It had been almost a month since City last tasted victory and in the scheme of things with our top four finish rivals all registering wins ahead of Arsenal’s next unpredictable encounter, a win over a resurgent Hull Tigers had become critical. Now operating essentially in a ‘we’ll take the points any which way we can scenario’ having fluffed goal scoring lines season long, The Blues afforded Planet Blue plenty of cause for cautious optimism whilst at the same time delivered another reminder that this squad continues to risk achieving nothing in the Premier League nor FA Cup campaigns if they cannot maintain the defensive basics for 90 minutes.
We saw against Hull Manchester City’s season to date encapsulated in a nutshell. Outside of the usual surfeit of missed chances and domination of the ball, two extremes. Firstly a truly sublime 47th minute team goal which incorporated the entire side with a myriad of passes rounded off by the brilliant Kun Aguero whose work rate is increasing and rewarded by 10 goals in his last 10 appearances. Secondly, at the other end of the spectrum on the 85th minute, the type of ball watching, statuesque, incommunicative defensive howler that has blighted the team’s progress into a position whereby we cannot count upon a vastly superior goal difference to that of most of our closest rivals for the first time in 7 seasons.
The returning Claudio Bravo has been deemed the media’s fall guy once again for his failure to get more than an albeit unsighted weak hand to Hull’s one effort on target but I’m more concerned about the evident absence of communication between himself and his defenders. What should have been a nailed on clean sheet was undone by an apparent collective belief that somebody else will clear the danger. I find myself typing for a second consecutive game that it’s simply not good enough, not for where Manchester City wants to be. Through the sums splashed out on Bravo, Eli Mangala, Nico Otamendi and John Stones, City have proven that no amount of money thrown at a defence lacking leadership can compensate for an absence of basic organisation.
With 7 Premier League games remaining the Bravo-Caballero axis and the shape shifting defenders in front of them have already shipped 35 goals. Let in 7 more and The Blues will have registered their worst defensive return since the 2009-2010 campaign wherein 45 goals were conceded, eclipsing last season’s total of 41 which saw the side limp into the Champions League qualifying round.
Whispers are swirling around the press box that Joe Hart’s days at Manchester City might not yet be concluded. Pep Guardiola, renowned for stamping his authority upon an established squad from the outset is guaranteed to continue to spring surprises throughout his time in Manchester so watch that particular 6 feet 5 inches of space. However, a manager famed for his meticulous attention to detail, despite those assurances that he’s often ‘so happy’ with the way his team have defended will surely be considering a complete defensive rethink if the soft goals conceded all season ultimately serve to undermine the club’s aspirations.
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