Can Guardiola Fix City's Defensive Issues?


While many are preoccupied with discussions about Barcelona's defensive crises, especially in the Spanish league, where the team conceded its 14th goal in La Liga during the 35th round, turning into a side that allowed this number in just 15 rounds, some seem to forget another team that closely resembles the Catalan club in its composition.

Let's shift our focus to the English Premier League, where Mr. Pep Guardiola manages Manchester City. The team struggled defensively for years before significantly improving last season as they won the historic treble.

Manchester City seemed to do everything possible but kept losing in the UEFA Champions League, exiting early due to pure defensive reasons and avoidable mistakes, ultimately shattering the entire project due to a simple lapse.

However, last season, Pep successfully avoided this crisis, securing the Champions League after steering clear of easy goals and showcasing brilliance from his goalkeeper and defensive line in several matches.

Now, in the last four games alone, Manchester City has conceded a total of 10 goals, raising alarm bells and reviving memories of previous crises.

What happened to your team, Pep?

In the current season, Manchester City played 22 matches in all competitions, conceding 24 goals at a rate of 1.09 goals per game. Among them, 10 goals were conceded in just the last four matches.

While many of the goals resulted from individual errors, as seen against Leipzig, there is a clear crisis in Pep's defensive system. The absence of Stones due to injury left Rodri alone in defense, and with the departure of Gündoğan and the injury of De Bruyne, the system seems to have significantly unraveled.

The substitutes for Stones have not been sufficient to ensure strong defensive stability, and perhaps the reason is that Guardiola is giving more room for improvisation to his players this season compared to the past.

For example, there is a significant reliance on Doku over Grealish. Although the former is more skilled and successful at dribbling in the current English Premier League season, he lacks the artistic abilities possessed by the latter.

Pep's preference for Grealish stems from his ability to perform various attacking and defensive roles, supporting the overall system. This is something Doku doesn't provide to the same extent.

So, what is the solution?

The 4-4 draw with Chelsea, trailing by two goals against Leipzig, and a 3-3 draw against Tottenham make Pep carefully monitor the situation.

The return of John Stones from injury, as per Pep Guardiola's recent statements, could be a solution to improving the team's defensive situation, even though Rodri's suspension against Aston Villa complicates matters.

Pep needs to think about his defensive crisis now. The team is highly solid offensively, creating numerous opportunities, but the opponent only needs a couple of chances to score.

Returning to the basics that ended the last season, with Ake and Dias as defenders and Stones and Rodri or Kovačić in front of them until the return of the Spaniard, might be the best way to improve the defensive system.

Most importantly, working on improving the overall pressing system is crucial. Perhaps Doku's injury could be a good opportunity for Grealish to remind Pep of what he brings to the team and his ability to complicate the opponent's building from the back.

Pep needs a moment – as he did last season – to stop the bleeding of conceded goals so that he doesn't find himself out of the Champions League in the semi-finals or quarter-finals due to a defensively avoidable mistake.