For Man City’s standards, this season has been disappointing. Five points behind league leaders Arsenal (at the time of writing, with a game more), and being knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the quarter-final to Southampton, reflects badly for Pep’s men.
Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Tottenham, after rivals Arsenal lost to Everton by the same score, just further shows City are missing something this season. Last year, in certain games like the semi-final against Real Madrid, I felt they needed a lethal frontman.
With the signing of Erling Haaland, they got one of those. The Norwegian striker has 25 goals in the league (which was more than last year’s golden boot winner) and plenty in the Champions League too.
So what could be the issue? Ederson, who has been in goal for Manchester City for some six seasons, in my opinion, is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, so I don’t see an issue with that.
Let’s look up further the pitch, the defence. City’s centre-backs are arguably the best in the league. They have Ruben Diaz, Nathan Ake, Aymerick Laporte, John Stones and Manuel Akanji when all are fit.
Unfortunately for the Premier League champions, they haven’t been. What also has been troublesome for City is the left-back slot. In Joao Cancelo, you had arguably one of the best full-backs in the league, but he’s not been playing regularly and he’s been loaned out to Bayern Munich since.
Nico Lewis and Nathan Ake have been trusted to cover the left-back role, which is a big ask as one is still young and in Ake, you have a player who’s more of a centre-back.
Playing players in different positions never deters Pep Guardiola. Fabian Delph at left-back comes to mind. As we mentioned in our last under the microscope about Liverpool, the link from defence to midfield, to the striker isn’t solid.
Pep has had to shuffle his pack due to overthinking and genuine need (mounting injuries). Kyle Walker has been the mainstay at right-back and with good reason too, but the Sheffield United trainee will need to be replaced sooner rather than later.
When Diaz is available, Man City have a player who can bring the ball out comfortably, which of course links the attack to the defence. I argue the link is broken at the moment.
With the greatest respect, in certain games, these issues don’t show but against better midfield players and better strikers, it does. City’s midfield, I argue isn’t quite working either.
KDB, as superb as he is, has had the occasional injury and this has hurt The Cityzens. The legendary Belgian is a key link to help get Erling Haaland in the game.
Haaland as good as he has been, he has been more of a target man and thrives off good service. In away games, against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, all of these sides have worked out how to deprive the former Dortmund man of service.
This isn’t the sole reason for The Blues’ struggle, but it’s one of them. City’s system used to be very fluid, with strikers interchanging with the wide players. Correction, Man City didn’t have an out-and-out forward, but whoever was in the false nine position if you like.
Pep’s City were more fluid then and arguably not so much now. The current system is more catered for Haaland. If you get someone of the Norwegian’s calibre, then surely you play to his strengths.
The problem with that is it appears to be to a detriment to Manchester City. Their away form against fellow top-six members has been poor. It’s the Ronaldo and Man United debate.
Cross-city rivals United, opted to sell CR7, so they could revamp their playing style. Manchester City. Jack Grealish has been on the whole disappointing since joining Man City, I have been left very puzzled as to why Sterling was sold.
Former Aston Villa captain Grealish is a good player and even when City signed him, wasn’t sure how he was going to improve the champions. With Erling Haaland, you can see they have an outlet, but there’s been a flipside to that too.
One unexpected way for Man City to resolve some of these issues is by selling some players. It was announced by the Premier League that Man City have breached 100 regulations concerning finances.
The powers that be in English football, might give The Blues a fine, a heavy one at that and maybe, this investigation could see expulsion from the league and the English Football League.
That would mean Man City would have to do it on a cold night in Halifax if found guilty. As I was preparing to write this article, the news of City being investigated for their finances forced me to slightly adjust the direction of this article, but here are my findings.
Manchester City need a specialist left-back, they have Nico Lewis, then trust him in the role. Look to keep a solid centre-back pairing. Work on a good balance of midfield.
Rodri looks after the defence, maybe look for Mahrez and Foden out wide, as well as assure that Julian Alvarez plays more in general and as someone to keep Erling Haaland company.
I can’t repeat this enough, if Kevin De Bruyne is available, DON’T drop him. Substitute him, yes, he’s human and needs rest, but don’t ever fail to start him. Do you agree with my findings? Let me know in the comments.
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