How can you solve a defensive injury crisis? Its a question Pep Guardiola was grappling with since Aymeric Laportes knee bends during Manchester Citys 4-0 triumph over Brighton. Nonetheless, it appears he has his response. If in doubt dont utilize any defenders at all.
Towards Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Nicolas Otamendi linking the absentee list and John Stones left the seat, Guardiola set up a centre-back matching of Fernandinho and Rodri, flanked by Benjamin Mendy and Joao Cancelo, two full-backs famous for their attacking than their defending.
What exactly does it matter when his side may control a match as convincingly like this, although it seemed daring, especially for a mission?
For all their injury issues, for most of the changes to their backline, Manchester City looked like conceding. In fact, the scoreline might have been much worse to Crystal Palace. They need to have added a few more although city scored twice in the space of 93 seconds that were first-half.
Fernandinho and Rodri failed have awkward moments, the latter virtually letting Wilfried Zaha a clear run at goal using an abysmal slip midway during the first half, but for the large part they did their tasks with minimal fuss, even helping City maintain only their second clean sheet in their last five Premier League matches and place the 2-0 loss to Wolves behind them.
Instead of hinder City, two midfielders presence at the center of the defence helped them, their ball-playing ability allowing Guardiolas side to control the from.
Ilkay Gundogan inhabited the holding function but Fernandinho and Rodri were both the playmakers, spreading Bernardo Silva from the broad positions along with the play beautifully for Raheem Sterling and finishing 87 passes from the Palace between them.
The second which best exemplified the value of having central midfielders in defence arrived in the build-up Citys second goal, when, to the edge of his box and with a single impeccable signature, Rodri concurrently dialing Jordan Ayews pass and found that the feet of David Silva, that started the counter-attack he would eventually finish himself.
There have been gifts too. After 19 minutes, Fernandinho had Manchester City fans on their toes once he sprinted to snuff out a Crystal Palace counter-attack in the front of the away end. Then, with 15 minutes Rodri was there to earn a vital block from Patrick van Aanholt.
Rodri and fernandinho were not the only ones to create their mark on the game, of course. There was Gabriel Jesus, picked ahead of Sergio Aguero and minding his inclusion with a performance that is fine. The Brazilians purpose, headed home by Bernardo Silvas cross, was his seventh in his past seven starts and required him to 50 for City in complete.
He has reached the landmark but when his present form continues then Agueros status as Guardiolas first-choice striker will probably be under threat – whether it is not already. City have won five of those games where Jesus has started this season, scoring 16 goals in the procedure.
He had been a danger here and should have scored more than once. He had eight shots in complete and created two opportunities also. There was also the energy that forced Crystal Palace defenders into errors along with the selfless running that opened spaces for team-mates .
Guardiolas choices may have been limited in defence, but he can call on Kevin De Bruyne in midfield following his return from injury.
City learned to deal without the last year, powering their way despite his long spells out, but it is no denying that the two Premier League matches this season has been lost by them are the only ones that he has not started.
It is a testament to how great he has been recently he has become crucial to them . De Bruyne came into this game having scored two goals and provided eight assists in just 531 minutes this year, and his influence on the sport was not insignificant, while he didnt add to those tallies at Selhurst Park.
He had been included in less or more every assault, popping in postures that were deep to dictate the play occasionally and charging to the resistance box at others. He joined both. It was his run from deep inside his own half that set the wheels in motion for the second aim of City.
De Bruyne was unlucky not to be given a penalty in the second half and then hit the inside of the post with a header not long after that, however on this occasion he did not desire goals or assists to present a reminder of his own value to this side. The standing ovation in the traveling fans which greeted his substitution was evidence of that.
This triumph cuts the gap and City will sense an opportunity to make up some floor prior to next months battle while Liverpool will be favourites against Manchester United on Sunday. While Citys next two matches have been at home to Southampton and Aston Villa, liverpool must face Tottenham following United.
Even the Premier League title race is far from over. Manchester Citys performance at Selhurst Park was a reminder that, regardless of their injuries, and at this time, this side stay a force to be reckoned with regardless of who plays.