Manuel Pellegrini’s tenure at Manchester City started so brightly and, until recently, things were still bobbing along nicely. But now, not too long after declaring an ambition to win a quadruple in his first season at the club, City’s season has taken a turn for the worse, following an embarrassing FA Cup defeat to Wigan Athletic and last night’s Champions League second leg loss to Barcelona. This sudden capitulation seems remarkable for a team of such quality, but there is one position in which they are seriously weak: centre back.
Big money signings poured in: Negredo and Jovetic joined City’s now mouth watering strike force, Navas offered competition down the right flank and Fernandinho arrived, allowing Yaya Toure to bomb forward as he has done so devastatingly this season. Defensively, however, Pellegrini got it wrong. For all the goals City have scored, in the last week defensive frailties have cost them half of the trophies they were aiming for.
Vincent Kompany is a fantastic player. Over the past few years, he has proven himself to be one of the Premier League’s best players and one of the world’s best centre backs. Perhaps his reliability and strength accentuates his partners’ flaws, but even so, City are alarmingly understaffed in this position. Demichelis, another summer signing, sent off in the first leg against Barcelona and at fault for Wigan’s first goal in the quarter final, has done enough damage to prove that he isn’t good enough. Lescott also demonstrated his incapability at the level Manchester City are aiming for. Lucky in both not giving away a penalty and seeing Messi’s shot rebound back off the post after he was beaten far too easily, Lescott ultimately gifted the Argentine the game’s first goal, following a failure to clear. Nastasic is a more promising option, but still too young to partner Kompany.
Pellegrini has to put his faith in his players, but backing his side to win four trophies with such a vulnerable defence was always going to be optimistic. With only the Premier League left to play for, one feels that winning the title is necessary to guarantee his remaining at the club this summer. He may well seek to add even more attacking options, but surely will not ignore such obvious shortcomings in the defence this time round. Vincent is in dire need of some decent company.