Manchester City were expected to be a real force this season after a change of manager and a busy summer in the transfer market. This season may only be 9 games old, and there’s a lot of soccer left to be played, but so far City currently sit in seventh place, have been beaten three times and look defensively vulnerable.
So far this season, going forward is not a problem. Sergio Aguero is in sublime form and their creative spark in David Silva and Samir Nasri is looking lively and the central pairing of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho is solid.
However their main area of concern is in defense and most notably at the heart of it.
Vincent Kompany is one of the best central defenders in the world and his performance in the Manchester derby proved that. He is a true leader and organizes the defense superbly.
The problem City have is when he is injured. And at the moment, that seems to be happening too often. They struggle when he is not playing and teams look to take advantage.
Pellegrini struggled to sign a top class defender as cover for first choice pairing of Kompany and Matija Nastasic. All the Chilean could bring in was Martin Demichelis who played under Pellegrini at Malaga.
The Argentine made his debut in Sunday’s defeat at Chelsea and the central defender struggled to handle the attacking threat from the Blues. His best days look behind him and although he may be experienced, lacking pace and trying to adapt to the Premier League will leave the 32-year-old exposed.
In Kompany’s absence, holding midfielder Javi Garcia has filled in at centre-half and his performance against Cardiff City was enough to suggest that he is not suitable cover for the Belgian. Too many times Cardiff clipped the ball over his head and his change of direction and pace was found out too many times as Fraizer Campbell caused him problems all afternoon.
Nastasic is a good player and he will be a top class centre back in time, but as of now he needs someone like Kompany to play alongside him to talk to him and to lead by example. Without their skipper, the 20-year-old is the main man at the heart of their defense and the Serbian lacks the leadership qualities that Kompany possesses.
City’s record without their captain in the Premier League in 2013 speaks for itself. With Kompany, they have played 13 times, winning 10, drawing 1 and losing 2, scoring 30 times and conceding 10. However without Kompany, Manchester City have played 14 times and have won 6, drawn 3 and lost 5 times, scoring 19 and conceding 16. It shows just how important their captain is to the side.
Something that doesn’t give the City back line confidence is goalkeeper Joe Hart. Too many times lately the England number one has made mistakes that have cost City. None more recent than his howler in the last minute against Chelsea where Hart gifted Fernando Torres the last gasp winner. The 26-year-old came charging out of his box when Nastasic had the situation under control. A rush of blood and a lack of communication, and Nastasic headed the ball back to where his goalkeeper should been around the penalty spot, but instead Hart was out of his box, out of position and City suffered another defeat on the road. For the times he does make important saves, the games like Bayern Munich, Cardiff, Aston Villa and Southampton, Hart costs his team too much and maybe Pellegrini should look at either dropping him and playing Costel Pantilimon or consider bringing in a world class goalkeeper to provide serious competition to Hart and make him up his game and show why he should be their number one.
For a team to win the Premier League a solid defense is a necessity. At the moment, City look vulnerable at the back and if their attacking threat can be nullified, they can be got at. The Etihad is still a fortress but on their travels, their form speaks for itself as they have only won once in their last five on the road.
It will take time for Manuel Pellegrini to get his philosophies across and get the team playing the way he wants them to. When Kompany returns Manchester City have to hope he stays fit for the remainder of the season. If he does, then come the end of the season City will be challenging for the title.
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