In defence of Manchester City
The ‘Pep Guardiola revolution’ at Manchester City has hit a few roadblocks after a cruising start to the season. The main culprit has been a disjointed and shaky defence, which has shipped twenty goals in seventeen league games this season. Recent losses against Chelsea and Leicester City have only highlighted a problem that was clearly overlooked during the summer transfer window.
The Spaniard has brought an open, attacking style of play to the Eastlands which is evident from the plethora of creative players and forwards in their squad. Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Nolito are some of the most prolific attacking players in Europe. Throw in young talents like Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, and Kalechi Iheanacho and you have the best front line in the English Premier League.
However, Pep has seemingly compromised his defence in search of a formidable attacking line-up. The fast build up and quick passing style leaves the team open to opposition counter attacks, and other teams have often taken advantage of this weakness.
Guardiola has historically built his teams around midfielders with an outstanding positional sense, players who will not squander possession easily and will just as efficiently recover the ball before it reaches the back line. Phillip Lahm and Xabi Alonso in his Bayern Munich squad are quite possibly two of the most intelligent footballers on the planet. To have that kind of a midfield partnership gives assurance to the rest of the team to move confidently in attack. At Barcelona, Pep, who operated with Xavi and Sergio Busquets, along with a much younger Yaya Toure, had a phenomenal midfield to back up his defence.
His midfield at Manchester City, barring Ilkay Gundogan, lacks the tactical nous that his former teams have exuded. With the German facing a long time on the sidelines, the head coach will be looking to bring in a midfielder with an inherent tactical awareness this winter transfer window.
Regardless of the faults in the middle of the park, the Manchester City defence is certainly in need of a major makeover. Having dispatched off of a decent shot-stopper in Joe Hart to bring in a “ball playing” goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo is desperately in need of a good run of games. Despite being exceptional with his distribution, he lacks the confidence to defend crosses and tackle one-on-one situations against opposition strikers.
A strong and confident defence ahead of him would definitely help Bravo’s reputation. A majority of the City defence is made up of ageing, antiquated players who have given their best in the past. Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, Aleksander Kolarov and Bacary Sagna are all on the wrong side of 30 and should have moved on from Etihad a long time ago.
John Stones, still raw and prone to frequent mistakes, is incapable of stabilising the City backline on his own. Although impeccable with the ball at his feet, he has shown that he still has a lot to learn about the art of defending. Nicolas Otamendi has a reputation of being a formidable centre-back but needs to step up his game to make a difference to the team.
Unfortunately, the best defender with the Citizens – Vincent Kompany – has a horrendous track record with injuries and has barely got a game under Guardiola this season. What the Spaniard wouldn’t give to have him back as soon as possible!’
Unlike league leaders Chelsea, the Sky Blues have not built a team on the back of a solid back line. Pep Guardiola will seek to bring in reinforcements at the fullback positions this January if he wishes to keep up with the rest of the title contenders. Until then, he can only hope that his scintillating forwards will bail him out like they did against Arsenal.
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