What’s eating Manchester City, then?
By their standards, only five wins from their opening eight games is a terrible start to the season, and things reached a low point at the weekend when they were beaten 2-0 by Wolves.
And according to our panel on the Totally Football Show this week, there are problems that might not be particularly easy to solve, either.
“They were terrible,” said Daniel Storey, who was at the Etihad for the game. “They were really terrible. City have this weird thing where when they play badly, they really play badly, and every single player plays badly. Not one player did their job, effectively.
“My theory is that they’re so used to having everything going their way, that when something goes wrong they quite often struggle to cope. The one thing they’re bad at is coming from behind – when they fall behind, they generally lose. It kind of feels like, if things don’t click in the first 15-20 minutes, it falls apart a little bit.
“They didn’t really have any answers for Wolves, who were brilliant. They kind of funnelled City into the middle of the pitch: without Kevin de Bruyne they figured they could cramp City in the middle of the pitch and force them out wide. One of the trends of City losing Premier League games is they attempt loads of crosses, because they basically get a bit frustrated and start lumping the ball in. That’s exactly what Wolves wanted them to do.
While most of the focus has been on their injury problems in defence, where Fernandinho has been pressed into service as an emergency centre-back, Emma Saunders thinks there are issues elsewhere in the team, too.
“I know we sit there and talk about how defensively fragile they are, but I don’t think we’re saying how much they’re being let down up front too. Aguero was really quiet, Mahrez – so, so poor, they didn’t find a way to properly break down that Norwich backline which even Aston Villa managed this weekend.
“While there are clear issues in their defence, I actually think it’s going forwards, that they’ve lost a bit of confidence, which Pep said himself.”
Finally, Michael Cox thought that the absence of one player in particular is causing significant problems.
“They’re struggling a lot more than I expected [with the injuries in defence]. I don’t mind Fernandinho at the back but they’re missing him from midfield. I don’t think Rodri had a particularly good game – although like Daniel said, nobody had a good game.
“It’s strange how De Bruyne’s absence seems to have affected everyone. It’s not just that they’re missing his crosses, but his relationship with Kyle Walker and Mahrez had worked so well in the last couple of weeks. It’s almost like they’ve become very dependent on him this season.”
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