Three seasons ago, Manchester City were Premier League champions for a second time while they reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history last season.
So what is one to make of a season in which Pep Guardiola’s men are in a scrap just to finish in the top four, and have been knocked out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage?
Pep Guardiola: Has been knocked out at the round of 16 stage in the Champions League for the first time in his managerial career pic.twitter.com/u9J0yMO0Ny— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 15, 2017
Guardiola was brought in to take the club to the next level, to truly put Manchester City among Europe’s elite. Instead, a case could be made that the club has gone backwards in his first season.
The team has certainly encountered familiar struggles. A shaky defence has arguably gotten worse under Guardiola, and City still seem to shrink on the big stage.
They were criticized for being too timid against Real Madrid last season with a place in the Champions League final on the line, and this year they have lost to Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs, and now Monaco.
Manchester City: Registered just one touch in Monaco's penalty area in the first 45 minutes #ASMMCI— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 15, 2017
Wednesday’s 3-1 loss was shocking for how toothless the Citizens looked. An attacking starting XI that featured all five of Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, and Sergio Aguero failed to register a shot for over an hour.
By that time, they were already 2-0 down on the night and losing the tie on away goals. Kylian Mbappe took advantage of some slack marking to give Monaco the lead, and some equally poor defending allowed Fabinho to make it 2-0.
Even when City did strike to go back ahead in the tie, they failed to take control of the game and then conceded another cheap goal when Tiemoue Bakayoko headed home a free-kick, which proved to be the goal that knocked City out.
Manchester City first team in Champions League to be eliminated after scoring 5 goals in the first leg of a knockout tie— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) March 15, 2017
All three Monaco goals could have been avoided – and the same could be said for the three the French side scored at the Etihad Stadium in the first leg.
Strengthening the defence was known to be a priority last summer, and splashing the cash on John Stones, who had already begun to show his error-prone tendencies towards the end of his Everton career, was not going to do the trick on its own.
Instead, City’s defence is arguably worse than it was last year. Guardiola may abhor the concept of coaching tackles, but he’s previously been blessed with central defensive partnerships of Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique, and Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng.
Even die-hard City fans would be hard-pressed to argue that Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov are anywhere near up to that mark.
The Pep revolution that looked to have made an instant impact at the beginning of the season now seems to be stuck in reverse gear.