It has not been a bad start to the season for Manchester City as far as results are concerned. Yet to lose after four games, the Sky Blues sit second on the table, two points behind Liverpool. Problem is: The Reds have maintained a perfect record so far and look set to continue with the early form.
It’s no secret that Jurgen Klopp is bent on bringing the first league title of the Premier League era to Anfield. After falling short of the goal by a single point last term, the goal is simple this time around: Do everything necessary to knock City off their perch. The Merseysiders couldn’t have started the season any better. City’s dropped points against Tottenham only served as motivation to Klopp and his men in a journey that will be as intense, if not more for the two sides.
But what may motivate the reigning European champions even more is the spade of injuries being suffered by City players. Having become clear that the other big teams will most likey fall short of challenging for the title once again, the race has narrowed down to just the two teams early on. So any weaknesses from either side will be capitalised upon by the other.
For Pep Guardiola’s team, the football has remained the same. The team has been as dominant as ever on the pitch, practically beating opponents into submission. After pummeling West Ham 5-0 away on the opening weekend, the team was held to a 2-2 draw by Tottenham. The result proved a minor setback as the team bounced back to winning ways beating Bournemouth 3-1 before putting four past Brighton without reply. That’s 14 goals scored in just four games while conceding three.
The problem again is that Liverpool has done as well too and even better as the team boasts of a 100% record and topping the league table despite scoring two goals fewer.
And now that two key players (Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte) will be missing for the better part of the campaign, that could take its toll on the team. The club did not replace Vincent Kompany when the Belgian chose to call time on his career with the club at the end of last season. Ordinarily, the loss of such an important member of the squad could affect the team. But Laporte was in such good form last time out that the team could cope. Either of John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi would have been an ideal option to partner him for the rest of the season while the other acts as a back-up.
Unfortunately, the Frenchman is now sidelined for the better part of the campaign. That leaves just two center-backs in the squad. With Stones still struggling for fitness, the problem gets even bigger. That has led to Fernandinho emerging as the man to fill the void. But that is not the Brazilian’s natural position. Against weaker opposition, he will surely be fine. It’s in the crunch ties against tough teams that he will really be tested. Sometimes, it takes just one mistake to lose in such contests.
With liverpool ready to take advantage of any slip-ups, there should be no room for such this season.
However, if Guardiola’s ability to come up with solutions to difficult problems is anything to go by, there’s no cause for alarm. The Catalan has enough weapons in his arsenal to prosecute the war. Both Fernandinho and Rodri can be coached to excel in central defence. Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko are both midfielders, but were both converted to left-backs during Benjamin Mendy’s absence. The Ukrainian is now easily one of the best left-backs in the division currently.
Thankfully, the next several games will be against relatively easy opponents which will give the new City center-back time to grow into the role before tougher fixtures come along. Once the player becomes comfortable, it will be business as usual.
On the other side, if Liverpool suffered injuries to key players like City’s, Klopp will find things much more difficult. For City and Guardiola, we will learn a lot in the coming weeks. If push comes to shove, the club will go for a center-back in the January transfer window. But whatever happens, the Cityzens remain favourites for the title.