Manchester City won at the weekend, moving up a place in the table to third, above their vanquished opponents Chelsea. But should they still be worried about the problems in their side?
Unusually for a Pep Guardiola team, they dipped below the 50% possession threshold – in fact, according to Opta the 46.74% of the ball they had was the lowest in any of his 381 top flight matches he has taken charge of in his career.
“I think this was quite alarming for City,” said Michael Cox on this week’s Totally Football Show. “In tactical terms I don’t think I’ve seen them play that badly for two years. I think for the first time you’re looking at this team and thinking it needs a bit of an overhaul. Obviously Silva is leaving at the end of the season, which I think will change the way they play in midfield, Fernandinho too [his contract is up in the summer]. They look tired to me.
“City didn’t seem to know what system they were playing, which is not something you would say of Guardiola’s teams. They weren’t sure whether they were playing Rodri just behind [in midfield] with two ahead, or Rodri alongside Kevin de Bruyne. There were occasions when Rodri was sucked so high up the pitch, and Willian and Christian Pulisic were finding space between the lines.
“I don’t really know how they regained control: they got a slightly fortunate goal to get back into it then Mahrez did was Mahrez does. Their passing in midfield was as bad as I’ve seen it for a couple of years.
“Jorginho was pressing really high on Rodri, who also seemed really concerned with N’Golo Kante’s runs.
“Another problem was that David Silva and Aguero offered nothing without the ball, they were just sort of standing around, which is something you would associate with Manuel Pellegrini’s time there. Usually Guardiola’s teams really press as a unit, but this was quite disjointed.”
Speaking of Aguero, it now sounds like he will be absent for a few weeks after limping out of this game with a thigh injury. A blow to City for sure, even if he has only been involved in one of their last 16 goals.
“Lionel Scaloni said he arrived [with Argentina] with an injury, he left with that injury that had got a bit worse, and predicted he would suffer a period of time out with that injury,” said Daniel Storey.
“I think if Gabriel Jesus had played better over the last month he would have got more game time anyway: the question now is whether they play Raheem Sterling as a central striker or Jesus there.”
Michael Cox chimed in: “The problem with Aguero too is he’s often had about a month out midway through a season, and it’s not just that he’s out, it’s that he needs three or four games to look back at his sharpest. It’s almost like he lacks confidence with coming back from an injury.”
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