Manchester City suffered another disappointing result on Saturday as they drew 2-2 to a spirited Newcastle side at St James' Park. Here's what we learned from another title race blow...
How Did We Get To This?
I'm talking, of course, about our defence. I mean, seriously? How has this happened? From a recruitment standpoint, something is deeply wrong with this area of our squad. We've spent hundreds of millions on centre-backs and fullbacks and yet we still only have one defender who's actually notably good at defending- and he's injured. We're being forced to play a midfielder there ahead of one of our actual fit central defenders. What's around him is a collection of players whose main selling point is on-the-ball ability. Trouble is, half of them aren't even far above average at that.
Look at Inter Milan. Now, I'm not saying we're similar in many ways to them but their starting central defenders are all incredible at the actual, you know, defending. Same with Juventus and now even Liverpool. So why does Pep content himself with players who are so short on that side of the game? Today we were cut open far too easily - Miguel Almirón actually contributed to a goal, that's how bad we were.
Sterling Scores Again
Hey, at least Raheem Sterling's still going strong, right? The winger grabbed his fifteenth goal of the season with a fine finish right into the bottom corner of Dubravka's net in the first half. He's started the season on fire and become a player who can grab goals even when not playing at his best. As we enter the busiest section of the season, that's exactly what we need.
Foden Injects New Life
We talked last week about Phil Foden being trusted to come on and change the game against Chelsea, and while it was infuriating that he didn't start in midweek against Shakhtar, he was used in a similar manner here. With the game at 1-1, it was Foden who Pep turned to to make a difference on the match, and he did that - to a degree.
With a limited amount of time to make an impression, Foden offered more penetration and directness from the midfield than almost all the senior players had all game, crafting chances for his teammates as well as creating them for himself. If our poor run of form continues, I don't see what the disadvantage would be of giving Foden some more starts in the coming weeks.
Mendy Off The Pace
It only really takes a casual glance for a City fan to see that Benjamin Mendy is miles from his best. The player we signed was strong, fast, capable on the ball and a fantastic crosser. Was he ever a top defender? Admittedly, no. But since his return from injury at the start of the season, he's lost the other things that made him great. His whipped balls in from out wide have deteriorated into hit-and-hopes smashed into the defender's legs. And defensively he's suddenly all over the place.
This shouldn't be considered a huge surprise after the Frenchman endured such a long spell out, but I think it's still fair to expect him to be a bit sharper than this by now. He's made ten appearances for City now this season, but is still struggling to get into form. I can't imagine he'll stay in the team when Oleks Zinchenko returns to fitness and if he doesn't pick it up soon, Angeliño may be yapping at his heels. Mendy needs to play like the fullback we know he is.
Contrasting Day for De Bruyne
Today was a hugely mixed bag for City's Belgian, who was frustrated for eighty minutes. His ambitious passes weren't coming off like they do at his peaks, resulting in several lost balls and chances gone astray. It was beginning to look like another day without fruit in what's becoming an increasingly long stretch of dodgy form for the midfielder.
Then, suddenly, he smashed in one of the goals of the season. From just outside the box, he took down a bouncing ball and volleyed it with the power of a bulldozer in via the crossbar. It immediately flew into the hall of fame alongside some of De Bruyne's best ever goals - and that's saying something. Hopefully that moment sparks him back to his very best - we're going to need him if we're to salvage the season.
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