Absence of Stones has rocked City
By MARTIN KEOWN
Manchester city have been involved in a string of scintillating games. there was the 4-4 draw with chelsea, the 1-1 with Liverpool, the 3-2 comeback win overr B Leipzig and finally that 3-3 thriller with tottenham on sunday. But as entertaining as it has been for the neutrals, Pep Guardiola will be immensely concerned to have conceded 10 goals in four games. Guardiola gained a new appreciation for the defensive side of the game last season when his team won the treble using an incredibly solid platform. city were at their best with Kyle Walker, ruben Dias and Manuel akanji in the backline and John stones moving into central midfield. But the continued absence of stones — who has started just four games this season due to a hip injury and was an unused substitute on sunday — has been a big problem for city, along with their failure to finish the chances they are creating. We are seeing akanji being used as the central defender who moves into midfield, but he is badly missed in the backline as a result. that is where you want akanji, so he can deal with fast counter-attacks. Guardiola’s philosophy will always be to commit men forward, as seen when Phil Foden made it 2-1 against spurs with six players in the area and another two on the edge of the box. Guardiola will never waver in his quest to win games in this way, though it can leave them exposed at the back. spurs knew if they got at city’s backline, they could cause problems. their first goal came from a city corner, going from back to front in 13 seconds before son heung-min scored. the second followed a turnover in midfield, as Giovani Lo celso used the surrounding runners as decoys to equalise. the third arrived when Walker failed to stop a cross from Brennan Johnson and Dejan Kulusevski overpowered nathan ake. after striking the perfect balance between defence and attack last season, city look more vulnerable now. a huge test awaits tomorrow at aston Villa, who have won 13 Premier League home games on the bounce. Unai emery will have seen the success others have had on the counter-attack in city’s last four games and will want to see his players bombing forward with the same confidence they have shown all season. Guardiola will be looking for a return to the balance that previously proved so successful and a fully fit stones would go a long way to making them the more complete, formidable force they were last season.
dmg media (UK)