Manchester City fell to their sixth defeat of the season on Sunday afternoon. With two second half Spurs goals punishing the Blues for numerous missed chances.
Here’s five things we learned from a disappointing afternoon…
A Microcosm of Our Season
At the end of the season, I’ll point to this game as the perfect one to summarise how it’s gone for us. This match had everything, from first whistle to last: long-winded VAR controversy, dominating possession to no avail, messing up numerous clear chances, hesitating to shoot unless there’s no pass on, horrendous corners (more on that later), baffling substitutions, conceding to our first (and second) shot, players scoring on debuts, deflected goals in our net, players failing to defend against pacey forwards, Cancelo literally dribbling the ball out for a throw-in under no pressure, De Bruyne desperately resorting to passes that are never going to work in an effort to make something happen and us having our best spell as soon as the game is out of reach. Everything bad about this season was on display yesterday.
So how do we fix it? Put simply, the action with the best chance of success is to bring in some more players. We need more quality at the back, with our left-back slot still being a disaster and the need for a world-class defender obvious. Without that, there’s no way we can push on and reclaim the league title, let alone the Champions League. While this campaign hasn’t been a complete disaster (two domestic trophies are well within reach and we should have enough to finish second in England), it won’t have been good enough for the club’s hierarchy and they absolutely have to invest in the summer to prevent a repeat performance.
Fernandinho: A 5’9″ Giant
If I had to characterise Fernandinho’s time at Manchester City in one phrase, I’d say that he’s full of surprises. When the Brazilian, already aged 28, joined from Shakhtar in 2013, not many people expected him to still be starting most games almost eight years later. Fewer still would have predicted his metamorphosis into one of the world’s greatest defensive midfielders under Pep Guardiola, and it would have been nigh on impossible to for-see that in 2021 this 5’9″ midfielder would be one of the best central defenders in the Premier League.
And yet, Fernandinho has risen to the very top once again this season in a third different position. This time playing in the heart of defence, he’s marshalled what can only be described as a pick ‘n’ mix of a backline with expertise, culminating in today’s masterful performance to shut down Son Heung-Min throughout the first half. He raised the game of those around him, helping Oleks Zinchenko and Nicolas Otamendi to brush aside almost anything Spurs threw at them, all the while with Fernandinho playing like a college student at a primary school sports day. Spurs had just two chances, both well out of ‘Dinho’s hands, and scored both to highlight what has been a disappointing campaign. But this season could have been a disaster without our £30m man- ‘bargain’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
When It Rains, It Pours…
And it’s bone-dry at the moment. City are a side who have spent the decade scoring goals, goals and more goals. With the Citizens, it’s rarely a question of creating chances – that comes naturally to world-class players like Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez. The issue in the matches today, against Manchester United and even against Sheffield United, was finding a way to round off these attacks. Either the last pass is just off, the cross is blocked or the finish isn’t there. Composure is everything for an attacking side and we’ve misplaced ours.
Three poor games isn’t exactly a crisis, but it goes some way to explaining our shortage of goals in recent weeks. Every team goes through patches where it just doesn’t go in for them, and City are in one of those now. Whether it’s a penalty being saved, a shot smashing the base of the post or an inexplicable miss, something just isn’t clicking at the moment. The good news is that with a selection of forwards like City have, this poor run of form in front of goal can’t possibly last much longer. We can only hope it doesn’t cost us any more points in the meantime, and next week’s visit of West Ham United may be the perfect opportunity to get back to our best.
Atrocious Set-Pieces Cost City Again
So here’s the bit where I depart from being calm and measured and just rant.
How, with some of the best crossers in the world in our team, are we so dreadful at corners? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a top team look so toothless from dead ball situations. Our corners come in two forms:
a) A short pass to the nearest player, who passes back to the defenders until the pass is gone
b) We actually cross it in and it doesn’t get anywhere near the head of one of our players
Of these two, option A never works and option B almost never works. However, today we learned that there is a 3rd option, an option C that we’ve never seen before, where we literally pass the ball directly to the opposition and allow them to counter-attack, resulting in a red card for one of our players. This leaves me basically having to assume that we don’t work on set-pieces in training. Considering that scoring just one in twenty of them would bag us around 15 league goals a season, that’s a huge shame.
Hey, At Least Walker Was Good!
And now time for our regular feature, “Hey, at least Walker was good!”, the segment where we pick ourselves up after a loss and say “Hey, at least Walker was good!”. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.
Hey, at least Walker was good! The former Spurs fullback played like a man with something to prove today, and was probably our best player. He won almost everything and kept the energy up for 90 minutes, sprinting all over the pitch and doing the work of two defenders rather than one. So thanks, Kyle. You gave us something to be cheerful about today.
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