The relatively simple task of converting a penalty.
“This is a problem,” said a stunned Guardiola after seeing Riyadh Mahrez failing to score from a dot – again – in the 0-0 draw at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Since Guardiola took charge of City in 2016, the team have not scored 25 out of 80 penalties in all competitions, excluding shootouts. no Eredivisie team has a worse record from the penalty spot in that time.
Nine players have taken statutory penalties in that time, with Mahrez and now retired Sergio Aguero the biggest culprits from 12 yards. Agüero scored 20 of his 28 penalties, while Mahrez also has a 71% pass rate with 10 scored from 14 attempts.
While Mahrez’s latest failure didn’t prove too costly as City had already qualified for the last 16, there have been a number of significant misses or saved penalties in recent years.
In the first leg of the 2019 Champions League quarter-finals, Aguero was given a penalty by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to deprive City of a crucial away goal before Spurs won 1-0. City left the competition at that stage on away goals.
Mahrez hit the crossbar in the 86th minute in City’s 0-0 draw against title rivals Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League in October 2018.
Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan also failed to score penalties against Liverpool in the league under Guardiola.
There was even one game, against Wolverhampton, where Raheem Sterling – now at Chelsea – saved a penalty before it had to be recaptured because the goalkeeper was off his line. The second attempt was also saved, but Sterling scored from the rebound.
“We missed 25 penalties, most of them in the Champions League. That’s too many,” said Guardiola. “I’ve always admired their courage, taking the responsibility to do it, but of course we missed a lot of penalties and this is a problem.
“We have to improve, otherwise it’s the small margins in this competition that can make the difference.”
And Guardiola knows all too well about the pain of penalty failures in the Champions League.
While at Barcelona, Guardiola saw Lionel Messi hit a penalty in the second leg of the semi-final against Chelsea in 2012. It would have put Barcelona ahead 3-1 that night and 3-2 in total, and The Spanish team eventually conceded a late goal to be eliminated.
While in charge of Bayern Munich, Guardiola saw Thomas Mueller retain a penalty against Atlético Madrid in the second leg of the semi-finals in 2016 and his team eventually went by the away goals rule.
At City, Guardiola has previously suggested that his goalkeeper, Ederson Moraes, may be the club’s best penalty taker. However, Ederson has yet to take one.
And City’s problem could be that in Guardiola’s time the penalties have been spread too much.
“I don’t think it helped that there hasn’t been that consistency,” former City defender Joleon Lescott told BT Sport. “I think Riyad has been that taker, De Bruyne has taken them, Gundogan, now (Erling) Haaland.
“I think in all the teams we’ve played in, there’s always been one consistent penalty taker.”
Haaland, City’s new star striker, was off the field when City were awarded the penalty against Dortmund. Otherwise he would have taken it, having converted two out of two in his first season with the club so far – most recently against Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.
Haaland was also not on the pitch when Mahrez was awarded a penalty against FC Copenhagen in City’s previous Champions League match.