Final season, Manchester Metropolis would have struggled with out Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy towards an attacking facet like Arsenal. This season, they did not discover the 2 absentees – and will likely be inspired that their replacements went under-the-radar too.
If the pre-match damage information was worrying sufficient, followers would have been extra involved when the supposed alternative left-back lined up on the appropriate facet of midfield, with a makeshift again line with out an out-and-out full-back on both facet.
Laporte and Mendy had been lacking from the matchday squad on Saturday, with Pep Guardiola confirming each had accidents. With Nathan Ake chosen to marshal the left facet of defence relatively than Cancelo, the query of why a brand new left-back wasn’t signed in the summertime inevitably was requested on social media.
Cancelo did properly in his unorthodox place, however the choice uncovered Metropolis’s lack of correct left-backs behind Mendy.
Metropolis insisted they had been content material with their choices within the perceived drawback place over the summer time, making the choice to not add a fifth participant who may play at left-back. It wasn’t a choice that many followers would agree with, and given Mendy’s damage historical past it was the most important gamble of the summer time window.
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Besides towards Arsenal, there have been no defensive calamities that Metropolis have change into accustomed to over the past 12 months – particularly when Guardiola goes rogue and strikes gamers out of their pure positions.
When defending, Metropolis performed a again 4 of Cancelo, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, and Nathan Ake. In assault, it was virtually a again three, with Cancelo pushing ahead.
So it is a credit score to Walker, Dias and Ake – all shifted one place to the left of the place they would like to be taking part in – that they had been the three gamers who influenced the sport the least.
That’s meant as a praise – the again line was organised, solely breached on a handful of events, and there have been no high-profile errors. Even when Dias did have an effect on play with a hacked clearance and late problem, he stopped the hazard.
It has been some time since Metropolis had been as decisive and dependable on the again, and it is telling that each new defensive signings had been key to that efficiency, offering Metropolis with a base to include Arsenal and look to choose them off in assault.
If Dias and Ake are as quietly dependable going ahead this season, then Metropolis can have been proved proper in prioritising two central defenders over a left-sided one.