When Manchester City pipped Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to the 2018-19 Premier League title, not many expected them to slow down let alone being fourteen points adrift in December.
The 179th Manchester Derby had already produced two goals inside 30 minutes. One would have been totally reasonable to expected Pep Guardiola’s men to impose their superiority on their neighbours. But it was the Manchester City goalkeeper picking the ball out of his net as the Red Devils run riot at the Etihad Stadium. When the final whistle blew, the champions had dropped the same number of points as they had done throughout the last season.
The growing Manchester City injury list
The first line on any City fan’s excuse list will refer to the number of bodies on the treatment table. Guardiola has had to cope with few of his stars going down with injuries, especially in defence. Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, John Stones and David Silva are currently unavailable with Zinchenko and Mendy only returning to full fitness recently. Most of them, if not all, would be expected to feature regularly for the Citizens.
But as Roy Keane said, “I have little sympathy for Manchester City for moaning about injuries. That’s all a part of the challenge of being a big club.”
If there is any club in the world which is capable of sustaining, it is this one. With its financial might, they have put together a squad to deal with all adversities. City still could bring on a £30m centre-back in Otemandi, a £60m winger in Mahrez and a £20m Gudogan against United who themselves are pulling youngsters out of their academy to fill in.
The absence of Kompany
Most of Guardiola’s problems this season have been at the back. The champions are not only conceding 7.5 shots per game (Still best in the league). However, it is more than 6.3 and 6.2 shots per games during the title-winning seasons. The concern is not the extra shot conceded but the quality it. Out of them, around 5.4 shots have come from inside the box [3.6 in 2017-18 and 3.8 in 2018-19].
One of the glaring difference from the previous seasons in the absence of Vincent Kompany. The Belgian has been the best player ever to don the Sky Blue jersey and it has become more evident this season. Pep has had do play Fernandinho at the back who might lack organisational skills. Kompany, despite his age, held the City defence together. His ability to read the game and talk his fellow defenders through it proved vital during the last couple of seasons.
As Rodri takes time to adapt and establish himself in the Premier League, Pep needs to figure out a different solution. Youngsters, like Eric Garcia, should be trusted to fill in against weaker sides. Ultimately, the cliched, “going back to the basics”, might be the need of the hour for the former Barcelona boss.
What Manchester City are currently experiencing is more a systemic problem rather than a personal issue. The genius of Pep Guardiola cannot be argued. However, he has been found to be overcomplicating things at times. Sheikh Mansour might not have problems shelling out more money but a little tweak in the defensive organisation will certainly go a long way in regaining the lost momentum. While the Premier League is a lost cause, City still have the Champions League to tackle.