When Manchester City centre back John Stones was ruled out for a while, coupled with Aymeric Laporte’s injury suffered earlier in the season, all headlines were stressing the point that Guardiola and City were in a defensive crisis ahead of their Champions League opener against Shakthar Donetsk. Two matches in the post “defensive crisis” saga and it’s looking like the narrative might have been a myth – or rather one too exaggerated. The reason for this is because Guardiola has instilled a plan and his deadly attack force could now be City’s form of defence.
City lost the services of Vincent Kompany in the summer and while many expected Guardiola to bring in a replacement for the veteran centre back, the Catalan-born coach decided to stick with his current options. He wasn’t to be blamed when he had proper centre back prospects in Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis waiting for their chances to emerge.
That meant City went into the season with the trio of Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte as the club’s senior first choice centre backs. It’s only September and City are already without the latter duo – a situation that has seen 34-year-old Fernandinho cover up as makeshift centre back for the time being.
The question now is: How much of a problem will the supposed defensive crisis be to City? Well not much if City go on with their ruthless attack pattern upfront.
A quick look at the table doesn’t bring much shock at the moment. The expected duo of Liverpool and City occupy the first two slots. While it might be worrying for City fans to be behind Liverpool with five points at this early stage of the season, history suggests there is still lots of time to catch up and when it comes to these two sides, it can change in a flash. Ask Liverpool fans what happened to their seven point lead in January, the second half of last season.
As it stands, Manchester City have racked up 24 goals already this term. The closest side to them, Liverpool, of course, are seven goals behind with 17 goals so far. If not for Liverpool, Guardiola and company would have had at least double the goals of the next best scoring side which is Chelsea at 12 goals (via Skysports).
It’s rather ironic that since the supposed defensive crisis at the back, City have gone on to keep a clean sheet in two consecutive games for the first time this season – something they couldn’t manage with Laporte or Stones in the backline (via Man City).
Furthermore, the recent 8-0 humiliation of Watford at the weekend is the exact reason why Guardiola and his side might not notice their defensive fragilities, at least until the first-choice options return. It’s no argument that City might be the worst side in the League when it comes to set-pieces (via Squawka) but surprisingly they have conceded only six goals so far. Only Liverpool and Leicester City boast a slightly tighter defence with both sides conceding only five goals this term (via Skysports).
The eight goals City scored against Watford just shows how much Guardiola could literally be saying to his players in training “outscore your opponents and win” – and at this rate, it might as well work or be sustainable till January where Laporte and Stones would have both been fit by then. City’s staggering tally of eight at the weekend defied all reasonable perspectives and as it stands the goals last season’s champions scored against Watford is more than 10 sides have managed so far in the Premier League season (via Squawka).
Crystal Palace are the lowest scorers managing just three – with City outscoring them after 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes. It was great fun following that live score, wasn’t it?
In fact, only five sides have scored more than City managed against Watford (not including themselves) – Arsenal, Bournemouth, Chelsea, Tottenham and of course Liverpool. City’s goals define United’s season as Solksjaer’s struggling side have racked up only eight goals after six games so far, with two of them being penalties (via Squawka).
These all but testify that City might be short at the back but they are scoring for fun upfront. In the surprising but not surprising event that they catch up or level up on points with Liverpool, their superior goal difference will put them firmly on top with no contention. Goals have been expensive to City so far in their club’s history and we know how “important” that Aguero goal against QPR in 2012 proved to be at the end of the day.
One thing is inevitable – City will keep scoring and scoring for fun. With Aguero out to break all sorts of records, a freely flowing Kevin De-Bruyne and the duo of Mahrez and Bernado Silva trying to outdo each other for a first-choice berth, we might barely notice the defensive cracks – if there are any at all. Not to forget that there’s still a certain Raheem Sterling that always pops up with goals as well.
City might be without two first-choice centre-backs and on paper, they might be in a defensive crisis but Guardiola seems to have set his team out to counter the context and that plan seems to be working so far.