Manchester City hand title to Liverpool on a platter: Richard Buxton
Guardiola's inability to problem-solve caused his side's capitulation to United in Manchester Derby
Manchester City currently find themselves trapped in the labyrinth of Pep Guardiola's mind.
They have not merely handed over this season's English Premier League title to Liverpool; it was practically gift-wrapped by their 2-0 defeat by Manchester United yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Juergen Klopp's side now need only two victories to end their 30-year domestic drought.
Given City's propensity for capitulation, they may not even need to kick a ball to achieve it.
The fallen champions' alarming drop-off has seen them already lose more EPL games this term than their previous two title-winning campaigns.
Guardiola, too, finds himself in uncharted territory after suffering his most league defeats in a single season.
Not even at the height of his fiery contests with Real Madrid has the former Barcelona coach been on the receiving end of a hat-trick of losses to the same opponent.
Further could follow in the next four days, with successive visits of Arsenal and Burnley to the Etihad Stadium threatening to do the legwork for Liverpool's inevitable climb to the podium.
City are projected to finish 33 points adrift of the Reds, with only Leicester City's 49-point deficit in 2016/17 representing a worse return from a defending champion in their follow-up season.
An inability to problem-solve remains Guardiola's greatest undoing.
Devoid of Kevin de Bruyne through injury, his side failed to muster the same energy that would ordinarily have seen them going toe-to-toe with their hosts at Old Trafford and emerging as winners.
If City's manager thought the task of replacing Vincent Kompany was an impossible one, then losing another Belgian talisman, either in the interim or longer term, could prove much harder than de Bruyne's injury-ravaged last season suggested.
De Bruyne has redefined standards at the Etihad more than any of his teammates.
For all the hype around Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling's prominence, the one-time Chelsea misfit continues to represent the greatest embodiment of Guardiola's attacking intensity.
Relying on Sterling to pick up the slack is unrealistic for a player so shorn of confidence that he has not scored in 10 previous games for City, and was incapable of finding the target against United despite Riyad Mahrez's best efforts during the latter stages of the game.
But City's latest domestic setback was as much down to priorities as it was personnel.
Guardiola passed up the chance to clinch the earliest-ever EPL title in 2018 at home to United, due to his preoccupation with overturning a Champions League deficit against Liverpool.
Then, just as now, he continues to be fixated with outwitting Anfield in Europe's elite club competition.
The runaway leaders may be snatching away his crown, but taking theirs would be a greater statement for a club still denigrated as being merely a state-owned plaything.
It is why City fielded a defensive combination at the Theatre of Dreams that had never played together.
Heavy rotation has been a recurring theme in Guardiola's relative fall from grace.
Last month's reversal at Tottenham Hotspur revealed that he had made 76 starting line-up changes in the EPL - comfortably more than any of his peers.
Mikel Arteta returns to the club where his coaching career took flight with a point to prove on Thursday morning.
Losing the Spaniard's attention to detail on set-pieces arguably contributed to the tactical indiscipline which saw Anthony Martial setting United on their way to eventual victory.
A repeat against Arsenal will only deepen City's need for reinvention under Guardiola.
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