Something is not quite right at City but it is temporary, not terminal. Defeat at Tottenham without scoring a goal happened regularly when they were still at their best in recent years, so what is wrong in this particular season?

Well, Gary Neville, not every City fans’ favourite uncle, suggested that, if in form, the following seven: Walker, Dias, Laporte, Ake, Rodri, De Bruyne and Gundogan would represent their strongest line-up with three of Mahrez, Silva, Alvarez, Haaland, Foden and Grealish up front. With the exception of the increasingly injury-prone Stones and Silva’s midfield skills, that is probably right.

So is it just loss of form to key players that’s to blame or, as many suggest, the failure to fully integrate Harland yet? Probably a bit of both. And added to that is the blunt truth that DeBruyne, Gundogan and Walker are all now in their thirties, and some would say past their very best, but still with lots to give – although not always ninety minutes, twice a week.

All great teams are constantly evolving and changing while staying at or near the top – and City are no exception. Transfer targets like Bellingham in particular, as well as Maddison, Chilwell and, hopefully, Saka, will ultimately refresh the squad and give it longevity.

But, for these last four months of the season, Pep’s best and only hand is the current squad. And he will expect no less from these players than to give their all to a fifth Premiership title in six seasons, a rare FA Cup win, and a first Champions League triumph. Publicly, he’ll deny all this but deep down we know that his determination, commitment and passion will expect no less.

So no crisis but a bump in the road that can be solved by finding a way to get Haaland playing more to his strengths: his breakneck speed through the channels and ability to out-muscle opponents, using his laser-like shooting ability to continue to break goalscoring records.

He represents one less player to create midfield overloads as the false number nine system that was so successful in recent seasons is ditched in favour of a fluid back-three system which can quickly regroup to a four when possession is lost, and that allows an extra midfielder to support a more conventional attack with Haaland playing an old fashioned centre-forward role with conventional, although inverted, wingers on either side of him. It’s just a question of time to get this right and I suspect it will happen before the next stage of the CL.

Can you name these Man City players from the 2000s? Test your knowledge, take the quiz and challenge your friends and family to beat your score

1 of 10

He joined from Newcastle in 2000 and left to join FC Sochaux in 2003

Share this article

David Green is a British film director and television producer forever on a plane between LA and the Etihad.
From Oxford, he joined Yorkshire Television, cutting his directorial teeth on the launch of Emmerdale(60 eps).
He has since made over a 100 films, dramas and documentaries, directing the award-winning TV-film,1914 All Out, and the feature film, Buster(4 awards), with Phil Collins and Julie Walters.
Other movie-directing credits include Fire Birds starring Nicolas Cage & Tommy Lee Jones, Breathtaking and Car Trouble.
His greatest pride, however, is in being a lifelong, passionate Manchester City supporter, suffering a 44 year Prem-winners drought, and 34 years without any trophy at all. So, definitely no Johnny-come-lately glory hunter!