Manchester City booked a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday with a 4-1 win against Championship leaders Fulham, the sixth consecutive season that the Blues have reached that stage of the competition.
However, that was not why Pep Guardiola was so happy in his post match press conference when questioned about his team’s performance.
City fell behind to an early Fulham goal at the Etihad Stadium, when 19-year-old Liverpool target Fabio Carvalho stabbed home after City’s defenders found themselves outnumbered.
City instantly replied through a well-worked Ilkay Gundogan goal, before John Stones put them ahead less than 10 minutes later. The manner in which City responded to falling behind so early on was what pleased Guardiola most.
“The toughest moments are coming, it is how you react, in bad moments; that’s what big teams do,” he said after the game. “That is what I want. What’s more important than winning 5-0 is how we react to bad moments in 90 minutes. We try to play and train at a maximum level at 100%.”
He is – as is usually the case – absolutely right. Great teams can play beautiful football and rack up the goals, but only truly elite teams can continue to perform in the face of unexpected setbacks.
“Maybe against adversity you don’t get what you deserve,” Guardiola said. “That’s not a problem and the next game is the same but one day, when you fight against adversity, you will get what you deserve.”
Guardiola may have been using his post-match press conference to challenge his squad at a tough point of the season, but this term his players have already shown him that they are more than capable of meeting it.
City have come from behind to win or draw in three of their past five games. Admittedly – and by Pep’s own admission – the New Year’s Day win at Arsenal was not really deserved, but City were more than good value for the point they took away at Southampton and the Fulham win.
The Blues have also done it in the ‘bigger’ games this season. After dominating the first half of a thrilling contest at Anfield in September City had to twice come from behind in the second half to secure a 2-2 draw against title rivals Liverpool.
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In the home Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain, City showed immense character in responding to Kylian Mbappe’s opener, scoring twice to secure a vital 2-1 win that contributed to them topping the group.
What is noticeable about City this season compared to last is their ability to respond to adversity. Last season – in the FA Cup semi-final and Champions League final defeats to Chelsea in particular – they never really looked like coming back once they had fallen behind.
While this season City may seem a little less spectacular than in previous years, they are overall a better side and their ability to dig deep and rescue themselves shows that.
Are you impressed by City’s ability to come from behind to get results? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.