Connect in the back of the net

Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion are not flowing attacking teams. The pair are often without invention, and have combined for a mere 20 goals in 20 matches so far this season.

Mark Hughes and Tony Pulis did see their teams score twice each against Manchester City, though.

Having conceded only two in the league before their last two matches, Pep Guardiola’s team suddenly look fallible defensively. Something that we expected before the season began, but that had been as good as invisible thus far.

John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, and Ederson have been untroubled for much of this season. The defensive effort involves every player on the pitch under Guardiola.

Seldom have opponents been able to get into City’s final third, but, when they have, Stones or Otamendi have quickly dealt with any threat. Flanked by Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph, too, City’s defence has far exceeded what I thought they were capable of this term.

 

Achilles heel again?

Conceding goals is hardly a sign of back line meltdown. It does, however, show that perhaps this defence is not a reincarnation of the 1990s Milan.

While their domination of possession and frenzied pressing makes building meaningful attacks very challenging, it is by no means impossible. It could yet be their Achilles heel again.

This week, City face Napoli and Arsenal. Napoli struggled to live with Guardiola’s team at the Etihad Stadium a couple of weeks ago, but will be a different animal in front of a ferocious Neapolitan crowd. Led by Dries Mertens, the Serie A leaders possess one of the world’s best attacks.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have played some great football in their last few matches. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey have been in full flow. While it may not last long, that trio at their best together are a danger to any defence.

Hardly the two perfect opponents, then.

 

Still an unstoppable force, though

Guardiola should not be worried just yet, though.

Even when conceding two a game, City’s attack is playing at such a level that they would still be expected to win. The fragility makes the Citizens’ whiff of invincibility weaken, but they remain a seemingly unstoppable force.

Their opponents this week might be feeling optimistic about their chances after West Brom and Stoke managed to snatch a couple of goals. City, though, are strong favourites to win both matches against two defences that will be at least as unstable as theirs.

 

Written by Sam Cox

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_

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