Miserable. No other way to describe it. A miserable performance. A miserable result. A miserable season? It’s looking that way.
After Chelsea suffered a last-minute defeat at the hands of Wolves, and with Liverpool and Tottenham set to face each other on Wednesday evening, it was a perfect opportunity at home to strugglers West Brom to push ourselves up the table.
Instead, we were served up with yet another lethargic, insipid performance devoid of any penetration or incisiveness. To a man, we were poor. In spite of that, a late rally saw Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling miss two glorious chances, which made the night even more bitter.
Anyway, after that little cathartic intro, here are the five things we learned on the night…
Hidden issues between Pep and Laporte?
Having only featured in a dead rubber match v Marseille recently, Aymeric Laporte has been frozen out of the starting line-up by Pep Guardiola.
With John Stones rested, it was not the Frenchman, but summer signing Nathan Ake who was chosen to play. Laporte has gone from being City’s undisputed first choice defender to now finding himself fourth choice.
He’ll have reason to be aggrieved tonight, too – Ake was poor, caught in possession a couple of times and could have been stronger to prevent the shot for the West Brom equaliser.
Will Laporte feature soon? Ultimately, he is still our most talented defender, alongside Ruben Dias. I’d be surprised if he isn’t first-choice again within a few months at most, but perhaps there is a personal issue between him and Pep Guardiola that we are yet to learn of…
Foden forced out wide
Ever since it was known that David Silva would leave the club after a decade of phenmonenal service, the expectation was that the “Stockport Iniesta” and one of City’s own, Phil Foden, would be handed the opportunity to replace the Spanish legend.
However, that has not transpired. Foden has, especially in the league, been consigned to the bench for the most part. When he has started, it’s usually been as a left winger – a position that I feel severely limits the youngster, and inhibits his talent.
Foden, for me, has to be playing in the midfield or at least as a right forward where he can cut in and drift into the middle on his favoured foot. Pep’s reluctance to trust him regularly in the starting XI and in his ideal positions is limiting Foden’s ability to influence games, resulting in what we saw against West Brom – an uninspired, largely anonymous, performance.
We need a striker
This has been clear for some time, but recently Gabriel Jesus has left a lot to be desired in his efforts to lead the line for City. He fails to impose himself on the game and often does not get into the positions to trouble opponents, let alone finish the few chances he might get.
With Sergio Aguero battling injuries and approaching his swansong years, we desperately need another option up front. A player like Erling Haaland would rejuvenate the team and bring some much needed energy and potency in the final third of the pitch.
It doesn’t have to be the Norwegian wonderkid – other forwards are available – but if we are replacing Aguero then only the biggest names will suffice for a club as ambitious as the City ownership profess to be.
Manuel Pellegrini flashbacks…
For the past two games, I have had terrible flashbacks to the utter nadir of our football under Manuel Pellegrini’s final season, in 2016. Insipid, tired, unimaginative – take your pick of pejoratives to describe the football.
However, the overwhelming feeling I have watching us at the moment – and this is where the Pellegrini comparison comes in – is boredom. We have become boring to watch. There is no excitement. Instead, it’s a sense of tedium mixed with frustration. It truly takes me back to the unfortunate end to the Chilean’s reign, which also began with thrilling highs.
City have been stuck in a similar rut under Guardiola for some time now, and with the reward of a new two year deal, I think the team is going to need to see some serious signs of improvement before the Champions League knockout ties return if we are to have any chance of ending the season positively.
Kevin de Bruyne is overhyped
No, I’m joking. The Belgian is, as far as I’m concerned, potentially the most talented player in the world after Lionel Messi. However, since the end of last season, I have been unimpressed with him.
Certainly, there is an element of being a victim of his own immense standards. And, he is still our most dangerous player. For instance, I thought he was woeful against West Brom, but he still should have ended it with two assists after a couple of delightful balls in the last five minutes which went unrewarded.
The main issue is he just seems fatigued. I’ve thought it for some time, but I really believe Pep should have told de Bruyne at the beginning of the season to just go on holiday and do nothing for at least two weeks. In the long-term, it would pay dividends.
He’s looked tired and every time he runs it’s like you can sense the mental willpower it is taking to drag his body across the pitch. Naturally, this is resulting in a diminished end product on the pitch, with many passes often underhit or failing to get past the defender in front of him.
Many will disagree but I’d bench Kevin for the next two games. If we are to breathe new life into our season, de Bruyne will be pivotal to that. If he continues to play like this, it’s not going to happen. Give him a rest, and I have faith he’ll come back and dominate like we’re used to.
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