Manchester City’s weaknesses were glaring in their 4-0 away routing at the hands of Everton. Pep Guardiola is a fantastic manager, but his ideas have clearly not yet settled within the squad. The Catalan must keep his patience as his team has a long journey ahead of them on the path to Premier League success.
City’s biggest issues lie in the defense. Guardiola made the bold decision to give fan-favorite Joe Hart the ax in favor of Barcelona star and Copa America winner Claudio Bravo. The Chilean was known for his passing ability which the manager obviously saw as detrimental to City’s success with the new system, and to be fair, since Claudio’s arrival, he has proven that he can in fact ping passes to the outfield players.
Rather surprisingly, though, he cannot be trusted to keep the ball out of his own net. Out of the last 22 shots on the City goal, Bravo has allowed 14 of them to find the net. This is simply unacceptable if the Sky Blues are to win any silverware, and if this trend continues, Bravo will likely need a replacement during the summer transfer window. An activation of Geronimo Rulli’s buy-back clause could be on the horizon.
The defensive line in front of Claudio is not doing him any favors, either. With Vincent Kompany continuing to struggle for fitness, Guardiola is continuously forced to pair John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi who so far have not clicked. Four clean sheets in 24 matches more than sums up their partnership.
Stones is young and cannot handle being put next to a player such as Otamendi, who favors going forward and flying into reckless challenges. When he is exposed, often on multiple occasions each match, Stones is isolated in the central defense, left to handle the opposition’s attacking efforts on his own. This has become a tactic to many Premier League rivals. They will intentionally draw Otamendi out of his position (which happens easily) to make Stones comparable to a deer in the headlights.
Kompany’s fitness will be substantial in the second half of the season. The captain adds organization and leadership to the back line. Manchester City with their skipper are a different beast. Vincent can be the difference between a title push and dropping out of the top four. If the Belgian can't retain his health, a push in the summer should be made for Athletic Bilbao star Aymeric Laporte, despite his astronomical transfer fee.
Another fault within the starting eleven are the fullback positions. For years City have been in need of one if not two replacements on the defensive flanks, yet year after year we have seen no pursuit of any long-term signings of players who are talented in that position. Supporters will hope this year will finally be the one where these positions are molded into a strength rather than a liability.
The likes of Aleksandar Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta are not getting any younger and their abilities have declined drastically. Week in week out they are run into the ground by the other side’s wingers. Players such as Alex Grimaldo from Benfica, and Tottenham Hotspur duo Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have been linked with a move to the Etihad this summer. Any of these players would be improvements on what Pep currently possesses at his disposal, and they need to be signed.
In front of the defense, the club’s biggest worries would be fitness and selection. The loss of Ilkay Gundogan is still heartbreaking, but once he returns and plays alongside Fernandinho or Yaya Touré, City’s midfield will be a powerhouse again.
From the attacking perspective, no signings need to be made. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne provide great creativity, and young players such as Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Kelechi Iheanacho and Leroy Sane will grow. Fitting these six into one team with Sergio Aguero and Nolito already in the mix creates a selection headache for Guardiola every week. There is no need to break the bank on more attackers.
Once these crucial issues are solved, Manchester City will be close to unstoppable. With the fantastic talent in the starting eleven and the genius manager, fans of other clubs will be trembling in their seats when their turn to face the Sky Blues comes around.
That's all for next season, though. We'll need to suffer a little bit more.