2019/20 has proved to be a troubling season for Manchester City and their manager Pep Guardiola.
Injuries have played a role in their sub-par performance thus far, but the Sky Blues must take the blame for their inadequate preparation ahead of the new campaign. City could have mitigated the damage, yet they decided to take a gamble that hasn’t paid off.
The fact they have a top four spot wrapped up is little consolation. The money that has been pumped into this club has made Champions League football the bare minimum. Anything else is a failure for a side that have spent a net £600m over the last five years.
Let’s takes a look at six of the Sky Blues’ biggest mistakes this term.
Failing to Replace Vincent Kompany
Aymeric Laporte suffered knee ligament damage in August, while fellow centre back John Stones has spent time on the sidelines due to muscular issues.
That left City with Nicolás Otamendi as the only senior central defender left standing, leading Pep to use Rodri and Fernandinho as stop-gaps. Eventually, he lost patience with Otamendi and promoted teenager Eric García from the youth set-up.
It’s clear to see that the Premier League champions didn’t make the necessary purchases last summer. Captain Vincent Kompany – their defensive leader – left in May, and yet the Sky Blues chose to spend lavishly in other areas.
Once again, they totally ignored the long-standing problem they have at centre back. City left themselves vulnerable and paid the price after losing Laporte and Stones.
Buying João Cancelo
It’s slightly surprising that the Citizens didn’t abandon their pursuit of João Cancelo when Juventus told them he’d cost €28m plus Danilo, who they valued at €37m.
The Portugal international is far from a flop, but the fee City paid was foolish. The money would have been of far more use in central defence, where the need for investment is desperate.
Yes, another full back was required. But Cancelo’s price tag should have seen Guardiola switch his attention elsewhere. The 25-year-old hasn’t brought a whole lot to the table, and spending such a sum on his services scuppered City’s hopes of landing a top class centre back.
This was an unwise acquisition.
Midfielders Slacking Off
Kevin De Bruyne is dazzling us all with his phenomenal ball-playing abilities, but something has been lacking in his game.
The Belgian’s defensive output has taken a downward turn this season, with the same true of both David and Bernardo Silva. That has been a factor in their reduced control of possession in 2019/20.
Fernandinho’s switch to the backline has complicated matters for the Citizens’ creative midfielders, though Rodri and İlkay Gündoğan have been adequate replacements in the anchor role.
It seems De Bruyne and the Silvas haven’t been pulling their weight defensively, causing a ripple effect that has impacted other areas of City’s performance.
Playing Bernardo Silva on the Wing
Bernardo is most effective when played in a midfield three, something he has proved on numerous occasions throughout his three years under Guardiola.
Playing him wide on the right isn’t the worst thing Pep could do, yet it means his playmaking skills often go unrealised. Given Silva’s devastating talents in possession, it’s a sizeable loss for the team.
Guardiola enjoyed plenty of success when Bernardo functioned as a winger in 2017/18 and 2018/19, but things are different now. The man who regularly partnered De Bruyne has lost a bit of his magic this year.
Overusing David Silva
El Mago has been a wonderful servant of Manchester City, and he will rightly go down as one of the modern legends at Etihad Stadium.
Unfortunately, there is no room for sentiment when Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool are rampaging their way to a record-breaking title victory. David Silva is not the player he once was. He should not be starting most games.
The 34-year-old’s legs have started to go, and he doesn’t dictate matches like he used to. A lack of energy is costly in the fast-paced Premier League, especially when City’s system is built on fluid movement and sharp reactions when possession is lost.
Phil Foden’s Lack of Game Time
The decision to keep David Silva in the starting XI has another consequence – Phil Foden is rarely seen.
Brief cameos have become the norm for the starlet, who is the heir to El Mago’s throne. He needs to be receiving regular game time as he prepares for his role as a playmaker in the centre of the park.
Pep hasn’t given him what he needs, handing Foden only two league starts this campaign. He’s got two years of first-team experience under his belt, and it’s high time the boyhood City fan gets a proper opportunity to shine.
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