Three things going awfully wrong for Manchester City this term
When the referee blew the final whistle at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday to put an end to the 179th Manchester derby, Manchester City fans knew that their title defence was virtually over.
A victory for Liverpool earlier in the day meant that once Pep Guardiola shook hands with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the game, City were 14 points behind the leaders Liverpool. Following Saturday’s defeat, the Citizens have already lost as many times this season as they did during the whole of the last campaign.
To add salt to their wounds, City aren’t even the second-best team in England, with surprise package Leicester City now playing catch-up to Liverpool after their routine 4-1 victory at the Villa Park on Sunday afternoon.
Here are 3 reasons behind City’s below-average form in the league.
No replacement for Kompany
Manchester City are among the top scorers in the Premier League this season but they are struggling at the other end of the pitch. While the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United were spending big on Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire in the last two summer windows, City, even after the departure of Vincent Kompany at the end of last season, did not go big in the transfer market.
Not bringing in a replacement for the departed captain would have been a risk even if Aymeric Laporte remained fit. But with Laporte out until March after knee surgery, City have not only lost their best defender and key ballplayer at the back but they are also without leadership at the back.
Guardiola has not started Otamendi and Stones together due to their vulnerabilities and has mainly relied on Fernandinho to do the job. The Brazilian has done well but the presence of a leader is lacking and has been one of the main reasons behind City’s struggles. City’s defence has conceded 19 goals in 16 games, only four less than the whole of last campaign.
Lack of pace in the team
Over the last couple of seasons, Manchester City have been electric. Whether by fair means or foul, their ability to prevent teams from breaking quickly was remarkable. They did not concede a single Premier League goal on the counter-attack last season and there was little sign of the problems to come on opening day.
The absence of the athletic Laporte and departing Kompany has resulted in numerous vulnerabilities on the counter. Against Wolves, as the game stretched, Adama Traore and Jimenez ran past Otamendi and Ferandinho easily. They managed to do so twice and on both occasions, it led to a goal.
Summer signing Rodri is a typical old-school defensive player and lacks pace. And in Silva, City have an ageing player. A lack of urgency without the ball is allowing opponents to play through the press more than before. The 2 goals conceded against Manchester United is a prime example of City’s lack of pace.
The left-back conundrum
Benjamin Mendy, one of the star signings of the Guardiola era, has made only 19 Premier League starts for the club during his two-and-a-half season spell. His absence has forced Guardiola to experiment with other players but the problem remains.
On Saturday, Guardiola chose to go with Angelino even though he had two left-backs – Mendy and Cancelo – waiting for their opportunity. As a result, Angelino was opened up several times by Daniel James, who got the better of the young left-back.
In the build-up to the second goal, he went to sleep and his failure to track Anthony Martial’s run proved too costly as the Frenchman scored to put United 2-0 up. With Mendy having issues both on and off the field, the left-back position has become a major concern for Guardiola.
Zinchenko was doing well in that position but the winger turned left-back recently suffered an injury and underwent knee surgery. The absence of a regular left-back is hurting City and this has been profited their opponents.