Manchester City go into the second international break of the season with a very noticeable limp, if you will. Averaging a point dropped a game, injuries have had a massive impact. A late double from Adama Traore put City out of their misery on an after devoid of any energy, creativity, or will to get over the line. Here’s five things we learned this afternoon…
Injuries Taking Their Toll
Last season presented a very difficult task for Pep Guardiola. Kevin De Bruyne was forced to miss most of the season with an injury, and City had to fend off Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool without their talisman of the previous season. Today we saw that this might not be possible again. It is not just the Belgian’s absence that was missed. Without Ayermic Laporte and Leroy Sane with long term injuries, John Stones and Benjamin Mendy struggling to gain consistent fitness, and players such as Bernardo Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko struggling to find the form of last season. It all might prove to be too much for a City side who have marauded the league in the past two seasons.
Otamendi Struggles Again
Nicolas Otamendi has been critisised throughout this season, and today will not have helped his cause. The Argentine has been struggling to find his best form since Laporte’s injury. His play has been erratic and lacking confidence. Today he was constantly going to ground at the earliest possibility. This habit finally came back to haunt City as he let Raul Jiminez beat him with total ease before putting Adama Traore through to get the game-winner.
After the international break it will be interesting to see what Pep Guardiola does at centre-half. Fernandinho is still learning on the job and while he has had his moments, probably represents the Spainiard’s best option. Beside him, he will hopefully have John Stones returning from injury for selection. Will he stick with Otamendi, or integrate the Englishman back in as quickly as possible. Or maybe it is time to give Eric Garcia his chance to impress with a run in the side?
High Line Causes City Issues
Credit must go to Wolves on the day. They came in with a much different plan than most in their trip to the Etihad. Nuno Santo had his defensive line hold extremely high. This took away space for City’s attacking personnel to operate in. The attacks for the home side were consistently broken down by Wolves limiting space once the ball progressed into David Silva or any of City’s attacking three. Wolves’ threat on the counter also meant that Ilkay Gundogan was often sitting in line with Rodri to take away outlets into the front two of the visitors. On the left, Joao Cancelo failed to create any combinations with Silva and Raheem Sterling. Nuno’s side have struggled with the addition of European football into their schedule since the start of the season, but they perfectly executed their plan on the day.
Attack Lacking Clinical Edge
Aside from the demolition of Watford a couple weeks ago, City have generally struggled to capitalise on their periods of dominance. It is a testament to the side that despite this, City score about 3 goals a game on average. However, we have seen it multiple times this season; Spurs, Everton, Dinamo Zagreb. These are all examples of matches where City created an abundance of chances but could not take advantage, causing the games to be closer than they should have been. While City were not as dominant today as they were midweek, the chances to get the three points were there, and again they were not taken. City need to improve their finishing levels to be in the conversation for top honours this campaign.
A Timely International Break
We are only eight matches into the season, but the future in the league is seemingly extremely bleak. Liverpool showed again this weekend that, through whatever reason, it might simply just be there year. There are still 30 matches to go in this campaign. However, eight points is a massive gap to cover at the rate City are dropping points. With Laporte and Sane out until the new year in the most likely scenario, and a number of key individuals lacking the form had in previous seasons, what will Pep Guardiola be thinking for the rest of the season. The international break will give the players a chance to reset and for Pep to figure out where to go from here. After today’s result, there is surely quite a lot.
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