Manchester City has undoubtedly been one of the best teams in Europe for the last few years. Playing scintillating free-flowing football, the team has been a beauty to behold even among many opposition fans. But there has been a glaring flaw; a leaky defence.
That has usually led to the team relying on the exceptional performance of the forwards to bell the cat in difficult moments. City has frequently outscored opponents to secure league points or progress in cup games.
Unfortunately, that has not always worked. Sometimes the team just fails to click upfront and the inability to keep a clean sheet leads to a catastrophic loss. At other times the team scores but also concedes as much, or even more.
It’s a situation that led to some opposition fans mocking Pep Guardiola and City for spending so much to bolster the defence, yet failing to find a solution there. The position had easily become the team’s Achilles heel. From Liverpool to Monaco, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, Wolves, Lyon and Leicester City, the teams shared something in common. They all secured crucial victories against City by exploiting weaknesses in the defence.
But after much trial and error, it does seem Guardiola has found the solution to a lingering problem. It’s a problem that has contributed to his failure to lift the Champions League with City. Suddenly, the team looks solid at the back. It’s putting forth solid defensive displays and keeping clean sheets.
Following the disappointing loss away at Tottenham, the team has kept consecutive clean sheets in the last three games. A 1-0 win against Greek Champions Olympiakos was followed with a 5-0 thumping of Burnley before settling for a goalless draw against Porto. The results came in a run of games where all of Ruben Dias, John Stones, Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker and even the returning Benjamin Mendy have been in top form.
It’s not surprising then that the trio of Dias, Stones and Cancelo have been nominated for the Etihad Player of the Month award for November. Dias has been impeccable since joining the team in the summer. The Portuguese slotted in seamlessly and has been ever-present in the heart of defence. The team has kept six clean sheets in the 11 games he has featured since his arrival. The signs are good that moving forward things can get even better as he develops a stronger bond with the other defenders.
Speaking of which Stones has risen from the dead, so to say. The Englishman had questions hanging over his head after failing to live up to the huge expectations on his shoulders in the last two seasons. Speculations concerning a possible move away from the Etihad Stadium were rife during the summer.
But the 26-year-old promised to stay and fight for his place in the team. Apparently, he has so far kept his promise as he looked every bit the player City paid mega bucks to price away from Everton back in 2016.
Cancelo has been one of the surprises of the season. The Portugal international has been a reliable option for Guardiola who has decided to find a place in the lineup for him by all means. That has led to him being played out of position as Walker occupies his natural right-back position.
It remains to be seen how the players progress through the season. If they do build on this form, the team will resume business as the winning machine that has thrilled the football world in the last few campaigns. With all the players back fit, goals can be expected upfront. Shutting the back door could be all that is needed to finally take our place as one of the European greats.
As for the award, whoever wins it in the end is deserving of it. However, yours truly will give it to Dias due to the fact that he has easily adjusted to life in a new league. One renowned for being difficult for new players. Add to that his impact in the team in so short a time.
Who will you go for?