Liver­pool posed a rare test for Pep’s im­per­fect de­fence

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By SI­MON BAJKOWSKI si­[email protected] @sp­ba­jko

THERE weren’t many peo­ple mak­ing cases for the City de­fence on Sun­day.

A Blues back­line with­out Eder­son and Aymeric La­porte were ripped apart by pun­dits, spec­ta­tors, and – many would say – the Liver­pool at­tack as Pep Guardi­ola’s side fell to a dam­ag­ing 3-1 de­feat at An­field.

The re­sult was taken as con­fir­ma­tion that the Premier League cham­pi­ons can­not de­fend their ti­tle with such a weak de­fence, and fans have called for Jan­uary re­in­force­ments to sort it out.

For­mer skip­per Vin­cent Kom­pany, the man who led them to the ti­tle last sea­son, was more level-headed and does not think they have to spend.

“The best way for City to de­fend in the past has been to at­tack. They have no rea­son to change that,” he added. “As soon as they start re­con­nect­ing with the best per­for­mances, I’m con­vinced that we can see a sus­tain­able amount of wins.”

It may not be a pop­u­lar opin­ion af­ter An­field, but the Liver­pool game was more a case of things go­ing un­usu­ally wrong in both boxes.

Ac­cord­ing to Wyscout, City had 18 shots, three on tar­get and an ex­pected goals to­tal of 1.3. In other words, they did not test the goal­keeper much but cre­ated enough chances to score at least once. Five of the 11 shots they con­ceded were on tar­get but they still re­stricted Liver­pool to an ex­pected goals to­tal of 0.8.

Not scor­ing the goals you are ex­pected to and con­ced­ing more than you should are not hall­marks of a good team, and Guardi­ola should be wor­ried if it is a trend in the longer term.

But it isn’t. Un­til the week­end City were out­per­form­ing both ex­pected goals and against, and are still more than two ahead of their ex­pected goals for – even af­ter the Liver­pool dis­ap­point­ment.

That doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that the City de­fence does not need im­prov­ing. It was clear in sum­mer that they looked short on bod­ies and qual­ity for what they want to achieve this sea­son and the La­porte in­jury has ex­ac­er­bated that. With ques­tion marks over John Stones, Ni­co­las Ota­mendi and Ben­jamin Mendy and Clau­dio Bravo’s con­tract up in sum­mer, sig­nif­i­cant changes could be on the hori­zon.

How­ever, Kom­pany’s point – how­ever un­pop­u­lar in the var­i­ous in­quests over another An­field de­feat – may still hold true for the ma­jor­ity of Premier League games they play. Liver­pool are ar­guably the only team on the same level as this City side, so the chances of com­ing across a team as clin­i­cal that gets as much rub of the green as Jur­gen Klopp’s side did on Sun­day is ex­tremely rare.

Guardi­ola must de­cide how far from per­fect he can live with his de­fence be­ing as he weighs up the ex­tent of the changes that need to be made.

Pep Guardi­ola gets ag­i­tated at the Liver­pool game on Sun­day

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