Pep Guardiola will be having sleepless nights if he’s seen the fallout of his new employers’ feeble effort at gaining an advantage in the Premier League title race. A third home defeat of the season cast an unnatural ambience amongst the Etihad faithful as many are beginning to accept the league is slowly sliding from their reach.
Leicester were the latest team to thwart City on Saturday afternoon as they enjoyed a 3-1 victory despite having far less possession. For now, the unassuming Spaniard will be more than aware his planned transfer activity will need to be more fruitful than perhaps first anticipated.
City never shy away from opening the cheque book as the clubs’ hierarchy will stop at nothing for unrivalled success. The likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Fabian Delph and Nicolas Otamendi all joined City in the summer as their pursuit for silverware amplifies.
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Much of City’s transfer activity is emphasised on increasing their attacking prowess. This season, however, it has been widely noticeable the defensive frailties are the reasoning behind the Citizens lax efforts for Premier League success.
Leicester’s ability to expose the defensive pairing of Otamendi and Martin Demichelis was all too familiar and questions have to be asked regarding the clubs’ recruitment. Spending vast sums of money is one thing but when a club lays out as much as they have for Otamendi and the uninspiring Eliaquim Mangala, it’s only fair to expect some kind of return on the pitch.
Captain and club stalwart Vincent Kompany has been unavailable for large parts of this campaign and City fans will be the first to admit his absence has been felt. It’s far too easy to suggest this is the sole reasoning behind City’s topsy-turvy performances but they certainly have, in theory, enough in their armoury to cope without the Belgian.
Otamendi hasn’t had as bad a season as what is perhaps being made out but he would certainly look more assured next to a Kompany-type leader rather than the ageing Demichelis. Nonetheless, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have struggled at the back and this is reflected in their ‘goals conceded’ column. Only Leicester have shipped more in the top five.
Time is running out for the defensive trio of Mangala, Demichelis and Otamendi as Guardiola will be casting an eye on his options when he takes over the reins from Pellegrini in June. If Kompany is to return, you would expect Otamendi to be given a fairer chance to establish himself but the remaining pair are on borrowed time.
One of the most exciting facets of Guardiola’s appointment is the array of talent he is expected to pursue. The likes of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi have all been mentioned as well as a more realistic target in the shape of Paul Pogba.
However, Guardiola should be pinpointing defensive players of the highest calibre. At Barcelona, he had Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol to marshal the defence. At Bayern, he's had Jerome Boateng and the ever-inspiring Phillip Lahm to rely on. If he is to adopt his world famous tiki-taka breed of football at the Etihad, it will need to be cultivated via a reliable defence.
With that said, a recent interview with Guardiola’s father, Valenti, via BBC Sport, suggests differently: “He has this attitude to football [as an art form]," said Valenti. "Not just to win, but to win in a distinctive way that entertains the public."
"The style of football I see in England, I doubt he has that in mind I mean, the football is very different. For that reason, I think he will have to change the mindset of English football.
"I think he will be happy - he wouldn't be leaving if not. Right now in Germany, he is held in very high esteem."
Nonetheless, City fans can be assured of positive transfer activity in the summer but for Guardiola and co. to make a lasting impression, they'll need to build from the back before moving forward.