Manchester City are considered to be in the midst of a mini-crisis at the moment, with an 8-point gap between themselves and league leaders Liverpool. But with injuries to key players, an international break might just be the perfect medicine for last year’s quadruple-winning team to get back on track. Having made light work of the Champions League group stages so far, Guardiola’s priorities will be for his team’s form to peak in the latter stages of the season…
Injuries are a pressure for every team to cope with, but considering City currently have a crop of first-choice players in the treatment room, a strong case could be put forward to say just one of these could have made all the difference in yesterday’s home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers:
- Kevin De Bruyne: City’s player of the year so far this season was sorely missed as ideas were scarce when it came to unpicking a tight Wolves defence, despite plenty of possession in the final third. The king of assists would surely have been able to find that winning pass on an off-day for David Silva
- Leroy Sane: here is a player that had everything to prove this season, even if it turns out to be his last at the club. The sky is the limit; his ability to create from wide positions is second to none and they’ll be hoping he is fit to contribute come the new year.
- Benjamin Mendy: despite questions being asked of his defensive abilities, when he is fit he can be a potent weapon, again from those wide positions. The ball over the top won’t always work for one of the league’s smallest teams.
- Kyle Walker: despite starting the match the England full-back was replaced at half-time due to illness following an infection. The team has never really relied on his attacking instincts but his experience and pace at the back is severely missed against the counter attack
- Aymeric Laporte: talking of experience at the back, Laporte has been the best central defender at the club in the past 12 months. People will talk about the absence of Kompany but there’s no doubts that with Laporte fit, the mistakes at Norwich and Wolves are cut out. Pep will be counting down the days for his January-expected return
- John Stones: a player that has proved his worth at the club with key contributions in twoleague titles since joining, but it’s games like Wolves at home that his passing ability and quick transition of the ball sets the tone of a game. Lacking pace going forward, it was mostly due to a lack space to run into, but with Stones being able to keep the ball moving those spaces quickly become available for players like Raheem Sterling to exploit
The next 2 weeks could prove crucial for how the rest of the season pans out; the return of players in critical positions could make all the difference and with Bernado Silva’s FA charge hanging over the club, everybody concerned will be keen to put the matter behind them. Despite dropping points so early into this season, City are still expected to be there or there abouts come May in terms of all competitions but it obvious the club’s main ambitions lie in Europe.
Calls are being made for the likes of Phil Foden and Eric Garcia to help fill the void of those missing senior players but rather than a lack of faith from Pep, it appears to be a softer approach to prepare these players for long-term success. That might only be as far as the current season is concerned and we could well still see significant contributions from these types of players at later key moments. Success is built on small details and Guardiola is the master of this. They will need to ride their luck at the right times – VAR may even have to be on their side, just once! – but despite looking below the standard they have set in the past 2 seasons so far, Pep Guardiola will know it is a sprint, not a marathon.
Champions League success at Manchester City would be his greatest achievement yet, but he can’t do that in October.