Laporte’s Defensive Disaster-Class Shouldn’t Mask Man City’s Etihad Woes Are Jeopardising Title Defence

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The Spain centre-half gifted the opener to Wilfried Zaha before then getting himself sent off as the English champions slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat.

Pep Guardiola stationed himself on the edge of his technical area for much of Manchester City’s shock loss to Crystal Palace at the Etihad.

However, the Catalan spent much of the first half looking at the ground in bemusement and staring into the sky in frustration at another disjointed performance from the hosts.

Quite how a team that can dominate at Chelsea and play so well drawing at Liverpool could look so toothless at home to mid-table teams must be baffling even for one of the greatest coaches in the game.

Of course, there is no accounting for ridiculous individual errors.

How do you explain the early sloppy pass that led to Crystal Palace’s opener from Aymeric Laporte, a player that has worked so hard to get back into the City side?

A lazy sideways pass that had no chance of reaching team-mate Ruben Dias and resulted in Wilfried Zaha running clear and scuffing a low shot that Ederson seemed to misjudge as it bobbled past him.

And how do you explain the wild hack that saw Laporte miss the ball before yanking down Zaha as the Palace attacker threatened to run through on goal?

For the Spain international, it was a match to forget and his personal price could be costly, after leaving the door open for John Stones to take back his place in the side,starting with next week’s Manchester derby.

❌ Losing 1-0
❌ Down to 10 men

Pep Guardiola is not happy.

— Goal (@goal) October 30, 2021

Laporte’s defensive disaster-class wasn’t the only disappointing aspect of the afternoon, though, as City lacked a cutting edge throughout.

All over the pitch, there were signs of exasperation as City struggled and failed to break down Patrick Vieira’s well-organised side.

From Joao Cancelo’s aimless, wild shooting to Jack Grealish being repeatedly crowded out, there was a constant lack of any real threat on Vicente Guaita’s goal.

Phil Foden was isolated as a front nine and dropped into deeper and wider positions in a desperate attempt to try to influence the game, while Kevin De Bruyne’s usual laser-like passes were way off-target.

Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus, meanwhile, lost some of their composure by needlessly getting drawn into Zaha’s gamesmanship with his ability to draw fouls.

In truth, though, few players performed well. Little worked overall. City managed only three tame efforts on targets and when Jesus finally found a way through with a clever far-post finish, Grealish was flagged offside in the build-up.

By the time Conor Gallagher added a second in the dying minutes, City had long run out of ideas.

Difficulty in scoring at the Etihad Stadium is becoming a problem against defensive sides that throw men behind the ball. City scored five in both games against open teams Arsenal and Norwich but better organised opponents are proving impenetrable.

I don’t know,” Guardiola said about the difference in goals. “I would like to know the answer, I don’t know.

‘We have to create the chances and that is all. Insist on it and create good and do it well. Even with 10 against 11 we create more chances than them, we are there being more difficult. They play three top strikers, keep the ball and link with them and they defend really well.”

In their last two home games, Southampton left with a goalless draw in September and even Burnley’s 2-0 defeat was an improvement on four successive 5-0 defeats at the Etihad.

The obvious problem is that City lack a striker but Guardiola thinks it’s pointless to keep dredging up that issue as there is no way it can be rectified until the January transfer window.

He needs to find an answer from within the squad to turn around their goalscoring problems in their own backyard.

“Southampton and maybe today with 10 against 11 it is not easy. You have to be solid behind, be patient and not concede much and after that the goal is coming. Today was the complete opposite.” Guardiola said.

“They have a good structure to defend with three midfield players winning blocks and duels and everything and with the counter-attack of Zaha and fast players, it has always been difficult for us against them.”

Hard-earned points from Stamford Bridge and Anfield have now effectively been wiped off the balance sheet by poor results at home to sides City are expected to beat easily.

If Guardiola doesn’t find a solution, their home form could undo any hopes of Premier League title defence.

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