Pep Guardiola practically conceded defeat in Manchester City’s quest to retain their Premier League crown following a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace at the Etihad on Saturday.
“We did everything to win the game and unfortunately in the end we lost two points because we could not stop the counter-attack. But we have to continue. There are still a lot of games to play. We have to try to secure the place for the Champions League next season,” said Guardiola post-match.
January signing Cenk Tosun gave Crystal Palace the lead before a Sergio Aguero brace (82 & 87) gave the hosts the lead. Fernandinho’s 90th minute own-goal insured Roy Hodgson’s Palace went back to London with a point, and a deserved one at that.
Once again defensive frailties were Manchester City’s downfall. Failure to bring in a central defender following the departures of Vincent Kompany and Equilium Mangala as well as Danilo, who has deputised at centre-back, has ultimately cost them the Premier League title.
More so the former. To lose someone of Kompany’s stature with his leadership qualities has resulted in a disjointed defence at Manchester City. Liverpool (14), Leicester City (23), Manchester United (26), Sheffield United (22) and Crystal Palace (26) have all conceded less goals than Guardiola’s City have this season.
Many have perhaps put blame on exhaustion, which could certainly have played its part this season. At one point, Manchester City found themselves 10 points behind leaders Liverpool last campaign, before City went on to lift the Premier League.
Now 16 points behind this season, with us not even in February, it’s going to be a huge task for Manchester City to catch Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Of course, it’s doable. With Guardiola’s side still in four competitions (Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup), the Spaniard is going to need a fully fit squad and focussed squad which at the minute, it doesn’t appear as though he has.
Guardiola has already stated that he doesn’t expect any huge deals to happen in January, with teams not wanting to sell their best players. But the question must be asked:
Who could shore up Manchester City’s defence?
Nathan Ake: The former Chelsea defender and now Bournemouth stalwart has become an integral member of Eddie Howe’s Cherries. The Netherlands international is destined to play at the highest level and with the situation Bournemouth find themselves in (three points behind safety), a move could be feasible, whilst Ake would also be allowed to be named in Manchester City’s Champions League squad for the knockout stages, where they face Serie A side, Atalanta.
Pau Torres: Arsenal have also shown interest in the Villarreal and Spain defender, who has received rave reviews for his performances in La Liga this season. The 23-year-old has the skillset that Guardiola searches for in a defender, but Torres is in no rush to leave Spain.
“Rumours are rumours, we are in a time for little news and you have to put something forward to sell. My feeling is that I must work hard to continue playing in this club and my goal is to be able to play many games with this shirt,” said Torres. “To be able to play and have many minutes with the firsts. To which is added the national team, which makes that without a doubt the best year of my life.”
Kalidou Koulibaly: Perhaps the most sought after defender in football at the minute. Both Manchester clubs as well as powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain have all shown an interest in signing the Senegal international, who could earn Napoli around €75 million if the latest reports are to be believed. Signing Koulibaly would be a statement of intent but City are going to have to splash the cash, something they won’t be afraid of doing.
Even with Guardiola arguably conceding defeat in the title race, the Spaniard will be eager to make defensive additions, whether that’s in January or the summer, ahead of an assault on the Premier League title next season.
And not only that, many suggest that Guardiola will overhaul the attacking department. Leroy Sane is seemingly heading back to Germany with the 24-year-old promising to join Bayern Munich. Whether that comes to fruition or not remains to be seen, but what will be certain is that City fans can expect some big signings over the next seven months ahead of the 2020/21 season.
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