Manchester City have started the season very well indeed, sitting atop the Premier League table courtesy of their perfect record so far. In their game today against Bournemouth, there never seemed to be a snicker of a doubt as to who was going to come out the winner. Rather, there was more worry whether Bournemouth could even get a goal.
Guardiola has pulled out all the stops–including making a decent player out of Raheem Sterling–in his stellar debut campaign with City thus far. The integration of youth into the first team that the former Barcelona and Bayern boss is renowned for is visible once again at City. Young midfielder Aleix Garcia impressed when he came on for Kevin De Bruyne after yet another brilliant performance from the Belgian, and so did fill-in striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who has been sensational in his work rate since Agüero’s ridiculous elbow on Winston Reid and the consequential three match suspension.
Where the team has looked less stellar, though, has been at the back. The ball-playing centre-backs that Guardiola insists upon having is all fine and dandy, but when those individuals are better at playing balls than defending them, it becomes a major issue. Take Aleksander Kolarov’s positioning as a centre-back, for example. The Serbian left-back clearly looked as if he was roaming in uncharted territory, misjudging quite a few balls and making rash tackles in the game against Bournemouth.
The Otamendi and John Stones partnership may be the one Guardiola has to build on, as it gives him two individuals, one of whom is exceptional in the defensive department, while the other provides expertise whilst on the ball. Stones’ adventurous runs forward, though, could prove to be very dangerous for City. Because it means that Fernandinho has to be the one to drop back and defend, and that could provide a gaping hole for opponents to exploit. So far, City haven’t really been tested–apart from when they faced United, who aren’t a very good counter-attacking side, contrary to Mou’s conventional setup–against a speedy counter-attacking team. And that’s where they could prove to be the most volatile.
But, then again, that could be said of most of the sides in the Premier League that are competing for the ultimate prize. Defence isn’t a particular strength of any of them, and in most cases, it’s the most evident weakness in their lineups. And that is one of the caveats of this league that Guardiola has to contend with if he aspires to take the Cityzens far in Europe.
It is highly unlikely, if at all probable, that City’s attack outmatch that of Barcelona, Real Madrid, or Bayern Munich on any given day. Even Atleti or PSG could be added to that list, should we compare man-to-man. In games against any of those three aforementioned opposition, City will never dominate possession. The flaws within this team can then be exposed to perhaps a horrifying extent, should Pep not manage to get them defending properly by that stage. And if there’s one thing that Guardiola’s not known for–it’s defending.