For much of this season Manchester City have appeared almost unstoppable with Pep Guardiola’s side nonchalantly brushing aside both domestic and European opposition with apparent ease.
This is demonstrated by City’s sixteen-point lead at the top of the Premier League, their progress to the League Cup final and the knock-out stages of the Champions League – all of which have been achieved without breaking sweat.
Guardiola is undoubtedly building something special at the Etihad and the exciting, dynamic and extravagant attacking style of play that he has implemented is something that should rightly be applauded.
The Spaniard looks certain to begin re-filling City’s trophy cabinet this season, after his debut season in English football ended without silverware, and his team’s performance this campaign continues to enhance his reputation as one of the leading coaches in the modern game.
City have been the proverbial run-away train this season and a host of the most prominent club’s in England and Europe have so far been unable to so much as dent their armour.
However, where others have failed, League One side Wigan Athletic succeeded on Monday evening as Will Grigg’s late goal knocked City out of the FA Cup.
It was a night that City lost their composure both on and off the pitch.
Fabian Delph’s red card in first half stoppage time was debatable, although admittedly his challenge was reckless and could have easily have been avoided, but it set the tone for the evening.
On the pitch, City dominated possession despite their numerical disadvantage but were unable to break down their resilient hosts before Kyle Walker’s mistake gifted Grigg the opportunity to be Wigan’s hero for the evening.
Off the pitch Guardiola appeared to lose his composure on the touchline immediately after Delph’s sending off and was embroiled in a confrontation with Phil Cook that continued in the tunnel as the team’s headed for the dressing rooms at half-time.
The final whistle sparked a pitch invasion from the home supporters that saw Sergio Aguero confronted by a Wigan fan as he attempted to leave the field.
The Argentinian appeared to swing an arm in response and was clearly unhappy by whatever he had seen or heard, with the stewards and police nowhere to be seen.
Meanwhile, a small group of City supporters reacted to the pitch invasion by hurling bottles, coins and advertising hoardings.
It was all rather unsavoury, from all parties involved, and it will not go down as one of City’s most memorable evenings.
Clutching at straws?
On Monday evening, for arguably the first time this season, City looked rattled.
Credit will go to Wigan Athletic, who were organised, resilient and able to capitalise on the numerical advantage that they were handed, but this result will also provide City’s rivals with a timely boost.
This was a reminder that Pep Guardiola’s side are not an invincible force and that they can be beaten.
For the first time a chink has appeared in City’s armour.
Guardiola and his players will not have time to digest Monday’s defeat and now head into a challenging run of fixtures that will possibly determine their season.
On Sunday they have an opportunity to claim the first silverware of the season when they face Arsenal in the League Cup final before facing The Gunners at the Emirates Stadium five days later in the league.
Then there is Chelsea and the second leg of their Champions League tie against FC Basel at home, before potentially tricky back-to-back away games at Stoke City and Everton.
If City’s season is going to unravel then it will happen over the next month or so.
However, the upcoming run of fixtures also provides City with an opportunity to win silverware, further cement their position at the top of the Premier League and capitalise on a four-goal advantage from the first leg of their Champions League tie against Basel.
Even a handful of defeats would not necessarily totally derail their season.
In effect here, we are clutching at straws, but Wigan provided a glimmer of hope that City’s dominance can still be stopped.
It may seem unlikely, but the dent that the Latics made in the armour of Guardiola’s side is the first sign of weakness or frailty that we have seen all season.
Guardiola and his side may still romp to a treble by the end of the campaign, but a League One side had provided the Premier League and clubs in the Champions League that there is still plenty to play for this season.