Many people decided to hand the Premier League title over to Liverpool after Manchester City’s best center-back Aymeric Laporte suffered a knee injury that would keep him out for at least six months. More jumped on the bandwagon when the Citizens were upset at Norwich City last week and suffered a 3-2 loss. The news got even worse for the domestic treble winners when John Stones was ruled out for at least six weeks with a muscular injury. That left Nicolas Otamendi as the only healthy first team center-back.
The defensive crisis began in the summer when the two-time defending Premier League champions lost captain and club legend Vincent Kompany and did not replace him. When asked about the decision to start the season with three center-backs on the first team, manager Pep Guardiola said it was down to finances.
“We could not buy like the opponents. The club works incredibly well in all departments and sometimes we cannot afford it like other teams afford it and that is all.”
That’s an interesting response coming from the gaffer of a club that have broken their transfer record three times in the past year. The most recent was when defensive midfielder Rodri was purchased in the summer from Atletico Madrid for £62.8 million. Also, Guardiola has spent over £700 million in transfers since he’s been in charge of Man City. But I guess everything has a limit. The Citizens were in a bidding war against their local rivals Manchester United over Harry Maguire and the Red Devils won in the end when they bid £80 million for the England international.
In their Champions League opener on Wednesday, City won 3-0 against Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk. In the match, the center-back pairing Guardiola opted for was Otamendi with defensive midfielder by trade and former Miner Fernandinho. The 2011 FIFA World Coach of the Year was impressed with his center-back duo but had doubts if they could play every match together.
“Nico is 31, Fernandinho is 34 and the next alternative [Eric Garcia] is 18. For three or four months I don’t know what will happen. Both were incredible tonight. Nico showed incredible personality after what happened in the previous game. We need another solution, Rodri or Kyle Walker maybe, because they cannot play every game at their age.”
Today, the four-time Premier League winners thrashed Watford 8-0 at home. It was déjà vu for the Hornets as they were humiliated by Man City in the FA Cup final in May when they lost 6-0 at Wembley. Fernandinho and Otamendi started at center-back again and left-back Benjamin Mendy was handed his first start of the season. Bernardo Silva scored a hat trick, playing on the left wing as Raheem Sterling was rested. Kevin De Bruyne was the maestro of the match dictating much of the play and contributed a goal and two assists. Riyad Mahrez maintained his incredible form as he scored a free-kick goal and added an assist.
Guardiola used all three of his substitutions in the match and they were all for the backline. Mendy was subbed off to start the second half and was replaced by Angelino, Joao Cancelo came on for Kyle Walker in the 54th minute and lastly Otamendi, who scored in the 18th minute, was taken off in the 63th minute for Garcia. Rotation is key for City to maintain health and Guardiola seems willing to do it. The defense has obviously been weakened with Laporte and Stones’ injuries but if City continue to attack like they have in the last two matches it won’t be an issue. After all like the saying goes ‘the best defense is a good offense.’