To win a league title, a team must constantly reinvent itself, and this has been a hallmark of Manchester City. While Erling Haaland is rightfully claiming headlines on his path to scoring in seven consecutive games, scoring his 14th goal in all competitions during a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Wolves, a clean sheet” City” is also an important match statistic.
Ending August, City conceded five goals in two matches, drawing with Newcastle and beating Crystal Palace. Pep Guardiola’s injuries were on the rise, and his favorite center couple, Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Diaz, were unavailable. John Stones and Nathan Ake could have been useful players for the team, but they became a nuisance in the center of defense as a starting duo, and with the departure of Fernandinho in the summer, Guardiola no longer had the defensive cover to move his reliable defensive midfielder into the center of defense when things were going well. poorly. everything is going well.
This is where dexterity matters. While quick action in the transfer market is easier for a club with Manchester City’s financial muscle, all too often the wealthiest clubs are stymied by offering more and more for a single player instead of finding viable alternatives. City were able to add Borussia Dortmund’s Manuel Akanji and also failed to send Sergio Gomez on loan following his arrival from Anderlecht. Gomez himself was acquired after City refused to wage a trade war with Chelsea for Mark Cucurella, a left-back who eventually moved to London from Brighton. With Kyle Walker also missing matches for City and Diaz not being available as often as expected, these two additions proved to be critical for City.
Since Akanji’s debut, City have only conceded one goal in his three starts in all competitions. This is compared to six goals in six games before he entered the squad. It wasn’t just about what Akanji did on the pitch, even though he was in the right places when needed, but that it allowed Guardiola the freedom to be more creative with squads. Stones started two matches in a row from right back to allow the team to move smoothly into the back three with left back Joao Cancelo remaining as a striker, and even moved to midfield during the victory over Wolves when Gomez entered the field.
After the match, Guardiola praised Akanji, saying: “[he has been] More than exceptional. So aggressive, but then he had the pace to control the situation. From day one, we thought, “We did it.”
City have also been able to play less with Ake, which is a good thing as he has been a nuisance to both the left and centre-back. Limiting his minutes to cup matches would allow Guardiola to switch squads and save a few minutes for first-choice players without hurting the team in a tight title race. As Arsenal and Spurs improve, Manchester City and Liverpool don’t have much room for error in the Premier League despite their early season troubles, it’s more than likely that they’ll win soon too.
Citizens should get the title, but the main reason for this is that they quickly identify problems and fix them before they can harm the team. The team’s defense and depth should have been the team’s Achilles heel, but ahead of the September international break, they are a thing of the past. There is still a lot to do as Arsenal and Spurs prepare to face City, but as long as the team comes back in good health, things are looking good.