There’s no need to panic just yet.
Manchester City became only the third reigning champions in Premier League history to lose their opening game of the new season but it does not mean a total disaster.
Yes, the opening 10 minutes aside, City were once again flat in attack, unable to exert control on the game and it’s now three competitive matches in succession that they have failed to score in. The first time that has ever happened under Pep Guardiola.
But there were, of course, some mitigating factors. It wasn’t City’s strongest side, with Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Phil Foden all missing from the starting XI, it has been a disruptive pre-season with preparations far from ideal and, as a result, plenty of players are still way off their peak fitness levels.
Spurs hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for City, either, losing four of their last five trips there.
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City started last season in a similarly slow fashion. They managed to edge out Wolves on the opening day, but that was followed by a 5-2 defeat to Leicester and it wasn’t until matchday 11 did the Blues finally win two games in a row.
Guardiola’s side proved last season that a slow start isn’t fatal and there’s no reason why the deserved defeat to Spurs needs to have much bearing on the rest of the campaign.
But… it did certainly point to some issues that remain in the squad that need to be fixed before the transfer window closes in just two weeks’ time.
First and foremost, the need for a new striker could not have been made more paramount and Daniel Levy must have been feeling quite smug as he watched on knowing Harry Kane’s price was increasing more and more as the minutes ticked on.
City finished the match with an Xg of 2.24, having had 18 shots on goal but failing to find the back of the net. That doesn’t bode well.
There are plenty of players who can fill the central attacking role on one-off occasions depending on the opposition, but none of them are out-and-out goalscorers, clinical finishers who you can rely on to bury a chance when it comes their way.
With Chelsea bringing in exactly that in Romelu Lukaku, City may well find themselves playing catch up if Kane isn’t pried away from North London.
That isn’t the only troubled position though and, in fact, left-back has been a problem for much longer.
The club have not signed a new left-back since Benjamin Mendy’s £50million arrival from Monaco four years ago, even though in that time the Frenchman has been hit with a series of devastating injuries that unfortunately seem to have robbed him of the quality he first displayed upon his arrival.
When given chances in the team last season he was played at left wing-back so he always had another defender to cover behind him, displaying Guardiola’s justified lack of trust.
Mendy has been deservedly cut some slack for his poor displays as he was always feeling his way back to full fitness but things couldn’t have been more in his favour going into the opening game.
The 27-year-old has enjoyed his longest injury-free spell since arriving at the club and got a strong pre-season under his belt, starting in all of City’s friendlies and looking sharp. If after all that he still couldn’t perform, it’s difficult to see him ever doing so.
Tottenham nakedly targeted Mendy down City’s left and had constant joy on the flank, fashioning chance after chance with Lucas Moura running him ragged. Son’s goal came when he ran down the wing completely unimpeded.
It’s a shame as Mendy looked a brilliant player before injuries struck and even still against Spurs there were some flashes of how good he can be, especially on the ball and going forward, but he is simply too much of a liability at the back to be relied upon.
None of this is new, but it came to the forefront once again with the defeat. Aleks Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo have both performed admirably, even excellently at points, at left-back but it is neither’s natural position. It is so clear that improvement is needed that it’s a bit baffling that it still hasn’t been.
It feels like a rare oversight from a club whose planning is normally meticulous.
The last time City even showed a slim interest in a left-back was in the final days of the 2020 summer window in which they looked at Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico, but it didn’t materialise into solid interest and it never seemed like a top priority.
Do City need to sign a new left-back? Let us know in the comments below!
There has been heavy speculation throughout the summer of interest in Sporting’s highly-rated left-back Nuno Mendes, but those reports were repeatedly knocked back by the club after they grew frustrated with the rumours.
With 14 days of the window remaining, there is little to no speculation linking City with anyone aside from Kane.
Signing the England captain should of course be a priority but completely ignoring other problems in the squad could lead to City signing no one, especially with a Kane departure looking increasingly difficult.
City have long ignored their left-back problem but now it is demanding to be solved and there isn’t much time left to do so.
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