Pitch to Post: Is Man City's defence really the problem?

With Ruben Dias arriving at the Etihad from Benfica, Pep Guardiola has now spent over £400m on defenders since arriving at City in 2016. But is defensive personnel the problem, or is there more to it?

Pep Guardiola Man City Fernandinho Nathan Ake

In the latest Pitch to Post Review podcast, the panel analyse Manchester City's structural problems, and whether blame lies solely with the defence.

City capitulated in the second half of their 5-2 defeat by Leicester on Super Sunday, while last season's champions Liverpool beat in-form Arsenal at Anfield a day later to maintain their 100 per cent start to the season.

With Ruben Dias arriving at the Etihad from Benfica, Pep Guardiola has now spent over £400m on defenders since arriving at City in 2016. But is defensive personnel the problem, or is there more to it?

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'World's best defenders would still be exposed at City'

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Highlights: City capitulated in the second half after Fernandinho went off, losing 5-2 against Leicester

Sky Sports' Gerard Brand on the Pitch to Post Review podcast:

"So much has been said about their defence in a personnel sense - for instance not replacing Vincent Kompany last year and Aymeric Laporte being injured - but I think if City had four of the world's best defenders they'd still come into problems, I really do, and that's down to two things: teams learning how to play against them, and the defensive midfield position.

"So many of their issues come before the ball gets anywhere near the defenders. City essentially camp in the final third, zipping the ball around beautifully, looking for openings, and they're often committing eight men to that attack against sides who sit deep; that's all the midfielders, forwards and the two full-backs.

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3:47
Stephen Warnock analyses Manchester City's defensive issues in the defeat by Leicester

"It's strength in numbers, and don't get me wrong - this works so often. And when it works we say Man City are the best footballing side in the Premier League, because it looks unbeatable. But it's not, it's becoming top heavy.

"So as teams drop deeper, like Leicester did, and City become more impatient, like Pep said they did on Sunday, if a side has just enough quality to break out at speed, like we know Leicester do with Jamie Vardy, they only have to get past Fernandinho, or whoever that defensive midfielder is, and they're in. I'm not sure City's full-backs can commit as much as they have been in previous seasons - it kills them in transition.

"You could have any two centre-backs in the world facing that, and it won't matter, and that's where the rash challenges and penalties come in, which are individual mistakes initiated by a real structural issue."

Fernandinho replacement key: Is Rodri up to task?

2:29
Rodri, who said Leicester were "lucky", also admitted that City were impatient

Sky Sports' Gerard Brand on the Pitch to Post Review podcast:

"Fernandinho has been the best in the business at stopping that counter, but he's played in defensive midfield six times since the start of last season - he's played at centre-back 37 times, because Pep didn't get a defender in. Now he's got two in, but Fernandinho is 35 years old. Is Rodri a brilliant passer? Yes. Is he calm? Yes. Is he easy on the eye? Yes.

"Is he a human wall that's going to stop teams breaking out? No, he simply isn't.

"And that's where I think the big concern is for Guardiola. You can spend £400m on defenders, but if you don't get the defensive midfield position right, it's pointless. I'm really interested to see how much game time Rodri, Gundogan and Fernandinho get this season in that position, because as soon as Fernandinho came off in the 53rd minute on Sunday, City capitulated."

'Reality check for City'

Manchester City players react to conceding another goal at home to Leicester 0:34
Roy Keane says he was 'shocked' by Man City's performance on Super Sunday

Sky Sports News' Ben Ransom on the Pitch to Post Review podcast:

"City had this fantastic performance against Wolves, came out flying, and we all thought: 'Wow, City are on it from day one.' Especially when you compare it to what what Liverpool against Arsenal; they dragged Arsenal all over the place, and even when they went 1-0 down were able to create chances.

"City never really got into a position where they created chances. Some of that is down to personnel, for sure. In an ideal world you wouldn't have Raheem Sterling playing as a central striker.

"Gabriel Jesus being injured has harmed them, because not only do you lose Sterling's influence from the flank, he's not a natural as a central striker. It ultimately means Kevin De Bruyne's role changes, and he couldn't find any space.

"I do think this will be a bit of a reality check. That was more like the City we saw last season, whereas the win against Wolves was more like the City we saw blitz to two Premier League titles before.

"In Pep's final year of his contract, he'll want to see a response. Hopefully, Ruben Dias coming in is exactly what he needs to get new blood into the squad, fire a rocket up a few people and he can build the defence he wants to with Dias and Aymeric Laporte at the heart of it."

Catch the Pitch to Post Podcast before and after each round of Premier League games for bold predictions and expert analysis.

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