Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has been critical of the Manchester City hierarchy for failing to reinforce the Premier League champions’ squad over the summer.
Following the departure of Vincent Kompany in May and the lack of central defensive incomings in the summer, Pep Guardiola went into the season with three senior centre-backs in Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.
The France international is set to be out of action until next year after suffering a serious knee injury against Brighton in August, while Stones has been out injured since mid-September but is due back to action later this month, according to Manchester Evening News.
The sparsity of experienced centre-back options has prompted Guardiola to play 34-year-old defensive midfielder Fernandinho in that position in his last five appearances, and Merson feels that Manchester City will pay a heavy price for not having adequate reinforcements in every area of the squad.
He told Sky Sports: “I say it all the time, you can be the best manager in the world but if you haven’t got the players it doesn’t make any difference. Pep Guardiola, who is playing Fernandinho at centre-back alongside Nicolas Otamendi, hasn’t got the players.
“Fernandinho is going to get found out eventually. For them not to go and buy someone when they own a country is an absolute joke. They should have three or four players in each position.”
Merson’s criticism of Manchester City’s lack of squad depth is understandable, especially when Kompany announced a day after last season’s FA Cup final that he was leaving the Etihad Stadium. [via mancity.com]
That gave Guardiola and the club’s board almost three months to sign a central defensive replacement, but their inability to do so has come back to haunt them after the injuries to Stones and Laporte.
However, the situation may not be as grim as Merson is suggesting. Stones could be back for Manchester City’s next game against Crystal Palace on October 19th, as per Manchester Evening News, which may result in the end of Fernandinho filling in at centre-back.
The recent Carabao Cup trip to Preston also gave Guardiola a chance to look at younger alternatives in Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, with the former hailed by Stuart Brennan of Manchester Evening News for his organisational ability and the latter praised by the same reporter for his “terrific composure“.
While the lack of defensive cover has not been ideal, Manchester City have still kept four clean sheets and conceded only three goals in their last six games. [via TransferMarkt]
Also, with Stones due to come back into the side and youngsters like Garcia and Harwood-Bellis looking capable of stepping up when called upon, City’s defensive woes are not as pronounced as Merson may have some believe.
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