New season, same old Man City: Guardiola needs to spend and sort defence before it's too late

Pep Guardiola Manchester CityGetty Images

Pep Guardiola has created a number of firsts during his time at Manchester City. 

He is the first coach to guide any team to 100 points, the first to win Manager of the Month four times in a row and the first to win successive Premier League titles in a decade.

For the first time he has remained at a club for five years as a manager but he has already added an unwanted record early in his fifth season; he has conceded five goals for the first time ever.

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Alarmingly, City’s miserable 5-2 defeat at home to Leicester City suggests that they might not be able to compete with Liverpool for a second successive season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side barely put a foot wrong in the early part of the last campaign as they sprinted clear while their rivals made mistakes. This time around, City are already part of the chasing pack and have now made their first stumble.

Guardiola must act quickly if he is to stop another campaign slipping away before it’s even started.

Spend, spend, spend

The Covid-19 pandemic has seriously hit finances at all clubs and City have so far been outspent by title rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Defender Nathan Ake and winger Ferran Torres have been the only new arrivals while they have lost the quality of David Silva and Leroy Sane.

That will change this week with the arrival of much-needed centre-back Ruben Dias, who is set to join from Benfica in a deal worth €70 million (£64m/$82m) with Nicolas Otamendi moving the other way for €15m (£14m/$17m).

A right-sided defender has been the priority signing all summer and the 23-year-old Portugal international will finally be the long-awaited replacement for Vincent Kompany, who left the club nearly 18 months ago. 

With the transfer window closing on October 5, Guardiola badly needs more reinforcements with his squad stretched and short of ideas.

Against Leicester, he started without a recognised striker and with only 17-year-old rookie Liam Delap on the bench due to injuries to Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

Goals were a problem last season and this side needs fresh ideas, particularly against well-organised opponents like Leicester who know how to frustrate them.

More urgently is the left-back position where Benjamin Mendy has started the season looking fragile defensively and short of confidence going forward. With only Oleksandr Zinchenko as an alternative, City look short as they have done in the position for years, getting by with makeshift stand-ins. 

If they don’t act now, it could prove costly again.

Ruben Dias Benfica Manchester City GFXGetty Images

Take the pressure off

Guardiola said his side got anxious when they went 1-0 up against Leicester before their capitulation.

“We didn’t create much and started to think we weren’t playing well,” he said in his post-match news conference. “We put the pressure on ourselves to score the second but we have to be more calm.

“We were anxious, we got nervous when not creating chances. We told them at half-time that they were playing good, try to be patient and the rest will be in our hands.”

The problem may well have been the players knew exactly what was coming. Jamie Vardy is the perfect player to exploit City’s flaws and served warning with a couple of threatening breaks long before he completed his hat-trick on Sunday.

The Foxes used the same ploy as Arsenal in the FA Cup, Lyon in the Champions League and Wolves and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium last season to capitalise on defensive weaknesses.

A high-line and nervous defence is easy to attack against and, at the moment, City don’t have any answers.

Guardiola won’t change the way he plays - dominating possession and playing in the opponents’ final third.

His side unravelled when he took off the extra protection of defensive midfielder Fernandinho in search of more goals with City lacking a physical threat. But it backfired and Leicester and Vardy took advantage to devastating effect. 

A touch more caution might help them get through a difficult period until they are back to full strength and playing at their very best.

Liam Delap Fernandinho Manchester City GFXGetty Images

Ditch the cups

City have won the Carabao Cup for the past three seasons, but it might be time to give it less priority.

In a shortened season, the schedule will be punishing and is set to test all squads so something might have to give.

Guardiola was already missing seven first-team players for the visit of Leicester and will not have too many back for the trip to Leeds United next weekend. That already feels like a must-win game and it is considerably bigger than the fourth-round trip to Burnley on Wednesday night.

Beating Bournemouth in midweek, the City boss chose a mix of academy players and first-teamers. With the game level after the hour, Guardiola turned to Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne to secure the victory - but in a punishing campaign, a few days off may well be of more benefit.

Guardiola wants to win every competition he enters and that is an admirable attitude.

In an extraordinary season, he might have to make the unusual decision of prioritising just the Premier League and Champions League and leaving the cups for somebody else.

Who will win the Premier League title this season?

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Who will win the Premier League title this season?

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