‘Bored’ Man City ‘an absolute shadow’ of title team as glaring problem is exposed
Manchester City may have matched a club record with a sixth straight clean sheet
but even “the greatest manager of all time” is starting to be questioned.
City drew with Manchester United 0-all in an uninspiring derby that had Sky Sports football experts doubting their title credentials.
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Spoils shared in Manchester1:28
Guardiola’s men are averaging 1.54 goals per game this season.
In contrast, the past three seasons they have averaged 2.68, 2.5 and 2.78.
They are also creating just 11.56 chances per game, down from 15.3 last season.
“There’s not a title in this team. I don’t see it,” Roy Keane said on Sky Sports.
“You look at the players up front, and the striker, a vital role for City when you play one up front. Aguero, every time he comes back from an injury he seems to be carrying weight or picking up more knocks, and Jesus is not going to fire you to a league title.
“For all the talent they have, I still think they’re behind Chelsea, Liverpool, and Spurs.”
City managed just two shots on target in the dull draw with United and Guardiola now faces a big problem in how exactly to help rediscover their potency.
“Six clean sheets is a positive,” Michah Richards said in defence of his former team.
“They need to be doing more offensively, but defensively they’ve looked better.”
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Mendy's meltdown moment0:48
That has come at the cost of the thrilling football that they showed in their two title-winning campaigns under the Catalan in 2017/18 and 2018/19 as the visitors were careful not to be caught on the break.
“I’m really surprised at City, they look like a team that’s bored a little bit,” Gary Neville added.
“It just wasn’t Man City, it’s not Pep Guardiola, it’s not those players, in and out of possession. I thought it was a really poor, poor game.
“I was really surprised at City’s tactics in the first half. United have struggled in every first half, have a poor record at Old Trafford, had a disastrous midweek: go for the throat! Go for them in the early parts of the game.”
Richards did agree that City were missing attacking firepower, pointing towards a key change he would make to try generate change.
“City are just missing that little spark,” he said.
“They’ve become a bit more of a possession-based team. It wasn’t City at their best today.
“They’re playing within themselves. The system changed a little bit today, they had Fernandinho and Rodri in there, I prefer it with just one, with just Fernandinho in there. It is frustrating, but they’ve gone home with a point.”
Neville was far stronger in his thoughts of how this City side compared to that of previous seasons.
FASTEST goal of PL season!0:43
So much so that he said Guardiola should not be exempt of criticism.
“That’s a shadow, an absolute shadow, of the team that won the league two years ago,” he said.
“There was no intent there, whether on the pitch or from the managers to win the match.
“I was really surprised. We’re sat here discussing and maybe even criticising the greatest manager of all time potentially, but he shouldn’t be above criticism.”
United only seriously threatened from corners as Scott McTominay, who scored the last goal at Old Trafford in front of fans when the sides last met in March, was inches away from connecting with Victor Lindelof’s near post flick-on.
City created the better chances on the few occasions they moved the ball at pace.
Gabriel Jesus fired over from Riyad Mahrez’s ball over the top, but it was Mahrez who was guilty of passing up the best opening in the first half when he fired too close to David de Gea with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Toffees surprise Blues1:29
The visitors were handed a reprieve early in the second-half when Kyle Walker was penalised for clipping Marcus Rashford inside the area.
A VAR review showed Rashford was offside as he received the ball and United were denied a 32nd penalty in the last two seasons.
City pushed the hosts back in the second-half, but continued to lack the precision and penetration to cause the United defence problems.
Guardiola though was not too concerned.
“Take a look last season how they beat us,” said Guardiola.
“The quality of this team is they can play when you let them run. The important thing is we were so solid, we didn’t concede and on average had more chances. The game was tight, respect from both sides, and a good point for us.”