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Man City have problems in attack as well as defence - Phil Neville
#1
It is too easy to score goals against Manchester
City, but that is not Pep Guardiola's only
problem at the moment.
As we saw in Sunday's 4-0 defeat by Everton, who
scored with every shot they had on target, teams do not
need to create many chances to get past City.
That is a criticism of their back four and their
goalkeeper, but another reason they have fallen off the
pace in the title race is their lack of threat going
forward.
It was not difficult for Everton to defend against them
at Goodison Park. Yes, City had a penalty shout and a
couple of half-chances in the first half but at the
moment, if you get back into shape against them and
close off the gaps, then it is also easy to keep them
out.
City's tempo when they come forward is not always
quick enough. They are pretty predictable in attack and,
in the Premier League, they are finding it hard to score
goals against well-organised defences.
That means more pressure is being heaped on their own
back four. Against Everton, they could not cope. Stones not to blame for City's struggles
It would be very easy to come out after watching City
lose 4-0 and say they were wide open at the back, and
John Stones had a nightmare on his return to his old
club.
But Stones was probably the best player in City's back
four - it is the others who let him down, massively.
If you look at the four goals that City conceded against
Everton, Nicolas Otamendi and Gael Clichy both make
errors that lead to three of them. Stones was not at
fault for any of them.
Everton scored their first, second and fourth goals
because either Otamendi or Clichy got their basic
defensive positioning and decision making wrong.
That is not down to Guardiola's system or the way he
sets his team up, it comes down to the mentality of his
players, and them being alert and aware of danger - I
am talking about things like their reaction time, staying
in line with the rest of their back-four and staying with
runners from the opposition team.
For example, with Everton's fourth goal, Stones will get
criticised because his clearance was charged down and
led to Ademola Lookman scoring.
But Otamendi was on his heels and not even thinking
about defending when Stones went over to the left to
clear. Yes, the ball dropped nicely for Lookman but
Otamendi should have been ready for that.
The fact he wasn't is not down to Stones, but he seems
to be getting the blame.
It seems to happen a lot. Stones has got unbelievable
ability but he seems to have been carrying the can all
season whenever City have conceded goals, no matter
what their other defenders do.
That is partly because he is a £50m signing and an
England international, and partly because of the way he
tries to play as a skilful centre-half - which is the way
Guardiola wants him to play.
Goals are going in easily against Bravo
Stones aside, it seems to me there are fundamental
problems with City's defence.
Claudio Bravo is one of them - it looks like people are
playing City and thinking if they hit the target, they
will score.
To win the league title, you need a goalkeeper who will
make important saves. Look at all the champions over
the last 10 or 20 years and you will find keepers who
are worth around nine to 12 points a season to them
with the stops they make.
That is not the case with Bravo at City. I saw him play
in Spain when I was with Valencia last season and he is
a fantastic keeper but the goals are going in very easily
against him at the moment.
It is not even as if they are all going into the corners of
the net - Bravo is being beaten in the central areas of
his goal too.
He is definitely struggling in English football, with the
speed, the intensity and the physicality of our game, and
teams are 100% targeting him.
His confidence has taken a hit, which is inevitable, and
it obviously does not help when you concede with the
first shot you face in a game, which is what happened at
Everton.
As a defender, when your keeper is letting in a lot of
the shots you face - in Bravo's case, 14 of the last 22
shots on target over City's last eight games - then you
lose a bit of confidence in him too.
The whole back-four are aware that, if you make a
mistake, it will end up in a goal. You have no margin
for error, and it makes people nervous.
It is the complete opposite to the confidence you feel
when you have got a reliable keeper behind you, who
you know can make saves that will get you out of
trouble.
What next? City will not just roll over
This City team looks like it is a work in progress for
Pep, because City are nowhere near where he wants
them to be.
I don't think they can win the Premier League this
season, but they will still be there or thereabouts in the
top four. They are not just going to roll over.
City got badly beaten by Leicester in December
and responded with an important win over Arsenal
in their next game.
They will have to show a similar spirit, and put in an
improved display, when they play Tottenham next
weekend.
It is another massive game for them, but they are
capable of coming back this time too.
Phil Neville was speaking to BBC Sport's
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