Manchester City’s defensive frailties come to the fore as Ronan Groome makes his three conclusions from the weekend’s Premier League action.
1) City’s defensive problems beyond Hart
Joe Hart has come in for stern criticism during the past week and probably justifiably so given the basic mistakes he has made this season. However, this has deflected criticism away from City’s overall rearguard which has now shipped seven goals in its three recent games. It’s true Hart was to blame for some of those goals but the fact is Bayern Munich were massive value for a 3-1 victory at the Etihad on Wednesday and Everton were unlucky to not take anything away from City on Saturday morning.
City looked ropey after Vincent Kompany was forced off before half time on Saturday and they generally look short in central defence. Joleon Lescott has been out of form for a long time now and was desperate when allowing Romelu Lukaku to slide by him prior to the Belgian’s opening goal. Matija Nastasic is promising but is still learning his trade as a centre-half in the Premier League.
Another £57m was spent on attacking players during the summer, but the only defender City brought in was Martin Demichelis, who managed to get himself injured shortly after signing. It remains to be seen if the Argentinian, at the age of 32, has the pace to adapt to the tempo of the Premier League, and it seems inevitable that Manuel Pellegrini may well have to go shopping again in January.
2) Southampton on a surge
One of the more intriguing games at the weekend was Southampton’s clash with Swansea on Sunday afternoon and there was a lot to like about the way the Saints performed in 2-0 win. Mauricio Pochettino’s team easily dealt with Swansea’s probing passing and were critical going the other way to make it four wins on the bounce.
This Southampton squad has all the makings of Pochettino mark two and they look like a progressive unit now. Given that players like Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse are coming through the youth system (Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Wayne Bridge all started here), Southampton were able to opt for quality rather than quantity in the transfer window – spending a total of £36m on Victor Wanyama, Dejan Lovren and record signing Pablo Osvaldo.
It’s worth pointing out that even though Southampton started slowly, scoring just two goals in their opening five games, they still took five points away from those fixtures – thanks to a rock solid defence (two goals conceded all season). Now that Pochettino’s team have started scoring, they’ve inevitably started winning and they represent another really tough test for an under-pressure Manchester United side in the next game back after the international break.
3) QPR soaring back to the Premier League
It seems near implausible to predict qualification for a Championship club in October but QPR are now a best-priced 2-5 to come straight back up and those odds seem warranted. Harry Redknapp’s squad look head and shoulders above anything else in the second tier of English football and the signing of Richard Dunne has been key to their form. He helped Rangers set a club record of eight consecutive clean sheets after the 2-0 win to Barnsley on Saturday and right now all Rangers have to do is score and they win. With players like Charlie Austin, Joey Barton, Alejandro Faurlin, Niko Kranjcar and Tom Carroll, it hasn’t been a problem so far.
Sport Is Everything. Ronan Groome.
Featured Image by Football.ua [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons