Manchester City had their poor defensive start to the season continue on Sunday when Wolverhampton Wanderers came to the Etihad. It was easy for City to get caught out by this game. Wolves have struggled so far this season, but have too much talent to be a fixture at the bottom, so they brought their A-game with them to the Etihad.
Manchester City Manifesto: Defensive Weakness
Manchester City 0-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
It is really easy to boil down what happened on Sunday to simple defensive mistakes. On the first goal, for example, Nicolas Otamendi goes flying in to try and tackle Raul Jimenez and misses by a mile, leaving Fernandinho forced to come over and cover. It was completely unnecessary tackle, but he went flying in any way.
By the time the second goal went in, Otamendi had been playing as an auxiliary centre-forward for about eight minutes. It’s hard to blame him or Fernandinho for allowing as much as they did for Adama Traore on the second goal.
Lots of credit has to be given to raore on both goals. The former La Masia product has had a lot of terrible finishes for Barcelona B, Aston Villa, Middlesborough and now Wolves. For a player with so much talent, it’s nice to see him get it right because, in the grand scheme of things, this loss will help City more than it hurts.
The first thing it does is force Pep Guardiola and his staff to re-evaluate City’s defensive options over the international break. If there was ever a moment to give Eric Garcia his first Premier League start, it’s in the next game against Crystal Palace.
Palace have the potential to struggle this season, despite their better than expected start, and on paper, they don’t match the firepower of Wolves. However, they would present an interesting test for Garcia early in the season. If nothing else, Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend are all very different players to deal with.
Unless John Stones comes back in time, Garcia might get to face that test. It would be huge for Manchester City if they could really find out how ready he is. If Garcia is ready to take the reigns then they wouldn’t have to go out and spend big on a new centre-back.
They will likely still have to buy a new centre-back before the start of next season, at the very least – it is time for Otamendi to leave Manchester. In addition, they cannot go into next season relying on John Stones or Fernandinho.
The Other Missing Element
Looking at the defence hardly masks the fact that Manchester City were shut out at home by Wolves. The absence of Kevin De Bruyne may have had a lot to do with it. The Belgian playmaker could have done a lot to unlock the resolute Wolves defence, but a bigger miss for this game was the continued absence of Leroy Sane.
The German winger is one of the best left-footed players in the world at getting behind a defence. He is one of the best in the world at timing his runs, moving off the ball, and receiving the ball at high speed. City become a different team with Sane and Raheem Sterling pinned to their touchlines going at the space behind a defence.
Against this Wolves defence, a back three with pressing wing-backs would’ve been perfect for that strategy. City even tried putting Sterling out on the right for a little, but playing Riyad Mahrez on the left is less than ideal. This is really the first game all season a team’s defensive shape could’ve been torn apart by Sane if he were fit.
No Time For Panic
Finally, remember this is no time to panic. Despite Liverpool already holding an eight-point lead, City are still fine. It only takes a week of poor results for City to be right back on Jurgen Klopp’s heels. The Reds have got off to a good start, but there are going to be plenty of chances for them to slip up and plenty of chances for Manchester City to get better.
Having the international break in this spot might be ideal for elevating any impending panic, but when the games come back City will get into the Premier League and Champions League straight away and will have no time to look back at their defensive issues.