City’s defense has been outstanding in the recent weeks and if not for the solidity at the back, we could have easily been out of the Champions League. But, all of this has come at a huge price. I am now starting to worry about the thread bare options we have been left with at the back. Specially the injury to Walker is something that will impact us both offensively and defensively.
The pace of Walker to prevent counter attacks is such an important facet of our game. Walker provides our center backs with confidence to play a very high line and also our attackers go on the front foot with more vigor when Walker is at the back. The key to winning football matches is based on how well you manage transitions and Walker is the key to City preventing that turnover of possession and fast counter attacks. Well, the best thing we can do now is to discuss the options in front of us to cope with the absence of Walker in the best possible manner.
Stones at right back
The absence of Walker can actually solve an other conundrum that Pep is facing. John Stones has been the leader of defense in Dias’s absence and Pep would have been scratching his head to find ways in which he can accommodate both Stones and Dias. Against Brighton, we witnessed the influence that Stones can have on the game from that right back position. He might not be having the pace of Walker to maraud up and down the flank. But, Stones has excellent positioning and i think that his attacking play is much better than Walker.
This might be a bit controversial, but i feel that we are much more solid with Stones playing at the Right Back position than Walker. Do not get me wrong, Walker is an excellent Defender. But, he has that momentary lapse of concentration sometimes and Stones is more consistent in that aspect of his game.
Cancelo at right back
Cancelo seems the obvious choice to replace Walker on the right flank. But, i am not a huge fan of this. I have always felt that Cancelo is more effective cutting inside onto his right foot and delivering those outrageous crosses. We saw against Brighton that he was somewhat ineffective playing on the right flank. Overlapping the attacker and marauding down the flanks is just not Cancelo’s game. We saw this against Brighton in the second half, how he was more effective when shifted out to the left back position. I sometimes think that Juventus sold us a Left Back and not a Right back!
The best option out there seems to be playing Stones in the right back position. He has actually done well when played there and he will offer us much more than what a make shift right back would generally offer. Also, the real test will be when City face Madrid without both Cancelo and Walker. Much more than the defensive prowess, i am worried about our attacking options from the full back positions.