A massive sixty seconds ensued last night in Portugal between Manchester City and Olymique Lyon. Champions League. Quarter Final. Raheem Sterling provided with a gilt edged chance from Gabriel Jesus’ cross late on with the game at 1-2 and the England international missed with the goal at his mercy to level the match.
Fast forward a Lyon kick out and former Glasgow Celtic man Moussa Dembele pouncing on a rebound to score his second and consign Manchester City to Champions League elimination. 3-1 loss. Ouch!
Fans are going to point at the Sterling chance as a turning point but that would be papering over the cracks. Pep Guardiola has had massive trust issues with his defensive setup throughout the season.
The absence of Vincent Kompany glaring to see last night and on several marquee domestic losses this year as the central defensive unit has struggled for cohesion, stability and leadership.
The issues defensively are something that the club have known and invested heavily on numerous key acquisitions since 2017. Unfortunately, the majority of signings have failed to hit the mark in the first team.
2020 – 2021
Nathan Ake – 41 million
2019-20 – Five defenders signed for £87.75m
Yan Couto (March 2020) – £5.4m
Joao Cancelo ( August 2019) £58.5m who featured last night.
Pedro Porro (August 2019) £10.8m
Angelino (July 2019) £10.8m
Philippe Sander ( July 2019) £2.25m
2018-19 – One defender signed for £58.8m
Aymeric Laporte (January 2018) £58.8m who featured last night.
2017-18 – Three defenders signed for £126.15m
Benjamin Mendy (July 2017) £51.75m
Kyle Walker (July 2017) £47.4m who featured last night.
Danilo (July 2017) £27m who is now back in Serie A
2016-17 – Two defenders signed for £51.7m
John Stones (August 2016) £50m
Oleksandr Zinchenko (July 2016) £1.7m
Combined total: £365.4m
The retirement of Vincent Kompany at the end of last season was a huge moment. The spiritual leader of this club on the pitch departed and Pep felt that the squad was strong enough to cope with the loss which was a huge mistake.
The fact that Guardiola has had to deploy midfielder Fernandinho in the heart of the City defense this year is enough and it has caused stability issues at the back.
Even the impressive Ederson is now looking vulnerable, fundamental keeping errors stemming from a lack of conviction or trust in those in front of him. The third goal for Lyon coming from less than convincing keeping from the Brazilian.
It is a shame for Manchester City fans here. This season was setup for a massive tilt at the Champions League title. David Silva’s last hurrah and perhaps more motivation for the side to win it for him but Guardiola knowing the Lyon threat from the previous season (two fixtures without a win against the French opposition) fumbled for a defensive strategy to win this fixture and the best he came up with was a three man central defensive unit who lacked belief or desire to see the job through.
The decision to not start Bernardo or David Silva probably stemming to the fact of the defensive crisis that Pep felt in the first team. The talent in the final third is huge with De Bruyne, Sterling and Aguero (when fit) but it means little if you cannot defend properly in crunch tight knock out European Cup fixtures like last night. The EPL season showed vulnerabilities from City defensively and Lyon went and exposed this even further last season.
If Manchester City are to get to the next level, a massive rethink in strategy on the defensive personnel is required. Pep clearly has not solved the issue and for City fans, this is an interesting off-season.
Does Pep look to the board for more money or does he dig into the trenches and trust the players who to now have not delivered on the biggest European Cup nights?
Otamendi, Stones, Laporte and Garcia are nowhere the player Kompany was. Ake has potential but he will not solve this defensive puzzle either. An interesting post-mortem in the Etihad will follow this week.
Dare I say Barcelona are looking for a person who is familiar with the club ethos to come back and rescue the team and brand. Would Barcelona be tempted to lure Pep back to Catalunya along with Xavi? City fans have a right to be a little apprehensive in the off-season weeks which will follow. Kompany’s departure from the club still has a huge impact and effect on this current team.