Comment: Manchester City’s defensive frailties are being masked by the awesome power of ‘Neguero’

Comment by Matthew Naylor

There is a monumental chasm at Manchester City; a glaring disjoin between when the Blues are moving forward with the ball and when they are forced to defend.

However, the shortcomings in City’s defence are currently being papered over by the devastating performances of a pair affectionately known as ‘Neguero’.

The deadly combination of Sergio Aguero coupled with new signing Alvaro Negredo is proving too much for Premier League defences.

No team is even close to the number of goals that City have scored in the Premier League up to now, while star man Sergio Aguero has more to his own name than the whole Tottenham Hotspur squad.

You would think that record would see the 2011-12 champions top the table on more than just goals scored and goal difference. You would think.

Instead they ‘languish’ down in fourth place where they are being kept down by the equally impressive Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.

This can be put down to two factors: their much-publicised poor away form and a defence that has shipped several sloppy point-costing goals.

Take August’s away trip to Cardiff as an example.

City fans may long be growing tired of hearing about it, but the substandard display in that game epitomises the deficiencies that consistently appear in City’s back-line.

When the visitor’s took the lead early in the second half through Edin Dzeko’s 30-yard belter, all seemed to be going according to plan as City began to dominate both the possession and the shot count.

However, Aron Gunnarsson’s equaliser was then followed up by two headers from former Manchester United frontman Fraizer Campbell.

Sometimes there is very little a side can do about a goal but in this case all three were avoidable.  

Manager Manuel Pellegrini said after the game that their failure to defend from set-pieces was what cost his side what should have been an easily winnable game.

There is no denying that their defence has improved since then, if someone looks in the right places and not at the trip to Sunderland three weeks ago.

Taking aside the embarrassing 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light, the Citizens’ other November results read more like rugby scores than football ones.

4-2, 6-0, 5-2 and 7-0. Such maulings makes it easy to describe Pellegrini’s men as ‘free-scoring’, but in the absence of captain and inspirational leader Vincent Kompany, City have not looked as solid as during that successful campaign two seasons back.

Kompany has not played since the October 5 win over Everton, and how they need him back for the tricky December that lies ahead.

City have nine games scheduled for next month, including hosting Liverpool and Arsenal and making the daunting trip to Bayern Munich, albeit for nothing more than Champions League bragging rights.

In Kompany’s absence, Pellegrini has tested more centre-back pairings than any other manager in the league this season.

Various combinations of Matija Nastasic, Javi Garcia, Joleon Lescott and Martin Demichelis have been sampled by the Chilean, with mixed results.

But through the defensive trials and tribulations, they have too often been bailed out by goals at the other end by the rampant exploits of Aguero and Negredo.

The Roberto Mancini model of one striker in front of a five-man midfield is gone.

The Pellegrini era of two forwards so different, yet so similar, playing together to devastating effect is making the world stand up and take notice.

These observers include almost all bookmakers who still have Manchester City down as favourites to lift their second Premier League crown come next May.

There is no doubting that the Sky Blues have it within their multi-talented squad but somewhere, their backline has to start earning their ample pay cheques.

An unsettled centre-half pairing has not been helped by the men outside of them either.

Gael Clichy has never quite looked the player he was at Arsenal before his big-money move to the North West, and Pablo Zabaleta is still looking to recreate the form that made earned him such lavish praise last season.

Zabaleta more than deserved his place as the only City player in the PFA Team of the Year back in June, but has looked far shakier this time around and has even given benchwarmer Micah Richards a sniff of first team football.

The Citizens have been good this season; there’s no denying that. At times, they have been great. But we have not yet seen them at the very best consistently enough.

A City fan may shudder to think of Aguero and Negredo losing their current form. A fan of any other surely shudders to think of them keeping it.

The forwards are doing their bit – your turn, defenders.

Image courtesy of MCFC Official, with thanks

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook. 

Related Articles