It’s safe to say things haven’t gone too well for Manchester City this season. From storming the title last season, the Citizens have completely fallen out of this year’s title race, finding themselves 22 points behind Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s men have looked a shadow of their former selves, often failing to convert their many created chances. The Spaniard now has a ‘winter break’, that was extended by Storm Ciara, to resurrect his team’s failing season.
Here are 3 things Pep can change during the winter break.
#3 Integrate Aymeric Laporte slowly
The almost 4-month long injury to Aymeric Laporte has been a major stumbling block to City’s title charge this season. The Frenchman spent 123 days on the sidelines, equating to 26 games missed. Laporte is by far and away City’s most important defender and with no Vincent Kompany available to cover, the Sky Blues have been left hopeless. Suddenly, the hundreds of millions Pep has spent in England, don’t look enough.
Much to the adulation of Manchester City fans, Laporte is back to full fitness, but Pep must integrate him back slowly. He’s already been rushed back once, only for him to miss another 4 games at the start of January. This winter break gives the Frenchman ample amounts of time to reach optimal fitness.
#2 Build around Phil Foden
At Manchester City, there is one young player that stands out above the rest, Phil Foden. The youngster is described by Pep himself, is one of the most talented players he’s ever seen. That’s high praise from a man that’s managed Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi. With David Silva set to leave England at the end of the season, this is the perfect time to start building the team around the 19-year-old.
The youngster’s agility, dribbling, eye for a pass and work rate make him a prime contender for that 3rd position in a midfield three alongside Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne. This season, City have lacked Silva’s presence in the final third due to injury and the sad fact that he’s also past his creative best. All the more reason why Guardiola must stop giving Foden ‘trust minutes’ and start building everything around him.
#1 Play Fernandinho in his right position
For some obscene reason, Pep Guardiola does not want to deploy a CB pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones. Instead, he prefers to deploy Fernandinho in defence, alongside either one of the two. This has, in turn, caused a negative effect on City’s ability to stop opposing counter-attacks. Rodri was signed in the summer to offer cover for the Brazilian, instead, he’s been forced to play more games than first intended and has not lived up to the bill.
The Spaniard has found it difficult to adjust to the pace of the Premier League, often finding himself two steps behind. Although he’s 34, the defensive midfielder’s positioning is phenomenal and no one else in the squad can replicate that trait. Instead of playing the Brazilian out of his position, Pep should revert to defenders who are comfortable in their positions. Not only is he great at sensing danger, but he’s also often the dictator of City’s passing play, something that has suffered in recent weeks.