How can you resolve a defensive injury crisis? It’s a question Pep Guardiola has been grappling with ever since Aymeric Laporte’s knee buckled in August during Manchester City win over Brighton. However, it seems he eventually has his answer. If in doubt, simply don’t use any defenders.
Against Crystal Palace on Saturday, together with Nicolas Otamendi joining the absentee list and John Stones left on the bench, Guardiola set up a centre-back pairing of Fernandinho and Rodri, flanked by Benjamin Mendy and Joao Cancelo, two full-backs famous for their assaulting than their safeguarding.
What does it matter when his side may control a game as convincingly, although it looked daring for a awkward mission?
For many their injury issues, for all the enforced changes to their own backline, Manchester City looked like conceding. To Crystal Palace, the scoreline might certainly have been much worse in fact. City scored twice in the space of 93 moments that were first-half but they should have added more.
Fernandinho and Rodri did have embarrassing minutes, the latter almost allowing Wilfried Zaha a clear run at goal with an inopportune slip midway through the first half, but for the most part they did their tasks with little fuss, even helping City keep only their second clean sheet in their last five Premier League games and put the 2-0 loss to Wolves them behind.
As opposed to hinder the presence of two midfielders, City in the core of the defence helped themtheir ball-playing capability allowing the side of Guardiola.
Ilkay Gundogan occupied the role however Fernandinho and Rodri were both the playmakers, dispersing the play beautifully for Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva in the wide positions and completing 87 moves in the Palace half between them.
The second which best illustrated the value of having central midfielders in defence arrived in the build-up to City’s second goal, when, on the edge of his box and also one impeccable signature, Rodri simultaneously intercepted Jordan Ayew’s overhaul and found that the feet of David Silva, that began the counter-attack he would eventually finish himself.
There have been eye-catching defensive contributions also. After 19 minutes, then Fernandinho had Manchester City fans in their toes once he sprinted to snuff out a Crystal Palace counter-attack at the front of the outside end. Then, with 15 minutes remaining, Rodri was there to earn a vital block from Patrick van Aanholt.
Rodri and fernandinho were not the ones to create their mark. In the opposite end, there was Gabriel Jesus, picked ahead justifying his addition with a nice performance and of Sergio Aguero. The Brazilian’s goal, led home by the cross of Bernardo Silva was his seventh in his past seven starts and required him to 50.
He’s attained the landmark but if his present form continues then Aguero’s status as Guardiola striker may soon be under threat – . City have won all five of the games where Jesus has begun this season, scoring 16 goals in the process.
He should have scored and had been a continuous threat here. He had eight shots from complete and generated two opportunities too. On top of this, there was the energy which compelled Crystal Palace defenders into errors and also the selfless running that opened spaces for team-mates up.
Guardiola’s options may have been limited in defence, but he could call Kevin De Bruyne in midfield after his return from injury.
City learned to cope with no last year, powering their way despite his extended spells but it’s no denying that both Premier League games have been the ones that he has not begun.
It is a testament to how good he has been recently that he has become critical to them . De Bruyne came into this game with scored two goals and also supplied eight assists in only 531 minutes this year, and his influence on the game was not insignificant, he didn’t add to those tallies at Selhurst Park.
He had been included in less or more every assault, popping up in places that were profound to dictate the play and charging into the resistance box in the others. He combined both. It had been his run from deep within his own half which set the wheels in motion for the second goal of City.
De Bruyne was unfortunate to not be given a penalty in the second half and then hit on the inside of the post with a header not long after that, but on this occasion he did not desire goals or assists to provide a reminder of his own value to the side. The standing ovation in the fans which greeted his substitution was evidence of that.
This triumph cuts the gap in the top to five points, also a chance to make up some soil prior to next month’s battle will be sensed by City while Liverpool will be favourites against Manchester United on Sunday. While City’s next two matches are at home to Aston Villa and Southampton, liverpool has to face Tottenham following United.
The Premier League title race is far from over, in other words. Manchester City’s performance at Selhurst Park was a reminder that and no matter who plays at this time, this side remain a force to be reckoned with.
Read more: epl betting tips