Another week, another Premier League club in crisis.
And this week the club in crisis is one we didn’t expect to have to write about all season.
It’s treble-winners Manchester City, aka the best team in the world.
Here’s why they’re in crisis this week.
What’s the crisis?
The mighty Man City have lost their last three domestic games.
Their hopes of winning the Carabao Cup – if any club actually ever hopes to win that trophy – were dashed by Newcastle United, and then their defence of the Premier League title was dented by two successive defeats to Wolves (yep, Wolves) and Arsenal.
The failures against Wolves (yep, actually Wolves) and Arsenal mean City have suffered consecutive losses in the Premier League for the first time since December 2018.
Why are they in crisis?
It wasn’t exactly a coincidence that Man City’s first three defeats of the 2023/24 came while their star midfielder Rodri was suspended thanks to a straight red received in a win over Nottingham Forest.
In fact, a large bulk of City’s defeats in recent seasons have come while Rodri has been absent via suspension or injury.
With Rodri in the squad, City have lost just 13% of their competitive games; without him, City have lost 37.5% of their matches. That is a remarkable reliance on one player to make a football team function.
What can they do to rectify it?
The issue is set to rectify itself after the international break when Rodri returns from suspension. The one game City have won recently – in the Champions League against RB Leipzig – came with the Spaniard dictating play in midfield.
However, knowing how his team play without their main man in midfield, Pep Guardiola needs to find an answer for his side’s tactical over-reliance on Rodri. Without the Spaniard, Guardiola has felt the need to play two holding midfielders in his stead and in turn utterly stifled his own attackers – Erling Haaland registered just one shot in the games against Wolves and Arsenal combined.
Guardiola ultimately has to find another holding midfield option he can trust as much as Rodri. Rico Lewis is developing into a solid option in the middle of the park and needs reps and coaching to become a player who can effectively deputise for the Spaniard in midfield. If Lewis isn’t the answer, City may have to dip into the market in January.
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