

    City's winter break comes after the coming weekend's fixtures; they host West Ham on Super Sunday at 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 4.30pm.

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