Manchester City’s title defense has so far not been going according to plan. They were already falling behind a perfect Liverpool squad before suffering a second shock second defeat of the season at home to Wolves. City are 8 points behind Liverpool after 8 matches. This was the defending champions first home defeat since losing to Crystal Palace last December.
Pep Guardiola must be concerned. After their other surprise reverse 3-2 against Norwich City last month, City appeared back on track. They replied with a 8-0 thrashing of Watford, and then a 3-1 victory at Everton, albeit not a convincing win at times.
They have dropped five points from their opening four home games so far this season, having lost only three points at the Etihad for the whole of least season.
City Injury Problems Root Cause of Defeats
The champions were not quite as fluid as they normally are against Wolves. They clearly missed the creative spark of the injured Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane. While KdB has been working through dings for the past year, Sane is not expected back until February, having suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament in the Community Shield against Liverpool.
Yet many would have few sympathies with City over mounting injuries, as the team still boasted David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan alongside Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez on either flank, with Sergio Aguero up front.
It has been defensively where City have struggled, especially after losing their first choice centre-back pairing of John Stones, and in particular Aymeric Laporte.
The loss of Vincent Kompany, despite his poor injury record in his last few seasons with the club, has still been keenly felt with no one really to replace his awesome presence in the team.
Laporte is set for a long absence from first team action due to a knee injury. His coolness in building from the back, alongside his defensive solidity has been sorely missed.
As for Stones, the jury is still out on the 25-year old who endured a disappointing end to last season where he was often left out of the first XI in favour of Kompany. He only started three of City’s last 19 games in all competitions last season.
To make matters worse, he made a glaring error for England in their UEFA Nations League semifinal against Holland back in June.
Fernandinho has now been pushed into the back four to form a centre-half partnership with Nicolas Otamendi. However, this has not been able to stem the tide of the amount of chances that are now being created against them, a far cry from the defensive strength of last season.
City conceded just 23 goals all of last season, with only 12 being conceded at home. This season opponents have already found the net against them nine times after eight games.
Premier League statistics reveal that City have lost none of their verve and swagger so far this season, scoring 3.38 goals per game in comparison to 2.50 goals per match for the whole of last season. They scored 2.79 goals per game during the title winning campaign of 2017/18.
The passing completion rate of 89% is the same figure as for 2018/19. In contrast, they have conceded 1.13 goals per game in this campaign, an increase from 0.61 last season.
Are City just unlucky?
Underlying advanced data like xG and xPTS suggest there will be regression upward for City.
City are under-performing their xPTS while Liverpool are massively surpassing theirs. These things tend to even out over the course of a long season.
Regardless, City Lose Title Race Ground
If last season’s chase to win the Premier League is anything to go by, City are in trouble. Liverpool only lost one game, and City only captured the EPL by one point.
Liverpool will be looking to capitalize on the injuries City have to deal with to extend their lead even further. Their match against Manchester United this weekend is critical. The Red Devils are keen to become the first team to take points off the Merseysiders this season.
Guardiola’s side also face a tough test this week with the trip to Crystal Palace. The Eagles have been in fine form so far this season, sitting in sixth place and winning four matches. For whatever reasons, they’ve given City issues in recent seasons.
For the first time in almost a year, City are not favorites to win the Premier League. A win against Palace (they’re -400 to do so) is a must if they’re to keep pace.
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