The only thing that seemingly stood a chance of halting Manchester City was their own mortality and so it has proved. Indeed, the defending Premier League champions, who have collected 198 points over the past two seasons, have wobbled following the injury suffered by Aymeric Laporte, with John Stones also ruled out for the foreseeable future.
City have looked vulnerable at the back without Laporte and with Stones also out Pep Guardiola has had to get creative, with Fernandinho drafted into the centre back position alongside Nicolas Otamendi for the game against Watford last weekend, a game which saw the Premier League champions go close to a record-breaking win.
Guardiola possesses a great tactical mind and so it’s somewhat surprising that he hasn’t yet resorted to a different shape or formation to mask his team’s shortcomings at the back. City have used a back three on occasion under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, so why hasn’t he gone down this route in light of recent injuries?
He has the players to switch to a back three. The signing of Joao Cancelo from Juventus during the summer means Guardiola could now use the Portuguese international as a wing back on the right side with Kyle Walker on the right side of a back three. That would surely close up some of the gaps that have appeared in the City backline in recent games.
Guardiola clearly has faith in Walker. “When Kyle is stable in the mind, he knows exactly what he has to do and always performs well. Be stable here,” the City boss said when asked why Walker wasn’t called up to the last England squad. “Be consistent, be seven or eight (out of 10) all the time – that is what we have to work on with him. He is incredibly strong and he will be back.”
In Cancelo, Man City boast one of the best full backs in the European game right now. It’s becoming a little peculiar that Guardiola isn’t turning to him, especially with City’s defence in the state it currently is. Fernandinho is an effective ball-player from centre back, but he lacks true defensive nous. Playing Cancelo would allow Walker to shift inside and hide deficiencies that Norwich exposed. If they’re not careful, the Canaries might not be the last team to do this.
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