Monday, September 16, 2019

Manchester City's defensive issues have come under the spotlight after a 3-2 defeat at Norwich.

Pep Guardiola's side were chaotic defensively without the injured Aymeric Laporte and were punished when Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell sent Norwich into a two-goal lead.

Sergio Aguero changed the half-time complexion when he glanced in Bernardo Silva's cross moments before the interval, but it was another defensive lapse saw which Emi Buendia rob Nicolas Otamendi on the edge of the City box before squaring for Teemu Pukki to score the goal which ultimately saw Norwich hold on for victory.

Speaking on Sunday Supplement, The Daily Telegraph's Jason Burt, Miguel Delaney of The Independent and ESPN's Natalie Gedra analysed City's defensive problems.

'Otamendi, Stones doesn't work'

Burt: "The big problem is the defence. I think Vincent Kompany leaving and Laporte's injury has been key for them. You look at the combination of Otamendi and John Stones, it doesn't work.

"You look at it and you think of the riches of the squad, how strong it is all over he pitch. There is one area where there is a big problem now and I think what's interesting is that teams will look at what Norwich did and think that's the way to go at them - be very aggressive in your attacking. The intent was there from Norwich to have a go at Manchester City.

"In the past couple of years in particular some teams have played City and thought this is damage limitation - let's just try and get out of there with the smallest defeat we can get.

"Now teams know there are vulnerabilities in this team that we can exploit. That's the challenge for Guardiola to deal with because defensively they were very poor."

'City are missing a leader'

Burt: "The way that City play the centre of defence is going to be an issue for them going forward. That combination of Otamendi and Stones does not work as a pair, and that's going to be a real issue.

"They're not going to change their way of playing and going forward that will be the biggest issue. I'm surprised Otamendi stayed at the club. With Kompany going maybe they thought they had to keep him at centre-half. But I felt he'd gone past his sell by date with Manchester City and was surprised they didn't bring in someone else as first choice alongside Laporte.

"Stones has had his issues in terms of the mistakes he's been making and he hasn't been too convincing. Obviously it was very interesting last season that Kompany played a lot of games and they needed him.

"The combination of those two means there is not a leader. Nobody is marshalling the defence and taking control of it. It should be Otamendi really but I don't think he is strong enough to do that as a personality. I like John Stones, I like him as a player. There are issue but he is a very good player. He needs somebody alongside him who is going to marshal that defence. He's not going to be that person."

Is there a mental drop-off?

Delaney: "One of the undercurrents prior to the season was whether Liverpool would be able to sustain the same level they achieved last season. The expectation was they'd drop off, not City.

"People expected this from City last season after the 100 points. Whether this is just the slight drop off that comes in application.

"One of the things that was said after the treble was that they were knackered, that the mental effort required to win those three trophies - and I suppose you can bring in the European campaign too - was a lot. The players want to stay at the same level but mentally almost they can't. It's just taken too much of a toll."

'Pep will find a solution'

Gedra: "Everybody is talking about City's defence. I think we need to stop looking so much at the individuals and see that City over the past few seasons have managed to find collective solutions. And I think that's what they're going to do now with this defensive issue.

"You may think that Stones and Otamendi are not playing like Otamendi and Laporte or Kompany and Laporte were, but Laporte is injured so that's it. Of course it has a big impact especially in the way they build up and defend, because he was the most consistent defender for City.

"But City always manage to find good solutions. They played without Kevin de Bruyne for the most part of last season and he was the key part of the attacking game. So now I truly believe that they will find defensive solutions looking at the collective."

Burt: "Guardiola's got a big problem and he has to find a quick solution. It may well be that it's moving Fernandinho back into the defence, which I think they've been doing in training and trialling a little bit."


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