Assessing Manchester City's Defensive Performance so Far
It's probably fair to say that Manchester City's biggest problem so far this season has been their defence. After three games, they’re the league's top scorers, having managed eight goals already. But at the back, they've looked vulnerable.
Here, we take a look at City’s three league games so far and assess their defensive performance.
City 4, Newcastle 0
Back four: Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy
The first game was a stroll. City overwhelmed Newcastle completely, running out 4-0 winners and playing some sublime football along the way. Such was their dominance, there was little defending to do.
However, a major blow came in the shape of a groin injury sustained by Vincent Kompany, who hobbled off after 71 minutes and was replaced by Javi Garica. Garcia is a midfielder by trade and is yet to impress in his preferred position since his move to City last summer. His only previous appearance in defence for The Blues came in the disastrous 3-1 defeat away at Southampton last season where he was given a torrid time.
Although he was untroubled in the closing stages of this match alongside Joleon Lescott, it was clear he was a square peg in a round hole. With Micah Richards and Matija Nastasic also out, City had a selection headache going into their next match.
Cardiff 3, City 2
Back four: Zabaleta, Garcia, Lescott, Clichy
Despite Nastasic returning to the squad after injury, he was only fit enough to make the bench, leaving Garcia to step in and partner Lescott at the heart of the City defence.
City looked vulnerable throughout.
After taking the lead through a brilliant Edin Dzeko strike, they were pegged back by an Aron Gunnarsson strike. City didn't look comfortable, but the worst was yet to come.
Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart didn't cover themselves in glory as Fraizer Campbell headed home his Cardiff's second. Hart allowed the ball to travel over his head and Zabaleta wasn't tight enough to the former United striker, who could barely believe his luck as he scored untroubled.
Campbell lost Zabaleta again for the winner in what was turning out to be the Argentinian’s worst game in a City shirt for many a year. The Garica-Lescott partnership looked suspect all day too, as the Premiership new boys enjoyed their role as heavyweight slayers.
It was a shocking defensive performance that allowed three points to slip through the net.
City 2, Hull 0
Back four: Zabaleta, Lescott, Nastasic, Kolarov
The return of Nastasic meant Garcia returned to the bench, much to the relief of the City fans. Nastasic was nowhere near his best after being out since July with an ankle injury, but the centre-back partnership he formed with Lescott was far stronger than the Garcia-Lescott pairing in the previous match.
Inexplicably, Aleksandar Kolarov started ahead of Gael Clichy at left-back, weakening an already precarious back four. It was another less-than-convincing defensive display from City.
Hull will feel they could—and probably should—have taken something from the match, but they just couldn't add the finishing touch to their impressive approach play. Lescott in particular looked off the pace, and he will have to improve in the coming weeks as City look to cope with just two fit central defenders.
Two clean sheets in three games would suggest City have been untroubled defensively, but that's far from the truth. With players injured and a new style of play being implemented, it's understandable that there are teething issues. However, City must improve quickly if they want to make a positive start to their Premier League campaign.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
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