“Manchester City are not complacent, remain the ‘best’ team” – Chris Sutton blasts Gary Neville

Former PL star Chris Sutton has labeled Gary Neville’s accusation of Manchester City being complacent as ‘deeply unfair’.

Sutton explained that City have faced four challenging opponents in a row and thinks they are still the best team in the division.

City are winless in four outings after draws with Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham before a 1-0 loss at Aston Villa on Wednesday night.

No Pep Guardiola side has ever recorded fewer shots (two) or allowed the opposition more chances than City did against Villa (22).

Speaking on Mail Sport’s It’s All Kicking Off podcast, Ian Ladyman condemned their ‘abject’ attacking performance against Villa but while Sutton believes they have ‘dipped’, he doesn’t see a full-blown crisis.

“Let’s not write Manchester City off. Let’s not have sensationalist journalism from you. It’s ridiculous,” he told Ladyman on Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off.

“If he [Neville] is hinting about complacency in Manchester City, I don’t know how he can judge that. I don’t think they are complacent. I think that their standards have slipped a little bit.

“But if you look at the recent games where we’re all suggesting they’re in a crisis, they’ve drawn with Chelsea away, they’ve drawn with Liverpool at home, they’ve drawn with Spurs at home and they’ve lost to Aston Villa who we’ve just been praising to high heaven for their incredible home record.

“They’re still in a title race. They’re still the best team. Well, they have been the most consistent team over a number of seasons. So I don’t think anybody is writing them off.

“If we’re going to use the word crisis, and I get this, you can use the word crisis. Is this a crisis for Manchester City? Well, it is, but they live by different standards and we’re judging them by different standards to everybody else.”

Ladyman agreed with Sutton but sought to contextualise Neville’s words more.

Manchester United won the Treble in 1999 and lots of pressure was on them to follow that up in the following season.

By late October in the 1999/2000 season, United were third in the table, having won one of their last five and suffered a heavy 5-0 loss at Chelsea in the process.

Sir Alex Ferguson was keen for his team to rediscover their ruthlessness and after Christmas they did, winning 15 of the last 19 games and losing just one as they stormed to the title.

Ladyman said: “What Gary said after seeing them draw with Tottenham at the weekend – so this is before last night’s defeat – he said, undoubtedly, it’s complacency. He had no doubt about it.

“And he said that when, in the year after Man United won the treble in 1999, they would have poor performances by their standards, Alex Ferguson would say to them afterwards in the dressing room:

‘I know you’re bored, I can tell that you’re bored, and I can cope with you being bored – just make sure that you are ready to switch on later in the season when it matters’.

“And Gary Neville thinks he sees that in City, he thinks it’s become too easy for them and that they’re struggling to raise themselves. It’s a really interesting psychological take on what’s happening in Manchester City.”

While Sutton respected Neville’s experience and what he saw in United’s dressing room, he still felt it was unfair to level accusations of complacency at them.

He said: “Gary Neville can speak for his own experiences. Of course he can. He lived it and I’m not disputing anything he says about his Manchester United team, but I think it is so easy just to throw that out there, that the teams are complacent when he isn’t within the Manchester city set-up and the dressing room.

“I just think that they have dipped. I’ve mentioned who they’ve played, the recent performances, and it’s not a total disaster. They’re flying in the Champions League, they’re still in the Premier League title race, they have dipped.

“We judge Manchester City by different standards because of the consistency that they have shown since Pep Guardiola has taken over, and that’s it.

“And the form has been incredible. The consistency levels have been incredible and they have just dipped a little bit. But drawing with Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs, and losing to Aston Villa away doesn’t constitute a crisis and a disaster and doesn’t mean that Manchester City have been complacent.

“Pep Guardiola, in terms of their form and results, will be keen to turn around and turn around quickly but I don’t think we can use words like complacency.

“I think that is deeply unfair, suggesting that the players are really mentally switching off. And that’s one thing which over the seasons with Manchester City, I don’t think that we can necessarily level that at them.”

Ladyman felt that going to the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia could be an interesting psychological factor in City’s season if other teams can build up a buffer of points while they are away.

He added: “What is interesting is that they have the Club World Cup coming up in Saudi Arabia the week before Christmas. What matters is that City won’t be around. They’ll miss a Premier League game. I think it’s a game against Brentford.

“And my point here is that by the time they come back, there might be a little bit of distance between themselves and say, Arsenal. City, for all their quality won’t want to go into the New Year eight or nine points behind Arsenal or Liverpool or whoever it is.

“So if you were Arsenal, if you were Aston Villa, if you were Liverpool, there’s an opportunity here because we all know how strong City come at the end of the season. They’ll do it again when De Bruyne is back and Rodri’s back and John Stones is back and they hit their straps in April and May, maybe March.

“They will do that and when it happens, if Arsenal and the other teams can have a bit of a lead, it obviously goes out saying, gives them a better chance. So opportunity knocks for those other teams over Christmas. It will be really, really interesting to see if they take it.”



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