Is the Manchester City midfield contributing to the defensive frailties?

Manchester City were once again made to pay defensively as they conceded three goals in their 3-all draw with Tottenham. While City’s defensive issues have been obvious the last four games, are issues in midfield leading to the issues at the back?

A changing of the guard in Manchester City’s midfield

During last season’s run to the treble Manchester City focussed on controlling games. The tactical shift from Pep Guardiola saw his side dominate possession and contain their opponents en route to the treble. The 4-nil win over Real Madrid in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final last season was a prime example of the tactic in full effect.

This season however there appears to have been a shift in City’s tactical approach. The arrival of Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez starting more often has seen Pep Guardiola’s side become more open without the ball. While the attack City possess is world-class, the need to accommodate more dynamic attackers has come at the cost of control of the game.

Some of these changes have come out of necessity. With Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez having both departed the club, two crucial pieces of City’s treble-winning set-up are no longer at the club. Injuries have also played a part. Kevin De Bruyne has been out with injury since the opening 20 minutes of the season. John Stones has only made 6 appearances so far this season. Both injured players are vital to the champions.

Also, the treble winner’s new midfield signings have had interrupted starts to their Manchester City careers. Mateo Kovacic started well but bad luck with injury has slowed him down. Matheus Nunes also hasn’t had a run in the side. The Portuguese midfielder hasn’t adapted to his new surroundings yet and has just returned to training following an injury he sustained over the international break.

Possible solutions

Both players could provide support for Rodri in midfield. As it stands City’s midfield general is fighting a lone battle in midfield. Bernardo Silva has slotted in and performed well in a central role. That comes as no surprise given his pedigree. Phil Foden is learning his craft in midfield and should pick up the nuances of playing centrally in time.

Reinforcements should arrive relatively quickly for Pep Guardiola. John Stones is back in full training after a layoff with injury. He is almost as important as Rodri with the role he plays and his skillset. With Kovacic and Nunes back in training they should be available for the City manager soon.

The return of Kevin De Bruyne is also on the horizon. City’s talisman is due back in the New Year. His loss to the City midfield cannot be underestimated. Without him, there does appear to be an issue with creativity in midfield.

When De Bruyne does return it should allow Rodri to go back to his role deeper in midfield. The City midfield at times all appear to be trying to cover the loss of one of the world’s best players.


While the defensive issues are obvious, it does appear that when Pep Guardiola gets the midfield right it should fix up the defensive issues. The City defence is being caught out in one-on-one situations and hasn’t been able to curtail the opposition. At full strength, the Manchester City midfield doesn’t allow these situations to take place.

With key players returning from injury, it should see the midfield strengthened. It does give the impression once the midfield concerns are settled, the issues at the back should become less frequent for the European champions.

Tags Bernardo Silva English Premier League European Champions Ilkay Gundogan Jeremy Doku John Stones Julian Alvarez Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City Mateo Kovacic Matheus Nunes Pep Guardiola Phil Foden Real Madrid Riyad Mahrez Rodri Tottenham Hotspur Treble Treble winners UEFA Champions League