When Yaya Toure got another Premier League winner’s medal after his last game for Manchester City, everything was set fair for them to dominate English football.
Indeed, the following season after his 2018 departure from the Etihad saw Pep Guardiola guide the Citizens to a clean sweep of domestic trophies. An EFL Cup triumph – City’s third in five years – came before a successful defence of the Premier League and then an infamous FA Cup final mauling of Watford.
It almost seemed as if the team had got even better without Yaya. However, it doesn’t do to lose too many senior players with a winning mentality without replacing them.
Conventional wisdom now believes Guardiola and the City hierarchy made a mistake when not signing someone to fill the void created by the departure of Vincent Kompany, the club’s long-serving centre back and club captain. An absolute rock in defence when fit and a key part of the team’s spine for much of the last decade, the gamble did not pay off.
This was due to an untimely injury to Aymeric Laporte. The Basque Country native, who has received senior international call-ups from France, has missed a large chunk of City’s campaign as they try for a third consecutive Premier League crown.
Coupled with other niggling problems for central defenders such as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones, Guardiola has often been forced to play holding midfielder Fernandinho out of position. City are thought to have baulked at the asking price for Harry Maguire, who instead joined neighbours Manchester United from Leicester City last summer for a fee that could reportedly rise to over £80,000,000 with add-ons and bonuses.
Square pegs in round holes are not a recipe for success. City have also lost star striker Sergio Aguero to injury in more recent times, yet there is far greater strength-in-depth in forward areas to cover the Argentine’s absence than any defensive issues.
Heading into the hectic festive fixture list, City were 14 points behind pacesetters Liverpool – who pushed them close in the title race last term. That large gap is why Guardiola’s guys are 7/1 chances with bet365 in the latest Premier League betting to reign again.
After 17 matches, Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league and have only dropped two points. City, meanwhile, have lost four and been held twice, and also conceded an average of more than a goal per game.
It is defence which is letting them down as Guardiola still has one of the most potent attacks in the Premier League. City have scored 47 goals in the competition approaching the halfway stage and those strikes are pretty evenly spread among the likes of Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.
The reality is that Toure’s old team need Liverpool to slip up on several occasions in order to be let back in to the title race. It’s a long season, however, and one thing we’re guaranteed during the second half of the Premier League campaign is drama.