It was all plain sailing for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City heading into October. Six wins from as many games in the Premier League meant they were already four points ahead of their nearest challengers, and were even odds-on for the title.
But boy have things changed since then, with the Citizens now some seven points off league leaders, Chelsea, and as long as 9/2 for the big prize.
The reason for that drift? Without question, it’s City’s back five.
Going forward hasn’t been a problem, with Pep’s men having found the net on 32 occasions so far this season. Nine different players have been on the scoresheet, too, while Sergio Aguero has already bagged 10 goals and is well on course to make this his best season in England.
But defensively, City aren’t quite there yet, and this may be their downfall this season.
There’s been plenty of change over at the Etihad since Guardiola took over, both in personnel and in tactics, with the Spanish boss opting to play three at the back, with wing-backs operating from either flank.
Not forgetting of course, that ball-playing goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, who Guardiola was so keen to add to his ranks in the summer. And the former Barcelona shot-stopper is yet to prove his worth, as he’s played a pivotal role in this being City’s worst defensive start to a campaign since the Mark Hughes days back in 2009.
A quick look at the defenders Pep has at his disposal will tell you all you need to know – he simply doesn’t have the players to suit his style yet.
He’s making progress, and the arrival of John Stones back in August suggests the future may well be bright in the blue half of Manchester.
But the lack of options available to him means Guardiola is having to play people out of position. Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have all featured at the heart of City’s defence this season, despite spending their career as full-backs.
Five of the seven players that have started at the back this season are aged 30 or older, so it’s clear that fresh blood is needed at the back.
But reports in the Daily Star are suggesting that Guardiola will not be making a move for a defender in the January transfer window – so it looks as though City fans will have to make do with what they’ve got.
How do supporters feel about that call? Can City win the league with this defence? Who do you think should be brought in?
Have your say in the comments section below!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing