The last 7 days were some of the most grueling and harsh we have faced in recent memory. Specially the physical and mental battering in that Atletico second leg meant that it was almost impossible to turn up in that FA cup tie against Liverpool. Yet, it was a commendable performance for the sheer spirit we showed in the second half and almost snatched an unlikely equalizer at the end.
I firmly believe that it was purely the fixture list that helped Liverpool to defeat us. Imagine if Liverpool had to play Atletico, they would have been in a much worse condition than us and Jurgen Klopp would begin ranting about the fixture pile up. Whatever Liverpool fans might say, they got extremely lucky with injuries and had favorable draws in various competitions.
Let us be careful here not to put all the blame onto fortune favoring Liverpool and be content with the fact that destiny was against us. Champions never let destiny and fortune dictate the course of their path. In fact, they carve out their own path and even defy destiny into surrendering before their will. So, let us explore the reasons that have pegged us back so badly in the last few days.
The pressure on our midfield to both create and score stands out as the most powerful reason for the breakdown we are suffering today. I don’t think there has been any other team in history that has relied as much as we do on our midfielders to perform attacking duties and score goals. The saddest part is that our traditional attackers are just clowns in front of goal and can’t even finish the most easiest of chances. All of the games that we have either drawn or lost are due to our midfielders not making those near post runs or far post runs that a forward would normally make and thus you have no one unsettling the defense.
There were numerous occasions this season when KDB and Cancelo were whipping balls across the box and no one was even there to sniff them. Also, the Atletico tie should have been over in the first leg itself with the amount of chances we have created. I have also felt that in that grueling second half against Atletico, we were simply not able to offer our defense any respite. Sterling was simply not able to hold the ball up and it was constant attack after attack on us. A traditional number 9 like a Haaland would have done much better in those kind of situations and would have made the tie much more comfortable for us.
Remember the open goals Sterling and Bernardo missed against Southampton and Crystal palace. That was four dropped points out there. With a traditional striker, we would have been able to run away with the league by now and it would have put us in a much more comfortable situation heading into the latter stages of the cup competitions. On the outside you can praise Pep for all of this false 9 and lack of a traditional striker stuff, but the pressure it puts on our midfield cannot be underestimated and we need to sign an elite striker at all costs in the summer window.
Midfielders can be very effective and can score plenty of goals like we have seen in the last 2 seasons for City, but they will never have the instincts of elite strikers. That sense of know how and positioning in the box and the instincts of how to finish different kinds of chances is what you will get from a top class striker. It would actually be a disgrace if our elite midfield is not provided with a world class number 9 who can swallow up chances for fun. This season for me is a knock on effect of City failing to replace Sergio Aguero