Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City fell to their first defeat of the season against Chelsea last time out, as goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz condemned them to a 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge.
The result allowed Liverpool to overtake the Cityzens at the top of the table. Pep Guardiola will be eager to see his side bounce back as soon as possible and will remain confident that his team have what it takes to go the distance again. However, there could be one flaw in his squad that prevents him from realising his grandest ambitions with this City team.
In an off-camera moment leaked online, BT Sports pundit and legendary former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand criticised City right-back Kyle Walker’s efforts in the build up to Chelsea’s first goal.
As Walker lost his man after being caught napping on the halfway line, and was unable to recover his position before the ball ended up in the back of the net, Ferdinand could be heard making the following comment…
There’s no doubt that Walker is a fine modern full-back. ‘Modern’ meaning attacking. Going forward, the 28-year-old is amongst the best in the world. His speed, aggression and passing ability make him a nightmare for opposition defenders.
As a defender himself, though, he is less spectacular. In that sense, Ferdinand is right about the former Spurs man. At every stage of his career, including at international level, Walker’s record has been punctuated by defensive errors and lapses in concentration.
That isn’t to say that Walker should be dropped by City or England, or even that the 44-cap man isn’t a fantastic player, but rather a warning that occasional mistakes must be expected if his inclusion is persisted with.
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Over the course of the season, the good of Walker far outweighs the bad. On one-off occasions though – the ‘highest level’ games that Ferdinand alluded to – Walker has the capacity to undermine his team’s chances with a costly mistake.
Away at Stamford Bridge is always a big game, and Walker was not able to maintain his focus throughout. A Champions League final – Guardiola’s ultimate aim for this City team – is a huge game, but the Spaniard has cultivated his side and way of playing so as to have no plan B.
Should City make it to the pinnacle of domestic game this season, fitness permitting, Guardiola will almost certainly start Walker. What’s more, Benjamin Mendy – a very similar player to Walker, who presents the same issues – would likely start on the other flank.
It may be that system and style of play, and reliance upon such gung-ho and cavalier defenders, that takes City so far, but at the final hurdle it could also be the cause of their fall.