Norwich City 3-2 Manchester City: 5 Men who were poor for Pep Guardiola
Sept. 15, 2019
When Manchester City visited Carrow Road to face Norwich City, Pep Guardiola’s team were already 5 points behind league leaders Liverpool, having played one game less. As such, the Spanish manager needed all three points from the game to ensure that they stayed well on track of Liverpool. However, the visit to Norwich was not going to be an easy affair.
The canaries had already stretched Liverpool in the first game of the season and in Teemu Pukki, they have a clinical finisher in their ranks. To make matters worse, Manchester City were without their defensive stalwart Aymeric Laporte, who is a lengthy absentee due to injury. Guardiola also had to make a few changes to his first XI keeping the midweek Champions League tie in his mind.
Manchester City Starting XI: Ederson; Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Kyle Walker; Rodrigo Hernandez, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva; Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva.
Manchester City controlled proceedings at the start of the game, while Norwich City tried to catch them on the counter. The home side took the lead against the run of play in the 18th minute through Kenny McLean. 10 minutes later, Todd Cantwell doubled the lead for Norwich. Sergio Aguero got one back for City at the stroke of halftime, and the game went into the break with the score 2-1.
Early in the second half, Teemu Pukki restored the 2 goal lead for his team, before a Rodrigo goal two minutes from full time gave City a glimmer of hope. It ultimately proved to be too little too late, as the game ended 3-2 and City succumbed to their first loss of the season. Here are 5 men who were poor for Manchester City.
#5 David Silva
Once the backbone of the City side, David Silva has seen his stocks plummet after the rise of Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. However, the City skipper still is an important part of Guardiola’s plans and still has the ability to determine the outcome of games on his own. Against Norwich though, the Spaniard made very little contributions from the middle of the park and failed to control the proceedings. His passing was not as crisp as usual. City needed his vision from the deep to break down the home side, but Silva had a very poor game.
Every time the home side came knocking, Rodrigo was left with a lot to do on his own, because Silva allowed the opposition to run past him. The Norwich City midfielders made use of the gaps in the City midfield to counter at will and ultimately won the game.
#4 Ilkay Gundogan
With Kevin De Bruyne on the bench as a precaution for the midweek Champions League game, Pep Guardiola opted to bring in Ilkay Gundogan into the team. The German was tasked with helping City break open the Norwich defence from deep, but Gundogan hardly had any contributions to the game. He failed to provide his forward players with regular influxes of passes and could not penetrate the opposition defence. The German also failed to stop Norwich City when they broke away on the counter and was overrun in the middle.
As the game went on, it was clear that Norwich had the ability to soak City’s pressure. Gundogan’s inability to control the game meant that City lacked the depth in their attack that was required open up a defence that preferred to sit deep.
The German was ultimately replaced in the 57th minute by Kevin de Bruyne, whose arrival immediately sparked life into the City team.
#3 Oleksandr Zinchenko
Pep Guardiola's tactics rely on fast and marauding full-backs who are expected to join the attack and track back with equal efficiency. Against Norwich, the manager had two marauding fullbacks in the team - Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker . While the Englishman had a pretty decent game bar the odd mistake, the same cannot be said of the Ukrainian.
Zinchenko had an off day at both ends of the pitch. While he did venture forward regularly, the Ukrainian's passing was a big let down on the day. Zinchenko failed to have an impact in the final third and could not stretch the opposition defense. His tracking back wasn't too great either, because he failed to stop the opposition from breaking at speed and was regularly caught out of position. This put massive pressure on the City defense, who struggled to keep the rampant Norwich attackers at bay. Zinchenko also allowed the opposition to run beyond him with ease, which will not please Guardiola.
#2 Nicolas Otamendi
The Argentine defender found a lot more chances coming his way after former club captain Vincent Kompany departed over the summer. Pep Guardiola had enough belief in Nicolas Otamendi , who was expected to step up and help his team adjust to life without the Belgian. Unfortunately, a lot of questions will be raised after his poor showing against Norwich City.
Otamendi looked nervy and uncomfortable on the day and there seemed to be no understanding between him and John Stones. The Argentinean was regularly dragged out of position and even allowed the opposition to run past him. And he was very much at fault for Norwich City’s third and winning goal, when he allowed countryman Emi Buendia to pick his pocket in the box and pass the ball to Teemu Pukki to score.
On the day when Pep Guardiola required the Argentinean to step and take control of his backline, Nicolas Otamendi was one of the poorest players on the pitch.
#1 John Stones
Last season, the Englishman was crippled with injuries and lack of form, which saw him spend a considerable amount of time on the sidelines. With Vincent Kompany’s departure in the summer, John Stones had an opportunity to stake a claim to a first-team spot. He started the first game of the season but had not been in the squad for the next 3 games. Against Norwich City, the Englishman was asked to fill in for the injured Aymeric Laporte but had a night to forget.
Stones looked nervous right from the start of the game and failed to complement his partner at the back. He was guilty of letting Kenny McLean have a free header at the near post, which led to the home side’s first goal of the game. The Englishman was also at fault for Norwich’s second goal, when he failed to gather a simple square ball from Otamendi. John Stones was far from his best on the night and his uncertainty on the pitch ultimately led to his team’s downfall.