Phil Foden rescues Man City point after Michail Antonio stunner for West Ham

There was first of all the basic and collective slackness, as the ball appeared to strike Tomas Soucek’s hand, and all of three players just stood off watching him. This wasn’t even playing to the whistle, let alone playing to the kind of maximum that has characterised this side at their best.

It had also been preceded by regular – but apparently unheard – shouts of “attack the ball!”

There was next the lack of command at centre-half that has characterised this side at their worst, as Vladimir Coufal was left to pick out his cross. The right-back’s delivery was good, but Antonio was still left with so much to do.

How he did it.

Rather than try to take a touch or hold up the ball, the forward displayed his agility by adjusting his body and hooking a brilliant overhead effort past Ederson.

City were left complaining, but really should have shown such emotion in their play.

This was the wider issue, and a deeper problem with their team.

At their peak, Guardiola’s City were a side who seemed to endlessly rotate and interchange position, the angles of their play creating a kaleidoscope of movement that just dazzled opposition.

There was none of that here. There was just a lot of flatness, both in application and in City’s shape. In a distinctive remove from the kind of movement of 2017-19, the deposed champions here regularly fell into straight lines. There was one passage of open play in the first half that saw seven of them stood in a row – something you would never associate with a Guardiola team.

This was even true in the second half, when they were penning West Ham in. They weren’t making the kind of runs and movements that used to give opposition defences too much to try and cover. At the other end, they were so disorganised that Pablo Fornals was put straight from his own half. He should have done much better, tamely chipping into the hands of Ederson.

There may be all manner of reasons for this drop-off, from mental fatigue to personnel, but one was perhaps signalled by one of the key substitutions. Sergio Aguero was taken off after an ineffective first half. This would previously have been so significant given his seniority in the team, but seniority is now almost the problem. He’s 33.

Foden came on and there was more sharpness to City, as well as more thrust.

It was so pointed – in a number of ways – that the equaliser finally saw one of their players just run with the ball rather than looking to ponderously play it inside. It was as if this had been prohibited in the first half. The pure simplicity thereby seemed to disorentiate West Ham. Cancelo got it and just scorched past Coufal, Foden taking his pass smartly to finish well.

The curiosity is that this had been a feature of Guardiola’s best seasons at City. There was the “verticality” – to use the coaching terminology – that gave their passing such penetration, especially through players like Leroy Sane.

City now rarely seem to have the same drive, which was why it was less of a surprise Guardiola abandoned the idea of trying to keep De Bruyne fresh. The Belgian, after all, is a player with undoubted drive.

He was back here berating teammates.

Guardiola was meanwhile turning away in frustration after Rahem Sterling squandered a late one-on-one, before then taking a bad touch on being put clear through.

The sloppiness was simply astounding for a player who was so recently on rampaging form, but it wasn’t unique to him.

It has been a recent characteristic of his team, and a lot of this league. Guardiola badly needs to get back to normal – but it’s increasingly difficult to know what that is.

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