City will put Guardiola's international break theory to the test vs Brighton


Pep Guardiola, Head Coach of Manchester City, speaks to students on October 9, 2023 in Cuneo, Italy.

Two defeats in a row is excusable. Three would start to become problematic.

Before City's back-to-back losses in the Premier League, the last time they 'achieved' that feat was 2018. If they were to lose three in a row, it would be a first under Pep Guardiola at City, and only the second time the boss has achieved that in his 528 league games as a manager.

Forgetting the wider, eye-catching stats, another defeat would be a further setback in City's stuttering October, potentially pushing them five points adrift of top spot. Guardiola made it clear that a win against Brighton on Saturday is necessary in the wider picture of City's season.

After facing Brighton - a game Guardiola says will be one of their toughest of the season - City face Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and an in-form Aston Villa in their following six fixtures. Going into that run on the back of three successive defeats would be less than ideal.

Defender Manu Akanji insists the squad are aware things must improve, suggesting that City didn't play with their best team at Wolves and paid the price, albeit with injuries and suspensions impacting Guardiola's side. He rued Arsenal's win at the Emirates, but noted they can't afford to drop their standards against Brighton.

"In the Premier League, you really go in with your best teams and we didn’t do it against Wolves, where I feel like we should have done better," he said. "It wasn’t like we had a lot of opportunities, but I feel like we should have done better in some parts of the game.

"We all know that we have got to turn it around. We have to work harder and give our best on Saturday."

Guardiola agreed, saying that City must stop their mini-slump before it turns into a more pressing issue in the title race.

"We have to admit we have to break quickly," he said. "In the Premier League if you slip a little bit and take some naps after lunch the opponents fly. It will be difficult to catch them. The other side is we have 90 points left to play. Nine zero. How many things will happen in this season?

"We need to accept, understand the challenge is bigger than ever. Be humble enough like I think we are to accept the others are better and we have to improve and come back and try to win games as soon as possible to be contenders to win the Premier League."

So the manager and squad are united in the knowledge that Brighton is a 'must-win' game of sorts, and the fixture will test another quirk of the Premier League - how clubs react to the three international breaks in September, October and November.

If a side is winning, the breaks can be a momentum killer. If a side has lost, it deprives them of the chance to get back to winning ways quickly. City haven't won in the Premier League in almost a month due to the schedule, but Guardiola doesn't think that the break will have any overly-positive or negative effect on City's form.

Just like it doesn't when his side are winning multiple games in succession.

"It is what it is," he said of the October break over the past fortnight since the Arsenal game. "Sometimes we have made many runs of games and after is an international break and say now is not good to stop, we should not be breaking. Now is completely the opposite, we lost two games in a row in the Premier League [for the first time] for a long time.

"It's a challenge. I said many times. Exceptional is the opposite when you are losing two games in a row for I don't know how many years. This is the incredible compliment to the team. What happens two games in a row, sometimes it's normal."

City's season won't be defined by the Brighton result, even if they do lose three in a row for the first time since Manuel Pellegrini was manager. It will raise further questions about their recent form, but Guardiola knows that the international break won't be to blame.

They will simply have 87 points left to play for. Eighty seven.

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