Ruben Dias is the latest player Pep Guardiola is turning to in a bid to address Manchester City's defensive concerns.

Such worries were laid bare in a 5-2 demolition at home to Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday, marking the first time a Guardiola team had conceded five times in a single game.

Nathan Ake was already brought in from Bournemouth earlier in the window but another centre-back, probably to partner Aymeric Laporte long term, was always likely to be a priority.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Jules Kounde of Sevilla emerged as targets but it was Benfica's Dias who Guardiola eventually plumped for, with City agreeing an initial fee of £62million and sending Nicolas Otamendi in the opposite direction.

But is Dias the right answer for Guardiola? Using Opta's league data going back to August 2019, we compare the Portugal international against Laporte, Otamendi, John Stones and Eric Garcia, as well as Koulibaly and Kounde to try to answer that question.


The case for the defence…

In terms of the basics expected for a defender, Dias – who has the most appearances in our timespan with 35 – compares pretty favourably against our selected players.

His 45 tackles is only beaten by Koulibaly's 55, and the 1.3 tackles made per 90 minutes is better than Garcia (0.8), Kounde (0.9), Laporte (1.1) and the same as Stones. Both Otamendi (1.5) and Koulibaly (2.2) score better.

When it comes to interceptions, it is again Koulibaly who registers highest in direct numbers with 33, three more than Dias on 30.

Assessing the same area over 90 minutes sees Garcia (2.1), Laporte (1.6), Koulibaly (1.3) and Otamendi (1.2) all make more than Dias (0.9), while Kounde has the same and Stones is at 0.7.

Koulibaly is also the leader in blocks made (19) and blocks made per 90 (0.7) but Dias is second with 17 and 0.5 – Otamendi also scoring 0.5 in the latter measurement.

Dias has made the most clearances at 102 but when measured over the course of a game, Otamendi (3.8), Kounde (3.4) and Garcia (3.3) all rank higher than his 2.9.


More physicality needed?

There is a long-standing stereotype that the Premier League is more physical than its European counterparts.

If such an admittedly cliched notion is indeed true then Dias may have to get used to more physicality. His 88 aerial balls won is fewer only than Kounde's, but a 60 per cent aerial success rate is better only than Koulibaly (55) and Garcia (32).

Indeed, per 90 minutes, Kounde (3.7), Otamendi and Stones (both 3.3) each won more aerial balls than Dias (2.5).

For duel success, Dias is bang in the middle, with his 60 per cent lower than Stones (70), Kounde and Laporte (both 63) but higher than Koulibaly, Otamendi (both 57) and Garcia (42).

Encouragingly, Dias made no errors leading to goals in this period (and only one leading to a shot). The only players making a mistake that did result in a goal were Koulibaly and Otamendi (both one).

Kounde, Otamendi and Stones all made two errors that led to the opposition having a shot on goal.

Dias conceded one penalty in our time frame, as did Kounde, Koulibaly and Garcia. He gave away on average 1.1 fouls per game, with only Koulibaly (1.5) averaging more.


Capable of building from the back

Of course, to succeed as a defender under Guardiola, you must be as adept on the ball as you are off it and Dias has plenty to provide encouragement here.

In the 2019-20 season, Dias was involved in 104 open play sequences that led to a shot on goal and started 23 such passages. Only Koulibaly (120 and 30) was involved in more.

Dias is comfortably the best scorer in terms of involvements in open play sequences that led to a goal with 20. Otamendi scored next highest with 12 in this metric. The Portuguese was also responsible for starting three open play sequences that led to a goal – with Stones and Garcia beginning two.

Since August 2019, Dias has a pass success rate of 89 per cent, with only Kounde's 86 coming in lower. But it is not unreasonable to expect this to improve under Guardiola with Stones, Garcia (both 94), Laporte (93) and Otamendi (92) all scoring well.

Dias will quickly learn he is in a team that will spend plenty of time in possession and his 66.3 passes per 90 minutes are likely to go up when you look at the numbers for Laporte (93.6), Garcia (84.3), Stones (82.6) and Otamendi (80.6) in this regard.


Verdict: So, we asked is Dias the solution for Guardiola's defensive concerns? Well, and excuse the unashamed fence-sitting, the numbers suggest the jury is out. Let's not forget the 23-year-old is moving to a new league, which brings its own unique challenges. But that is not to say there are not causes for optimism for City fans. His numbers for involvements in open play sequences leading to shots and goals are impressive, while his defensive stats stack up well against the others. There may need to be improvement physically but, given time, Dias can be a great addition to City's backline.

The goals continued to flow in the Premier League at the weekend, but not quite at the same rate as the previous matchday had seen.

There was a first for Pep Guardiola as Manchester City were thumped 5-2 by Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium, while Manchester United overcame Brighton and Hove Albion 3-2 in a thriller that was decided by a penalty scored after the final whistle.

Chelsea came back from three goals down to earn a point at West Brom, while West Ham put four past Wolves and kept a clean sheet despite manager David Moyes not being present due to a positive coronavirus test.

Not everyone stayed on brand, though. Leeds United's first two games included 14 goals but they only edged out Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane, while Southampton beat Burnley by the same scoreline.

Still, at least there wasn't a single 0-0!

With the help of Opta, we took a look at some of the more unusual stats to have emerged over the weekend.
 

PROLIFIC WITHOUT PENALTIES

Richarlison took his Premier League tally to 32 goals in Everton's 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace, but it was his first from the penalty spot. It is far from unusual for an attacker to rack up an impressive number of strikes without the assistance of spot-kicks, though. Les Ferdinand is the most prolific forward to not score a single penalty in the Premier League, with none of his 149 top-flight goals coming from the spot. In fact, rather than Richarlison, it's another player on Merseyside among the leaders in this category. Sadio Mane has scored 86 goals in the Premier League and not a single one was a penalty, putting him fourth on the list behind Emile Heskey (110) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (91).

KANE CHASING HENRY AND CESC

Harry Kane may have only scored one league goal this season, but the England captain has undoubtedly been in fine form. By setting up Lucas Moura's opener in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United on Sunday he became only the third player to supply five assists across the opening three matchdays of a Premier League season – a feat only previously achieved by Ruel Fox for the Magpies in 1994-95 and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for United in 2017-18. Another assist against the Red Devils this weekend would see Kane match Thierry Henry (2004-05) and Cesc Fabregas (2014-15) with six from four matchdays, while two would be a new Premier League record.

WOLVES' PORTU-GEEZERS

A lot has been made of Jorge Mendes' influence at Wolves, which has seen an influx of Portuguese talent at Molineux. The latest such addition is defender Nelson Semedo, who became the 14th Portuguese player to appear in the Premier League for Wolves by debuting in the 4-0 loss to West Ham on Sunday. It is far from the greatest affinity between a Premier League club and players from a specific country, though. The 27 Frenchmen to turn out for Arsenal represents a joint record alongside Sunderland's 27 Irish players. Another appearance by a player from France would see Newcastle (26) draw level as well.

686 AND OUT

City's 5-2 hammering at the hands of City on Sunday represented the first time in 686 games as a manager that Guardiola has seen one of his teams concede five goals. Among Premier League title-winning bosses still active in the top flight, Guardiola lasted the longest by some distance. Carlo Ancelotti first saw one of his teams ship five in his 106th game as a coach (Parma's 5-2 loss to Sampdoria in January 1998), while it happened to Jurgen Klopp in his 209th match (Mainz's 6-1 defeat to Werder Bremen in October 2006). The first time it happened to Mourinho was in his 471st game, when Guardiola's Barcelona claimed a 5-0 victory over Real Madrid in November 2010.

INGS-DEPENDENT

Danny Ings was one goal away from sharing the Golden Boot with Jamie Vardy last season and he's continued his prolific form in 2020-21, scoring three times in as many top-flight appearances. Since the start of last season Ings has scored 25 of Southampton's 54 Premier League goals, which equates to 46 per cent. No other team has been as dependent on a single goalscorer, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (23 of 61 - 38 per cent) and Jamie Vardy (28 of 79 - 35 per cent) are in close contention.

Pep Guardiola and defenders. It's been an expensive exercise for Manchester City.

Still trying to fill the glaring void left by long-serving captain Vincent Kompany in 2019, and reeling after a stunning 5-2 Premier League drubbing at the hands of Leicester City, Manchester City have turned to Ruben Dias.

Benfica and Portugal centre-back Dias will cost City an initial £62million (€68m), plus £2.1m (€3.6m) in add-ons should the 23-year-old trigger various performance-related clauses.

Sunday's announcement, with Nicolas Otamendi set to move in the opposite direction, takes Guardiola's spending as City manager on defenders to in excess of £410m (€451m) since 2016.

While City have won two Premier League titles under Guardiola, the team's defence remains an Achilles heel, especially in pursuit of European glory.

As City welcome Dias to Manchester, we look at Guardiola's previous defender signings while in the Citizens dugout.

 

Ruben Dias €68m (£62m)

He is Guardiola's latest big-money defensive signing. Previously linked to the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham, Dias arrives having emerged from Benfica's academy ahead of the 2017-18 season. He helped Benfica to Primeira Liga glory in 2018-19.

Joao Cancelo €65m (£59m)

The full-back position is a complex area for Guardiola, whose formation often centres on inverted full-backs and overloads. City splashed the cash on Cancelo last year but question marks remain over the 26-year-old Portugal international.

Aymeric Laporte €65m (£59m)

Of all of Guardiola's recruits in central defence, Laporte is the only one to truly convince. However, Laporte's fitness has proven a problem since being prised away from Athletic Bilbao two years ago.

Benjamin Mendy €57.5m (£52m)

A key member in Monaco's memorable run to the 2016-17 Champions League semi-finals and triumphant Ligue 1 campaign, Mendy arrived amid much fanfare in 2017. Mendy's off-field activities and his knee issues have prevented City from seeing the best of the France international left-back week in, week out.

John Stones €55.6m (£50m)

Identified as the ideal ball-playing centre-back to fit into Guardiola's system, it has not gone according to plan for Stones, who left Everton in 2016. After a promising start to life, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss appears to have lost faith in the often-injured Englishman.

Kyle Walker €52.7m (£48m)

Walker has served well under Guardiola, having joined as one of the best players in the league in 2017. Aside from a couple of dips in form and questionable off-field choices, the ex-Tottenham full-back remains important to what Pep is trying to achieve in Manchester.

Nathan Ake €45.3m (£41m)

Ake was the first defender through the door ahead of the 2020-21 season after City were dethroned by Liverpool last term. Lured away from relegated Bournemouth, the left-footed centre-back has started both of City's Premier League fixtures, scoring in the humbling defeat to Leicester.

Danilo €30m (£27m)

The Brazilian full-back is no longer a City player. Part of the deal that saw Cancelo swap Juventus for City in 2019, Danilo arrived as a LaLiga champion and two-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid. But the 29-year-old never really convinced in a City shirt.

Angelino €12m (£10.9m)

Part of City's youth team from 2013, Angelino eventually left for Dutch giants PSV five years later. After impressing in Eindhoven, City triggered their buy-back clause to re-sign the Spaniard in July 2019. Angelino made 12 appearances before being loaned out to RB Leipzig in the second half of last season. Despite interest from Barca, he is back on loan in Leipzig.

Oleksandr Zinchenko €2m (£1.8m)

The 23-year-old left-back was plucked from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2016. Following a couple of loan spells, Guardiola has often called on Zinchenko, who played 19 Premier League matches in 2019-20.

Manchester City shipped five goals in a home league match for the first time in 17 years as they were shocked by Leicester City on Sunday.

Brendan Rodgers' men were in rampant form at the Etihad Stadium and were inspired by Jamie Vardy, who is proving quite the scourge of Pep Guardiola defences.

Tottenham were denied a win over Newcastle United by another late, late penalty in a Premier League match in 2020-21, while Leeds United enjoyed Yorkshire bragging rights over Sheffield United.

West Ham, meanwhile, put Wolves to the sword as manager David Moyes watched on television while in self-isolation.

Here are some of Opta's top numbers from a scintillating day of play...

 

Manchester City 2-5 Leicester City: Guardiola in uncharted territory

Guardiola had gone 685 games in all competitions in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City without his team conceding five goals. Over to you, Jamie Vardy.

The striker scored three times, two of them from the penalty spot, to take his tally to eight league goals against City since Guardiola took charge – the most of any player against a team managed by the Catalan – and inspire Leicester to a 5-2 win.

City had never conceded five in a game at the Etihad Stadium before and last let in that many in a home Premier League match against Arsenal in February 2003.

As for Vardy, he is the only player to convert two hat-tricks against a Guardiola team. The only other man to score even one such treble is Lionel Messi.

Tottenham 1-1 Newcastle United: Kane assists not enough

Harry Kane is fashioning a new name for himself as Tottenham's assist king.

He teed up Lucas Moura to open the scoring against Newcastle, thereby reaching five Premier League assists already for 2020-21 – that's only two short of his record for a single season in 2016-17 and as many as in his previous 54 league appearances.

In fact, only Ruel Fox for Newcastle in 1994-95 and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Manchester United in 2017-18 have ever managed five assists in the opening three matchdays of a Premier League season.

Of course, it was Newcastle who got the real helping hand here, Eric Dier's unfortunate handball allowing Callum Wilson to equalise with a penalty after 96 minutes and 20 seconds, the latest any team has ever scored with their first shot on target in a Premier League match since at least 2006.

Sheffield United 0-1 Leeds United: Bamford loves the big time

Patrick Bamford only scored four Championship goals between February and late July last season. In the Premier League, he has three in three games. Some people just flourish on the biggest stages.

The striker is the first Leeds player ever to score in his first three top-flight games for the club and only the third person to net on the each of the first three matchdays for a promoted side in the Premier League. The others were Teemu Pukki for Norwich City last season and Michael Ricketts for Bolton Wanderers in 2001-02.

His header against Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United also saw Bamford become the first Leeds player to score in the first three matches of a top-flight campaign since Mick Jones back in 1968-69. They went on to win the title that season...

West Ham 4-0 Wolves: Bowen finds his feet

Jarrod Bowen scored twice against Wolves as West Ham romped to a mightily impressive win over Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves, while boss Moyes was unable to attend after testing positive for coronavirus.

Bowen got his first brace in league football since December 2019, converting two impressive finishes to put the Hammers 2-0 ahead. He had only scored once in his first 22 Premier League outings.

With a relative dry spell in the past year apparently behind him, don't bet against the 23-year-old to build on this performance. Since the start of 2017-18, only Liverpool star Mohamed Salah (50) and Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero (38) have scored more league goals at home across England's top four divisions than Bowen (36).

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola accused football authorities of failing in their duty of care amid a hectic fixture schedule, insisting players are "not machines".

Matches are coming thick and fast following a shortened off-season after the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 campaign, with City due to host Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday on the back of Thursday's EFL Cup victory.

City will be without Gabriel Jesus as their injury list grows – Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko are all recovering from fitness issues.

Guardiola – whose City were afforded an extra week of recovery before opening their season with victory at Wolves following a run to the Champions League quarter-finals – hit out at the football calendar, telling reporters: "Nobody cares about the players. It is about the business. The reality is what it is.

"It is not just Man City, it is all the clubs and countries. Nobody cares about the players.

"Everyone - the Premier League, UEFA, EFL - has defended their own business and position.

"The players had a two-week pre-season and now they have to play every three days for 11 months. We will not change anything saying the opposite.

"I understand it is an exceptional situation for everyone - restaurants, theatres, cinemas, museums.

"Everyone is struggling. We are not an exception. We have to believe in what we are doing and try and play a good game.

"We have three players who came back from national teams injured. We cannot control that. They let them play two games in four days without preparation. They are not machines."

While frustrated with the demands on players, Guardiola heaped praise on City star Riyad Mahrez ahead of his reunion with former club Leicester.

Mahrez, who won the 2016 Premier League title with Leicester, made his first appearance of the season in the 2-1 win over Bournemouth on Thursday following a positive coronavirus test during pre-season.

"Riyad is an exceptional player. He arrived late after the positive COVID-19 test only training for a few days before Wolves but I know how important he is for us," Guardiola said.

"For the quality, the passes and especially his mentality and he is aggressive to score goals. We will train the guys who didn't play [against Bournemouth] and we will see the way we are going to play and then which players will play."

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus is set to be sidelined until at least the middle of next month after he was withdrawn from Brazil's squad to face Bolivia and Peru in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

The nature of Jesus' injury has not been disclosed, although the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) confirmed in a statement that City informed them of 23-year-old's setback on Wednesday.

"The English team contacted the doctor of the Brazilian National Team, Rodrigo Lasmar, reporting the athlete's injury detected after the game against Wolves on Monday in the Premier League," the statement read.

Hertha Berlin forward Matheus Cunha has been added to Tite's squad, earning a first senior call-up after top scoring for Brazil's Under-23s in the CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament earlier this year.

Jesus completed the scoring in an impressive 3-1 win at Molineux and looked set for an extended run in Pep Guardiola's starting XI, especially as Sergio Aguero continues his rehabilitation from meniscus surgery.

As it is, the City boss will now be without a specialist senior centre-forward for Sunday's visit of Leicester City, with an EFL Cup tie at Burnley and a Premier League trip to Leeds United to negotiate before the international break that Jesus will miss.

Teenage striker Liam Delap marked his senior debut in Thursday's cup tie against Bournemouth with a well-taken goal and gives Guardiola an intriguing option in up front, although it is more likely Raheem Sterling will revert to a central attacking role in the league, with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne among the options who could be deployed as a false nine.

After overcoming Bournemouth 2-1, Guardiola bemoaned the fact he might only have 13 senior players fit to face Leicester.

Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko all returned from the previous international break with injuries and Nicolas Otamendi missed out in midweek due to "niggles", although the Argentina centre-back has since been touted as a makeweight in a reported deal to bring Ruben Dias to City from Benfica.

Ilkay Gundogan contracted coronavirus last week and Aymeric Laporte is yet to feature this season having only recently returned to training after his own positive test for COVID-19.

Liam Delap will remain part of Pep Guardiola's first-team plans after making a goalscoring senior debut in Manchester City's 2-1 win over Bournemouth in the EFL Cup.

Delap, who is the son of former Stoke City favourite Rory, was an unused substitute for City's opening 3-1 Premier League win at Wolves.

With Sergio Aguero sidelined due to a knee injury and Gabriel Jesus rested as the only remaining specialist striker in Guardiola's squad, the 17-year-old was handed a start at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

He duly opened the scoring in the 18th minute, showing pace and power to latch on to Phil Foden's throughball and clip a brilliant left-footed finish into the top right corner.

Foden netted the winner 15 minutes from time after Sam Surridge found a quick response to Delap's strike.

Speaking at a post-match news conference, Guardiola pointed to the example of Foden, who also made his debut at 17 but had to be patient in his quest to become a first-team regular.

"We see in training how good a finisher he is," the City manager said of Delap. Now he has to be calm and keep working.

"We are delighted with his performance - he played really well.

"The situation that we have right now is we have just 13 players available in the first team. We need players from the academy, not just in training sessions.

"With the problems we have up front, Liam will stay with us. We'll use him but we cannot forget how we spoke about Phil in previous seasons."

Delap shone brightest in a youthful City line-up, that featured Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis at centre-back, Tommy Doyle in midfield and playmaker Adrian Bernabe at left-back.

The latter endured a miserable outing and left the field on a stretcher before half-time.

Afterwards, attention turned back towards Delap and Guardiola was keen to praise City's academy production line, which churns under the watchful eye of former England winger Jason Wilcox.

"He is just 17, he has a lot of things to improve. They need their own time, we cannot anticipate the process of each young player," he added.

"Congratulations to the academy for all the guys that are involved, scouting to recruit these players and all the managers in the academy.

"At the end I have the finished product, the last steps, but before there are a lot of players working for this. Jason Wilcox is now the boss in the academy who helps us to have these players."

Having stayed in contention for a fourth consecutive EFL Cup success, City host in-form Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

Liam Delap gave Manchester City a tantalising glimpse of their future before the EFL Cup holders were forced to scrap for a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth in round three.

Delap, the 17-year-old son of former Stoke City favourite Rory, has sparked plenty of excitable talk through his explosive performances for City's youth teams and he wasted little time when it came to making an impression on his senior debut.

Pace, power and a dead-eyed finish in the 18th minute had Pep Guardiola celebrating with delight, but the City boss soon had a furrowed brow as Sam Surridge brought the Championship side level.

Flimsy defending and a failure to create regular clear chances saw Guardiola send for the cavalry in Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, with the winner arriving in fortuitous fashion when Foden scuffed a shot into the turf and in after Riyad Mahrez's drive came back off the post.

Foden was one of three players retained from the City side that beat Wolves 3-1 in their Premier League opener and the England midfielder slipped a cute pass to Mahrez in the 16th minute, Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers saving at his near post.

Foden was the provider again two minutes later, with Delap powering past Jack Simpson and clipping a brilliant left-footed finish into the top corner.

City's other debutant, Zack Steffen, was picking the ball out of his net as Bournemouth found a swift, well-worked equaliser - Surridge firing a low shot across the United States international.

The hosts resumed with renewed purpose, Mahrez going close, but Bournemouth continued to threaten a disjointed defence on the counter-attack.

Surridge twice broke through - a combination of Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Eric Garcia, then a wildly sliding Steffen denying him.

Guardiola had seemingly seen enough and sent on De Bruyne and Sterling in place of holding midfielders Rodri and Tommy Doyle after the hour.

But it was Foden who decisively showed his poaching instincts 15 minutes from time.

Surridge could have sent the tie to penalties but glanced wastefully wide in the 87th minute.

Ferran Torres was primed for his full Manchester City debut on Thursday after he was named in a youthful line-up for the EFL Cup tie with Bournemouth.

City started their season with a 3-1 win over Wolves on Monday, with Torres – a £21.1million signing from Valencia – coming on as a late substitute for his maiden outing.

The winger was then handed his first start by Pep Guardiola against the Cherries, with a host of youngsters included in a much-changed starting XI.

Only Kyle Walker, Rodri and Phil Foden retained their places from the side which started at Molineux.

Adrian Bernabe and Liam Delap – son of former Stoke City long-throw specialist Rory – were also handed starts, while Eric Garcia, who has been linked with a move away from the club, and academy product Taylor Harwood-Bellis lined up in defence.

Tommy Doyle impressed in a handful of cup appearances last term, and he was named in midfield alongside Foden, with Riyad Mahrez given the nod out wide. There was also a debut for goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

Nathan Ake was on the bench against his former club, with stars Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne also in reserve for the holders.

Robert Lewandowski famously scored five goals in just nine minutes for Bayern Munich against Wolfsburg five years ago today.

The Poland international achieved the astonishing feat on September 22, 2015 in a match that ultimately finished 5-1 to Bayern.

A half-time substitute, Lewandowski's heroics ensured Bayern came from behind to thrash Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena.

Here, we look at the story behind one of the finest moments of Lewandowski's career.

WHAT HAPPENED

Then a 27-year-old, Lewandowski was introduced at half-time and fired in a four-minute hat-trick before adding two more in a breathless spell from Bayern.

Bayern had started the game on the front foot, but Wolfsburg stunned the home fans on 26 minutes as Daniel Caligiuri fired in emphatically following Julian Draxler's pass.

Pep Guardiola's side struggled to break through a resilient away defence and they almost found themselves two down when Josuha Guilavogui hit the post from inside his own half, with Manuel Neuer stranded.

But the half-time arrival of Lewandowski turned the game on its head as he became the first substitute to score five times in a Bundesliga match, leaving Wolfsburg shellshocked.

THE FIVE GOALS

With things not looking good, Guardiola threw on Lewandowski and the change paid dividends almost immediately, with his first arriving on 51 minutes. 

Thomas Muller was denied by goalkeeper Diego Benaglio after a fine team move involving Mario Gotze and Arturo Vidal, but Lewandowski was on hand to poke the ball home on the rebound.

The Poland striker put Bayern in front just a minute later, lashing the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

He then sealed a stunning four-minute hat-trick - the fastest in Bundesliga history - as he prodded in after initially hitting the post after being set up by Muller.

Wolfsburg were completely rattled and Lewandowski helped himself to a fourth in the 57th minute as he turned in Douglas Costa's cross with a crisp strike.

But the former Borussia Dortmund man saved his best for last in the 60th minute - a sensational acrobatic volley which flew past Benaglio and left Guardiola speechless on the sidelines.

IT COULD HAVE BEEN SEVEN

A combination of Benaglio and Ricardo Rodriguez on the goal-line only just stopped Lewandowski from scoring again in the closing stages.

There was another chance too - former Bayern defender Dante blocked another Lewandowski effort inside the area as the champions cruised to victory.

The win put Bayern three points clear at the top of the table and they went on to win the title by a margin of 10 to nearest challengers Dortmund.

After the match, Bayern defender Philipp Lahm said Lewandowski could, and perhaps should, have added to his total after the initial five-goal heroics.

Lahm said: "At half-time a player came in who did a little something. It was incredible. Just madness. And he had two more chances, so he should have gone home with seven goals."

WHAT HE SAID

Immediately following the match, Lewandowski admitted it was an "incredible" feeling to score five goals in just nine second-half minutes and did not realise at the time how quickly his goals had come.

"I am very satisfied, that was incredible," he said. "I just wanted to shoot, I didn't really think what will happen afterwards.

"Having been one down, we knew that we must improve and score twice at least. But five goals, that's incredible.

"I don't know how fast it was, but it was fast. But when you're on the pitch, you're just focused on football. I looked at the scoreboard, it was the 60th minute and I only thought: 'Ooh.'

"Guardiola didn't need to say anything, I know what I have to do on the pitch."

Lewandowski was asked to compare the game to Dortmund's 4-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in the 2012-13 Champions League semi-finals, in which he scored four.

"It was a very important game - that was a very big event in my life," he said. "Now five goals, that is a great night for me."

Reflecting on his performance the morning after, Lewandowski thanked fans on Instagram and apologised for not making himself available for requested media appearances due to Bayern's busy schedule.

Lewandowski described it as "an amazing evening for me", alongside a picture of himself with the signed match ball.

He insisted he was most glad to have helped the team and acknowledged messages of congratulations he had received from all over the world. 

WHAT THEY SAID

Speaking to reporters after the match, team-mate Jerome Boateng called Lewandowski one of the world's best strikers and was grateful he only had to compete with him in training.

Guardiola, meanwhile, who had been visibly baffled on the touchline, was left in disbelief, saying: "I've never experienced such a situation, either as coach or as a player.

"Five goals in nine minutes. I am very happy for Robert. You play poorly for 45 minutes and then grab five goals in nine minutes. I cannot explain it."

Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking was less thrilled but fared no better in attempting to explain Lewandowski's showing. 

He said: "What can I say? A world-class striker shot five times on goal and could have scored seven. That is how it happened.

"But with our quality this should not happen. We had a good first half and Bayern could not up the pace of the game and then came these nine minutes. It's inexplicable."

Wolfsburg midfielder Maximilian Arnold could only rue the defensive collapse from his side, adding: "We can't explain that, five goals in nine minutes. There is no reason to talk about it, it's just s***."

Lewandowski's agent Cezary Kucharski was thrilled with the impact the feat had on his client's market value, but all but ruled out a move to one of the Manchester clubs amid a flurry of increased transfer talk after the match.

"Games like the one against Wolfsburg immensely help a player increase his value," he said. "I have a plan for the rest of Robert's career in my head.

"Could that plan take him to Manchester? It's always raining over there. Munich is much more beautiful and a better place to live."

Kucharski suggested a move to Spain would be more appealing, but as we know he ultimately remained at Bayern, signing a lucrative new contract in December 2017.

That deal was extended with fresh terms in August 2019, tying him to the club until 2023.

THE BEST OPTA STATS

Since the start of the 2015-16 season - when Lewandowski's five-goal performance took place - there is only one player who has scored more goals than him in Europe's top-five leagues: Lionel Messi.

- Messi has netted 158 times, compared to a magnificent 146 for Lewandowski over that period.

- The Poland striker's total puts him above other greats like Cristiano Ronaldo (139), Luis Suarez (131), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (124) and Harry Kane (120).

How does Lewandowski's feat compare to other similar achievements?

- In Serie A, since 1986 there has only been one example of a player scoring five goals in a game, which was when Miroslav Klose did so for Lazio against Bologna in May 2013. That took him 40 minutes.

- Five players have done that during the Premier League era in England: Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Jermain Defoe, Dimitar Berbatov and Sergio Aguero. Manchester City striker Aguero was the fastest, scoring his five in 20 minutes.

- No LaLiga player has scored five since 1960. Laszlo Kubala has the Spanish top-flight's record for the fastest five-goal streak at 19 minutes, as part of seven he scored in a 1952 match for Barcelona against Sporting Gijon.

- In Ligue 1, there has only been one occasion since 1984, which was Carlos Eduardo's quintet for Nice against Guingamp in October 2014. The French top-flight record for fastest five goals is held by Carlos Bianchi at 31 minutes, scored for Reims against Paris Saint-Germain in 1974.

- Lewandowski's nine minutes is the fastest in Germany and across the top-five leagues, though Luka Jovic emulated his haul three years later for Eintracht Frankfurt against Dusseldorf in October 2018.

- Those two feats were the only occasions of a player scoring five or more in the Bundesliga since 1991. The great Gerd Muller did it four times between 1972 and 1976.

Pep Guardiola hailed Kevin De Bruyne's influence upon an injury-ravaged Manchester City squad after he starred in Monday's 3-1 win over Wolves.

Guardiola headed to Molineux with seven senior players unavailable but his team turned in a sparkling display against opponents who beat them twice last season.

De Bruyne was City's star man, winning and converting a 20th-minute penalty before having a hand in goals for Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus.

"Since we came back after the games for the national teams, every training session he has incredible commitment," Guardiola, who saw Raul Jimenez briefly reduce the deficit in the 78th-minute, told a post-match news conference.

"Right now he is an incredibly important player for us. He always was, but in the situation we are in right now, it is so important.

"He took an incredible penalty, he took it perfectly. Then there is the amount of assists, how he runs. He played really well, like all the team.

"He likes to play football, he doesn't feel the pressure and likes to compete at a high standard."

Ilkay Gundogan's positive test for coronavirus compounded Guardiola's selection problems heading into City's opening Premier League game of the season, with Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Eric Garcia all injury absentees.

Aymeric Laporte only returned to training last Friday following his own COVID-19 positive, although John Stones and new signing Nathan Ake were assured for the most part in the centre of defence.

Guardiola confirmed a team predominantly made up of academy players will launch City's bid for a fourth consecutive EFL Cup against Bournemouth on Thursday, with Leicester City up next in the Premier League on Sunday.

"Most of them are for after the [October] international break," he said when considering when asked when the injured players might return. "After that they’ll be ready.

"Laporte is not injured but he had just one training session in two months. Eric Garcia had 16 stitches, that is why he is not here but maybe for the next game he will be fit.

"The others I think after the international break – Joao, Bernardo, Oleks and Sergio will be longer.

"This is the situation. Maybe in the next days it will change a little bit."

The strain of those considerations appeared to be weighing upon Guardiola during a largely terse briefing, but he still found time to praise Foden, who made a goalscoring return to club action after being banished from the England squad earlier this month for breaching coronavirus protocols in Iceland.

"He played really well," he added.

"Apart from scoring the goal, in the first half he was not much involved. In the second half he played incredibly well.

"Since day one he trained really well. In all the time he played with us, if we decide to play five minutes or 90 minutes it doesn’t matter.

"He has a big impact and makes great contributions to the team. Today was not an exception."

Speaking to Radio Catalunya in 2017, Pep Guardiola took a self-deprecating tone when considering his feted coaching reputation.

You see, life is easy with Lionel Messi in your dressing room.

"The greatest advantage of having Leo is that the other 10 players know they have Leo on their team and that sooner or later he will do it," he said.

"I was his coach and we were planning and I thought, 'We will get the ball to Messi and that's that, we will score.'"

At the start of this month, it briefly looked like Guardiola would be able to unfurl this approach at Molineux in Manchester City's Premier League season opener against Wolves.

Of course, Messi concluded an exit from Camp Nou was not viable and a fantasy football tonic to a dispiriting 2019-20 in east Manchester was taken off the table.

Nevertheless, during Monday's impressive 3-1 win over opponents that have tended to give his team fits, Guardiola settled on an update of his old template.

Get the ball to Kevin De Bruyne and that's that.

Okay, so this is a simplification of the sparkling display City put on to get their Premier League title bid up and running.

John Stones was in from the cold alongside new signing Nathan Ake in a silky-smooth centre-back pairing - or was it a pairing? Rodri dropped in from midfield to play in between them at times during the first half, with Stones taking opportunities to join attacks down the right flank.

Captain Fernandinho enjoyed himself back in the midfield role a defensive shortfall denied him last season, and everything in front of the veteran Brazilian was all whirring, flashing, frictionless movement.

Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden were as tenacious out of possession as they were in it.

But it was PFA Players' Player of the Year De Bruyne who stamped himself all across what quickly became a pulverising opening 45 minutes for the hosts.

All the shifting plates in Guardiola's 4-2-3-1 seemed designed to put De Bruyne in the areas of the field where he can cause damage. Which, all things considered, amounts to a fair amount of turf.

Take the combination of athleticism and opportunism that saw him put down the throttle and chase Foden's pass to draw a brainless foul from Romain Saiss. Rui Patricio guessed correctly but De Bruyne struck the 20th-minute penalty sumptuously.

After the half hour he nipped into a pocked of space behind the Wolves midfield to release Sterling, who set up Foden for number two.

There was De Bruyne again, forcing a fine save from Patricio after he tore onto Jesus' flick-on, like the archetypal box-to-box midfielder.

Soon afterwards there was a devilish whipped cross from out on the touchline and, even as City's level dropped and they flirted with throwing away the sort of points they frequently fumbled last term, De Bruyne regularly carved holes in Wolves, working through the repertoire that makes him the most complete footballer in the division.

Since the start of 2019-20, the Belgium superstar has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player, thanks to 14 goals and 21 assists. He created more chances (six) and had more shots on target (four) than any other City player on Monday.

Nevertheless, De Bruyne's team-mates are still without the serenity Guardiola claimed for Messi's old colleagues. Around the hour, when Adama Traore had the shackles of his right wing-back brief loosened and Stones became reacquainted with his lackadaisical side, a clatter of Wolves chances came and went.

The impressive Daniel Podence had the audacity to nutmeg De Bruyne before setting up Raul Jimenez's nicely placed 78th-minute header.

Despite paying the price for attempting the dirty work on that occasion, the 29-year-old contested a team-high five tackles and gained possession nine times - no City player did so more frequently. He covered 11.58 kilometres at an average speed of 7.12 km/h.

It was no surprise, therefore, to see which player bustled in between a hesitant Wolves defence to set up Jesus for the game-clinching goal.

Get the ball to Kevin De Bruyne and that's that.

Pep Guardiola would love to stay at Manchester City beyond this season but believes he has work to do to earn a new contract.

Guardiola will begin a fifth consecutive campaign in charge of the same side for the first time in his career when he takes City to Molineux on Monday to face Wolves in their Premier League opener.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has won six major hours in four seasons at the Etihad Stadium, including back-to-back Premier League titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19 - triumphs over the course of which they accrued a scarcely credible 198 points.

But Liverpool stormed to glory in England's top flight last term, finishing 18 points clear of City, who again fell short in the Champions League as Lyon punished a limp quarter-final showing in Lisbon.

It leaves one of the most celebrated coaches of his generation with plenty to prove heading into the new season, and Guardiola believes his employers are at the top of the list of those he must impress.

"I would love to stay longer here. It is a place I love to be, but I have to deserve it," he said.

"This club achieved standards in the last decade but we have to maintain that and I have to deserve it.

"I am going to see if I deserve it this season, in terms of how the club goes forward and improves."

At the same time, Guardiola was keen to explain his view of the situation was not down to an ultimatum of any kind.

He enjoys an easy relationship with City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and his old Barcelona allies Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano - City's respective director of football and chief executive.

Both sides remain relaxed when it comes to talks over an extension.

"We didn't speak with the club in these terms," Guardiola said. "They allow me to do my job the best I can, with all my staff and the players, and this is [what I'm] going to continue to do.

"They didn't tell me you have to do this or you have to that, or you have to win this or you have to win that. They told me to play. In my feeling, I know the standards of the club and if I don't achieve the standards, I probably don't deserve [to stay] so I have to win to extend my contract.

"We have a game every three days so we don't have much time to think about it. I try to see Txiki and Ferran every day and I speak every week with Khaldoon.

"When it is going to happen, it is going to happen. Now we have other issues. The organisation is so strong in all departments. It will not be a problem for the club to do what we have to do in the future."

Guardiola cut an embattled figure after last month's 3-1 loss to Lyon, where his switch to a 3-5-2 formation was heavily criticised.

City moved quickly to sign Valencia winger Ferran Torres and Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake, but their moves to secure an elite centre-back have stalled, while the dream of bringing Lionel Messi to Manchester quickly faded having briefly looked like being realised.

Club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero could miss the first two months of the season as he recovers from meniscus surgery - all of which adds up to a tricky build-up as City aim to overthrow a formidable foe in Liverpool.

Nevertheless Guardiola insists he is ready for the challenges ahead as his career moves into the unchartered territory of season number five.

"I would not be here if I didn't feel the fire or the desire to play good," he added.

"I still want to help the players avoid making mistakes and still I have passion to do it, maybe more than ever.

"I want to try to be together and do a good season."

Fernandinho will be Manchester City's captain for the 2020-21 season, manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

David Silva took the armband after the departure of long-serving skipper Vincent Kompany last season before the Spain playmaker opted to call time on his decade-long stay at the Etihad Stadium.

It means the responsibility will now be passed to Fernandinho, another stalwart of City's modern era, after the 35-year-old was voted captain by his team-mates and other members of staff.

"He will be good [as a leader], as he always has been since I met him," Guardiola said of the Brazil international who joined City from Shakhtar Donetsk for £30million in 2013 and is out of contract next June.

"It doesn’t matter [whether or not Fernandinho has] the armband, he is always a guy who leads in the bad moments.

"We decided in the locker room, the players, the backroom staff, we decided that Fernandinho is captain and I am more than delighted with that."

A versatile performer across midfield throughout his career, Fernandinho reverted to centre-back last season and looks well-placed to retain that role in City's Premier League season opener at Wolves on Monday.

Aymeric Laporte only returned to training on Friday after a positive coronavirus test and is short of match fitness.

Guardiola did bolster his central defensive options with the £40m capture of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth but attempts to recruit Kalidou Koulibaly have stalled.

A report from Marca over the weekend claimed City were looking to Sevilla's Jules Kounde as an alternative and the Europa League winners had rejected an opening bid of £51.7m.

Irrespective of the position in which he adds to 314 appearances across all competitions for City, Fernandinho's role as a guiding influence to youngsters like Phil Foden could also be key.

Foden is aiming to build on a breakthrough campaign last time around but badly undermined his preparations for the new season when he broke coronavirus protocols while on international duty with England in Iceland and was sent home in disgrace.

Manchester United youngster Mason Greenwood also erred alongside Foden, with the duo entertaining women at England's team hotel in breach of strict self-isolation rules.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went on the offensive last week, questioning England's handling on Greenwood at a time when he was physically and mentally fatigued.

However, Guardiola believes Foden should simply learn from an error of judgement for which he has must accept responsibility.

"I am pretty sure Phil is going to make a good season," he said. "He knows he made a mistake.

"If every one of us put the same high expectations on ourselves as we put on others, our society would be better.

"Look to what you have done in the past when you demand things of other ones and stick to what you have to do."

Andrea Pirlo was untouchable at the height of his playing career, a footballer whose grace and prowling presence drew widespread admiration and struck fear into rival teams.

As a coach, we can surmise but really it is a guessing game as to what we will be getting from Pirlo as the dugout rookie leads Juventus into the 2020-21 season.

On Sunday evening in Italy, the man who was a World Cup winner in 2006 takes charge of his first Serie A game with Juve, who play Sampdoria in Turin.

Maurizio Sarri's Juve reign lasted just one season, albeit another Scudetto-yielding campaign for the most successful club in the league's history. Pirlo will be expected to deliver at least that level of success, and encourage a swagger too.

He joins a host of significant former players plucked for leadership roles at an elite level, typically on a hunch rooted in familiarity, the chosen ones often still fresh from their playing days and with scant experience to call on. Top marks in coaching exams provide no guarantee that success will follow.

Many times, the gamble on a colt coach has paid off, with presidents and owners rightly sensing the novice harbours the innate expertise to lead and to inspire, and crucially to bring results. On other occasions, it has ended in frustration and tears, and in some instances the jury remains out.

Here is a look at just some of those cases, illustrating how there are no guarantees attached to such appointments.

PEP GUARDIOLA

The go-to example for any club that wishes to justify appointing a club legend to sudden seniority on the coaching side, former midfield general Guardiola was just 37 when he took charge at Barcelona in 2008, after a year coaching the B team. He departed four years and 14 trophies later, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League triumphs, and was vaunted as the world's best coach.

Further successes have come with Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Plainly, Pep was born to lead and Barcelona were wise to the fact.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

How would Zidane, the mercurial playmaker – the only rival to Brazil striker Ronaldo when assessing the greatest player of their generation – take to coaching? Could the erstwhile Galactico tease out the best from those who can but dream of matching the twinkling feet and god-gifted balance with which he was blessed? Could the former Real Madrid maestro really be a suitable fit for the Bernabeu job that has swallowed up many an experienced coach?

Three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles later, we probably have a decent idea of the answer to those questions. There have still been ups and downs, and a brief split along the way, but 18 months in charge of Madrid's B team – Castilla – hardened Zidane for the obstacles he would face in the top job. His Madrid sides have at times lacked the verve that was his signature as a player, but they have delivered results and abundant trophies, and ultimately that is what counts.

MICHEL PLATINI

Before there was Zidane, France had Platini. A wonder of an attacking midfielder with Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus, Platini was also a goalscoring titan of the France team that won Euro 84 and reached semi-finals at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. It followed, to those that knew him, that Platini would go on to become a great national-team coach too, and at the age of 33 he was appointed to lead France, having retired as a player a year earlier. Platini took over with France already at a low ebb and defeats under his charge against Yugoslavia and Scotland meant they missed out on reaching the 1990 World Cup.

Could Platini bounce back? It seemed he might when France reached Euro 92 in style, with eight wins from eight qualifiers, Platini nurturing the likes of Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc, but Les Bleus flopped at the tournament itself as they and England bowed out of a group from which Sweden and Denmark advanced. Platini resigned not long afterwards, began to forge a solid reputation in football administration, and by the late 1990s had built a strong, ultimately fateful, alliance with the then FIFA secretary general Sepp Blatter. He would never coach again.

DIEGO MARADONA

If there were ever a case of being blinded by celebrity, then some of the presidents who have given Diego Armando Maradona coaching work surely have fallen victim. The biggest star of his generation, Maradona retired from playing in 1997 and, with barely a sniff of coaching experience and just about as much baggage as an airport carousel, was named boss of his native Argentina in 2008, tasked with taking the Albicelestes to the World Cup two years later. Argentina scraped their way into the finals and were thumped 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals. Maradona's contract was not renewed.

He has continued to pick up coaching work, one curious-looking appointment after another, most recently with Gimnasia in the Argentinian top flight. Maradona the coach has been no match for Maradona the player, and it was naive surely for anyone to think that was ever remotely possible.

FRANK LAMPARD

Pirlo was an artist of the 21st century game, and he is considered a deep thinker, while the common theory is that English midfield counterpart Lampard achieved much of his success through hard graft and maximising his rather more rudimentary talent. Whether either categorisation fits the bill is a moot point, but Lampard has a wiser head on his shoulders than many footballers, was top of the class in his school days, and his IQ is reputed to be through the roof.

Derby County gave him a first break in coaching but it took Chelsea just a year to pounce and parachute Lampard into his first Premier League manager's job. A Stamford Bridge great as a player, Lampard had an acceptable first season as Blues boss but the acid test comes in this new term after a spree of big-money signings. A high-stakes London gamble will play out in the coming months.

ALAN SHEARER

As Pirlo takes charge of those in the Bianconeri stripes he once wore – Cristiano Ronaldo and all – it bears remembering that returning black and white messiahs can fail. Former Newcastle United striker Shearer returned to St James' Park in April 2009, the club's record goalscorer aiming to rescue the team from the threat of relegation, but a dismal return of five points from eight games saw them sink out of the Premier League.

Shearer left and has not coached since, happily staying in his niche as a television pundit. There are pressures but also a certain comfort to that studio role. Two months at Newcastle was the sum of Shearer's coaching career: as Pirlo may yet find out, that can be all it takes to destroy the notion of it being a natural next step.

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