Manchester City will NOT win the Premier League if John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi continue to play in defence together.
This is the view of Manchester United legend Gary Neville, who didn’t hold back in his criticism of the centre-backs’ display during their defeat to an injury-stricken Norwich at the weekend.
City are already five points adrift Liverpool, who are top of the Premier League following the 3-2 defeat at Carrow Road.
However, a much bigger concern for manager Pep Guardiola will be their defensive frailties.
They are without Aymeric Laporte for at least four months due to a knee injury he sustained during their win over Brighton last month.
Meanwhile, veteran defender Vincent Kompany left in the summer to take on a player/coach role at Anderlecht.
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The stats don’t look too kindly on a Stones/Otamendi partnership either, as they have conceded more goals, more goals per game, a higher percentage of more than three goals conceded per game than any other centre-back partnership under Guardiola’s management at City.
Stones and Otamendi at centre-back also have a lower win percentage than other City pairings since the start of the 2016/17 season.
And Neville made the explosive claim that City will not win the title if Stones and Otamendi carry on playing at the same rate.
He said: “25 matches under Guardiola in the Premier League – look at the goals conceded compared to the rest of them [other defensive partnerships].
“Look at the goals conceded per match compared to the rest of them, almost double in some cases.
“The clean sheets is well down, the 3-plus goals conceded is well up but the big one, win percentage, that will cost Manchester City the Premier League title.
“If these two play together at their current rate, Manchester City won’t win the league.”
All three of Norwich’s goals were a result of poor defending from City but Neville’s fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher identified a number of mistakes made by the defenders for the second goal.
Carragher said: “The massive problem is John Stones.
“It’s a problem I think he’s had for the majority of his career when I’ve been watching him – he doesn’t concentrate enough and he doesn’t focus enough.
“As soon as the ball goes from the left side to the right side central, he has to see that danger…and he has to sprint to get the other side of Teemu Pukki.
“But he doesn’t, he ambles across.
“Next mistake is Otamendi’s, he dives in. He’s done it all his career, he’ll never change.
“That’s why he’s not good enough to play for Manchester City. I’ve never believed he has from day one and nothing in the last four or five years has made me change my mind.
“I actually feel sorry for Kyle Walker because he looks like he’s played them onside. I even said it in the commentary.
“But when that happens quickly and you see a runner, if I was in that position, I’d go. That’s what John Stones should have done.
“He made the initial mistake wrong side, then he decides to play offside and leaves his mate Walker nowhere.
“Kyle Walker’s job now is to stop that pass [from Pukki across goal]. It’s the job of the goalkeeper to stop the shot.
“Walker should have been thinking ‘I’m going to make Pukki shoot from a tight angle…in that position he makes it far too easy.
“I felt sorry for Walker but he should have done better but the pass from Pukki was fantastic.”