Manchester City currently sit seventh in the Premier League table having conceded seven goals which is more than Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, West Brom, Spurs, West Ham, Newcastle, Sunderland and Stoke City. It’s remarkable when considering that the defence was one of the strongest parts of the team last season.
So what are the possible reasons for this sudden lapse in defensive concentration which has cost the side wins at Liverpool and at home against Arsenal. To begin with, you have to look at the decision of Roberto Mancini to let Nigel De Jong leave the club and not bring in a replacement to sit in front of the back four.
This is an area where Manchester City were so good last season. Teams would have to work particularly hard just to get an edge over the attacking midfield players, when they did that they found the Dutchman in their way before they could even think about trying to set up chances and break through the defence. Gareth Barry does a similar job for the side but isn’t as effective. Five points from the last four games suggests they need him back quickly.
It may be a little naïve to suggest complacency in the City back four but you have to look at the fact that the draw against Arsenal and the draw away at Stoke both came with Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott as the centre backs. That is a defensive pairing that most sides in the Premier League would kill for. Fair enough it’s still very early on in the season and improvements will come as Mancini insists but Kompany and Lescott have both been involved in the recent matches where the side have lost points.
“What we did is finished. It is in the past, it is history. Now we are like all the other teams. And I don't like that we have had three draws, like today, probably we are missing two points against Stoke maybe. But we need to work because we want to improve this,” Mancini said to the BBC after the draw with Arsenal.
The other possible reason for the surge in goals conceded is that teams are learning how to play against this current City side. When a side secures their first Premier League title, that is something which gets a lot of attention and other teams double their efforts to ensure they are able to compete against newly crowned champions. Southampton are the perfect example as they nearly stole a point away at City on the opening day of the season.
What is clear is that this is an area that Mancini and City will be working hard to address. The last clean sheet that City kept was in a friendly match against Limerick, they have let in goals in every competitive match so far this year.
They can improve by keeping the same back four for more than one match at a time and offering the defence a little bit of extra protection instead of cramming the midfield with players who are all far more concerned about camping in and around the opposition’s penalty area.