Crystal Palace pulled off the shock result of the season so far by beating Manchester City 3-2 in their own Etihad backyard.
If ever a match confirmed that possession is not nine-tenths of the law then this was it. Just what has happened to Kyle Walker? If you look at the attributes needed to be a top fullback cum wing back then Walker displayed none of these yesterday as he played a major role in the concession of all three goals and provided the widest of smiles across Merseyside at 1655 yesterday.
I have been unhappy with Walker for weeks. It seems that because Danilo has been unavailable, Walker has fallen into the cruise trap and has just about stalled. In the same breath, he has stalled City’s challenge to retain the Premier League title.
Don’t get me wrong, he was not alone. The majestic Guardiola tried this league match to audition the idiotic scenario that Stones can deputise for Fernandinho. We saw quite clearly in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday that in that role, Stones is quite clueless. Once again the attack was slowed, midfielders having to halt runs beyond de Jesus for fear of offside, and he hasn’t quite mastered the risk-taking aspect at which the Brazilian excels.
In addition, there are many among the Blues who think that Otamendi has had it. Yesterday was a step further in that direction. The concept of the Argentino and Walker on the same side of the defence was defensive suicide. And so it proved.
Had the Blues taken all of their early chances then this would have been over by the break. As it happened it was over by the break, but not in City’s direction.
Gundogan’s neat header from Delph’s cross just around the 25-minute mark was the catalyst, but then City went into slumber mode. Zaha who should’ve been carded for a dive that Ederson would’ve been proud of unsettled Laporte stole the ball and slid it across the Schlupp. Walker, in the wrong position all but put up a signal saying “goal this way please” and Schlupp accepted the invitation to slip it past Ederson, who took an age to dive and really should’ve done better.
Two minutes later the match was on its head. This time Walker was bullied and gave away a senseless free kick. This was duly sent into the box and a series of harem-scarem attempts clear saw Bernardo’s header drilled straight into the back of the net by Townsend. This was probably the best goal I have ever seen City concede. Everything about it was perfect. The body shape, balance, power and precision.
It was important that City scored next, but guess what, enter Kyle Walker. Again the defending was sad, but for Walker, without need nor brain to slide in two-footed stud-up was unforgivable. Milivojevic accepted the twelve-yarder and City were on the ropes.
De Bruyne, introduced way too late, scored an incredible shot in off the far post from the right wing and de Jesus header over when it looked easier to score, but this was a game to forget except for Townsend’s exceptional goal. He’ll never score one like that again.
What does a full-back/wing-back need? Pace, power, ability to tackle, ability to block attackers and shots, ability to find a man with a cross. All of the above was absent from Kyle Walker’s game yesterday while the young man at the opposite end, Wan Bissaka, a 21-year-old showed Walker exactly how you do it. His game was that of the complete full back. Tackling, covering, blocking, setting up free header in the box that hit the post and finally forcing Sane into submission. Mr Guardiola. Purchase this man. He has an appetite, he is hungry. He can play.
With rejuvenated Leicester and Southampton away on the horizon, this will be a tough festive period for City before the Scousers come to the Etihad to claim the title, or so they would have you believe.
For City it is best available team please and ger Fernandinho back. If not play Zinchenko at left back, buy Wan Bissaka and play Delph centre midfield. KDB and Aguero are a must.