Norwich City stunned the entire footballing world as they produced arguably the biggest upset of the season so far by defeating Manchester City. The 3-2 result speaks volumes about the efforts put in by Daniel Farke’s side, but it might have also exposed City’s Achilles Heel.
Only hours before, Liverpool had produced a commanding display to claim a come-from-behind 3-1 home win over Newcastle United. And it was vital for the champions to follow up with a win. Surprisingly, they failed to match Norwich’s intensity at Carrow Road, and their defence was left exposed on multiple occasions.
City’s title bid looked to be under threat when centre-back Aymeric Laporte suffered a long-term injury before the international break. And, the latest result has only solidified those concerns.
Is Laporte injury really a concern for the Cityzens?
It wasn’t a pretty sight for the City fans when Laporte was lifted on a stretcher during the 4-0 win over Brighton. The French centre-back was a key part of the City side that claimed the Premier League title last season. His absence forced Guardiola to partner John Stones and Nicholas Otamendi at the centre of his defence against Norwich. Guardiola played this centre-back partnership only on three occasions last seaosn and the lack of chemistry between the two was very much apparent on Saturday. Both centre-backs were guilty of multiple individual mistakes as City suffered their first defeat in 19 PL games.
Furthermore, the City manager also doesn’t have the option to call on Vincent Kompany’s experience this season as the Belgian veteran has departed for Anderlecht. There were suggestions during the summer that City could look to replace Kompany, and they were also linked with Harry Maguire. But, in the end, Guardiola decided against signing a new centre-back. In hindsight, it doesn’t seem like a smart move on Guardiola’s part. And it certainly has left City in a precarious situation. However, the Spaniard manager has made a mockery of the claims that suggested that the title race is already over. Following the defeat, he quipped: ‘We are in September, okay? Congratulations Liverpool, you are the champions…We’re in September, what do you have to do? We’ll recover, train and come back.”
What next for the champions?
It’s quite obvious that Guardiola will have to rely on Stones and Otamendi at least till January. Laporte is not expected to return before January/February, and his absence force City to hunt for a centre-back in the winter window. Meanwhile, Guardiola would hope to keep his side in the running for the title.
The champions are already five points behind leaders Liverpool. It’s not an insurmountable gap, but the Reds have only dropped six points in their last 19 games. Meanwhile, City have already dropped five in their first five games. It would be unrealistic to expect the champions, with their current defence, to not slip up for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the Reds have looked flawless so far this season, and they would sense an opportunity to take control of the title race.