Pep Guardiola tells rampant Manchester City to beware...winter is coming

And then the clocks went backwards and City went the same way on the pitch. Last season, November, December and January yielded just 20 points from 12 games at an average of 1.66 points per match, a sharp decline that saw City drop from first to fifth in the table. The previous season, they mustered an average of just 1.58 points over that three-month period, slipped to second, and never reclaimed top spot, ultimately finishing a distant fourth.

So can Guardiola ensure City avoid a third consecutive winter of discontent? No one realistically expects them to be able to maintain their current average of 2.8 points per game but preventing the sort of marked drop off that derailed the club’s previous two title bids will be foremost in Guardiola’s mind as he steals himself for his second English winter.

“I look at the winter months and it seems like an old cliche – can you go away to Stoke and that sort of garbage – but there’s a little bit more to it than that,” Gary Neville, the former United defender and Sky Sports pundit, said this week. “City would probably have won the title in those two seasons if they’d maintained their championship winning level. But if they drop to that level in November, December and January again then they’ll be in trouble.

“I don’t care what anybody says, those are the toughest months to play football – the games, the weather, the injuries, the stockpile of fixtures, the Champions League, the Christmas period. Can they get through to February, March and April when the weather gets better again and it’s an easier time of the year to play football?”