Another day, another blunder for Manchester City and England’s number one goalkeeper Joe Hart. The 90th minute error cost City a point as they lost 2-1 to rival title contenders Chelsea on Sunday. Whilst attention is focused on the struggling Red side of Manchester, it wont be long till it is switched to the Blues.
City are currently in 7th place in the league table, one above their local rivals Manchester United, yet still six points behind the league leader’s Arsenal. The weekend’s loss showed Manuel Pellegrini’s defensive headache as he struggles to find the right combination for the back four. It also showed just how vital captain Vincent Kompany is to the side.
Kompany suffered a groin strain in City’s opening fixture against Newcastle United. The Belgian returned briefly before suffering an injury against Everton that saw him ruled out for at least four weeks. His absence from the side has proved costly.
So far, Pellegrini has used all of his centre-backs and has tried different combinations to try and find the right pairing. Even Javi Garcia has been thrust into the back four.
Kompany is a no brainer. His strength and leadership bleeds into the team and is arguably the best centre back in the Premier League. Finding the right man to play alongside him is proving a challenge.
The only real current contenders at the manager’s disposal are Joleon Lescott and Matija Nastasic.
Garcia has not impressed me at all at City, let alone in his brief spells at centre back. Martin Demichelis, recently signed from Malaga, has experience but not enough in the Premier League and it showed in his shaky performance on Sunday.
Kompany and Lescott had formed a partnership that was crucial to their Premier League title victory in the 2011-2012 season. Since the signing of Nastasic the following season, Lescott has found himself being slowly forced out of the starting eleven.
Whilst the Serbian has proved himself worthy, his young age often shows. At times he looks to be too casual. At 20 years old, he is still young and needs time to mature and develop before competing consistently at the top level.
For me, Kompany and Lescott need to rekindle their partnership. It was incredible that Lescott could not even find his way into the squad for Sunday’s tie with Chelsea. With Kompany absent, Lescott should be the one Pellegrini looks to for leadership and guiding Nastasic.
Whilst Pablo Zabaleta excelled last season, he has struggled to find his form this season. However, with only Micah Richards his real challenger for the right back spot, it is unlikely he will lose out, as will Gael Clichy. The left back may not be the best in the world, yet he is reliable and usually consistent both in defence and when attacking.
The back four are the least of his woes. Whilst it can be argued who was really at fault between Hart and Nastasic for the mistake that led to a Chelsea goal, it was always going to be difficult for Hart to escape the eye of the critics. He has frequently been in the line of sight and it still begs the question as to just how long Pellegrini will stick by his side?
Costel Pantilimon, City’s number two keeper, must be asking the same question. He will be itching to get some game time. Whenever he has been called upon he has risen to the challenge and it would not come as a shock to anyone, should Pellegrini turn to the Romanian.
With an attacking force boasting Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Yaya Toure and David Silva, they constantly pose a threat on goal. City lead in number of goals scored but their defensive frailties have cost them points. If they can adjust and remain tight at the back, they will start to climb in the table. They have already lost out on too many for Pellegrini’s liking. However, with Kompany due to return soon, things look to be on the up.