An expensive problem – a closer look at Pep Guardiola’s defensive difficulties

Manchester City’s expensively assembled defence was put to the sword by Leicester on Sunday, raising questions over manager Pep Guardiola’s recruitment.

The 5-2 defeat was the first time in the Spaniard’s career that his City, Barcelona or Bayern Munich teams have conceded that many goals in a game, and follows a 40 per cent rise last season in City’s average goals conceded per game.

Here, the PA news agency looks at Guardiola’s defensive record throughout his career and his defensive spending with City.

Throwing money at the problem

Ruben Dias
Ruben Dias

The post-match confirmation of an agreed deal for Benfica’s Ruben Dias will take City’s reported spending on defenders and goalkeepers during Guardiola’s reign through the £400million mark.

Should he replace academy product Eric Garcia from the defence that played against Leicester, City would then be fielding a back four who cost over £40m each – Kyle Walker was a £45m signing from Tottenham, Benjamin Mendy £49.4m from Monaco and Nathan Ake £41m this summer from relegated Bournemouth.

  • Oleksandr Zinchenko (FC Ufa, £1.7m)

  • John Stones (Everton, £47.5million)

  • Claudio Bravo (Barcelona, £13.75million)

  • Kyle Walker (Tottenham, £45m)

  • Ederson (Benfica, £35m)

  • Danilo (Real Madrid, £27m)

  • Benjamin Mendy (Monaco, £49.4m)

  • Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao, £57m)

  • Philippe Sandler (PEC Zwolle, £2.5m)

  • Joao Cancelo (Juventus, £60m)

  • Nathan Ake (Bournemouth, £41m)

  • Ruben Dias* (Benfica, £62m deal agreed)

John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are also in that bracket, with Joao Cancelo a £60m option at full-back, while Danilo, who moved to Juventus last year in the deal which saw Cancelo go in the opposite direction, cost £27m from Real Madrid.

Throw in almost £50m combined for goalkeepers Ederson and Claudio Bravo, now with Real Betis, and Guardiola can certainly have no complaints about the resources dedicated to improving City’s defence – and that is without even considering the likes of £62.5m holding midfielder Rodri.

Three-year process

📷 The beauty of Barça's 4–0 win over @ManCity, in pictures.FULL GALLERY:çaBarça!

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 20, 2016

While Leicester’s five-goal haul broke new ground, Guardiola’s teams had previously conceded four goals in a game on eight occasions.

Four of those came with City, mostly in his first season – his former club Barcelona won 4-0, Leicester 4-2 and Everton 4-0 against City between October 2016 and January 2017. A 4-3 loss to Liverpool followed in January 2018.

That early peak is in keeping with the trend established at each of Guardiola’s clubs, with the highest goals-against average always coming in his first season in charge.

Pep Guardiola's defensive record as a manager
Pep Guardiola's defensive record as a manager

Indeed, at all three clubs he has managed, that figure has come down year-by-year for his first three seasons – from 0.89 per game to 0.58 with Barcelona, 0.79 to 0.58 with Bayern and 1.07 to 0.64 with City.

That was as long as he spent with Bayern but the number has bounced back up in year four at Barca to 0.75 and at City to 0.90.

This season is his fifth with City and though the current figure of 2.33 is the product of a small sample size of three games – before Leicester, they had conceded just one goal apiece to Wolves and Bournemouth – Sunday’s display will have the alarm bells ringing.

Jamie Vardy – Guardiola’s nemesis?

Jamie Vardy with the match ball at the Etihad Stadium
Jamie Vardy with the match ball at the Etihad Stadium

Leicester’s first three goals came from their prolific former England striker Jamie Vardy – the second time he has scored a hat-trick against Guardiola’s City team, following the aforementioned 4-2 win in 2016.

During Guardiola’s reign, Vardy averages almost a goal a game against City – nine in 10 appearances, and an average of 0.97 per 90 minutes having scored as a second-half substitute in December 2017.

He is one of only two players ever to score a hat-trick against a team managed by Guardiola, and is in elite company – the other is Guardiola’s former Barca protege Lionel Messi, who did so against City in 2016.

Guardiola’s heavy defeats throw up a couple of other notable scorers – Kevin De Bruyne netted twice in Wolfsburg’s 4-1 win over Bayern in 2015, while current City team-mate Ilkay Gundogan was on target when Borussia Dortmund beat them 4-2 in 2013’s German Super Cup.