Premier League hits and misses: Existential Man City crisis? Concern over Kai Havertz

Are City facing existential crisis?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Man City’s draw with West Brom in the Premier League

At this stage of the season, despite having two wins from five Premier League games and sitting five points off the leaders Tottenham and champions Liverpool, Manchester City’s struggles with form, fatigue and consistency are understandable, after all, this is a campaign like no other.

But there’s more to stuttering City than meets the eye, a trend that has gathered pace with each passing game this season that they may not be the formidable hurdle they once were, or at least one opposing teams now know how to confront.

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Man City have suffered a striking drop-off in front of goal

Almost all of the hallmarks of Pep Guardiola’s City remain; the relentless pressure, precise passing and dominance of possession and territory, but the most crucial one – goals – is missing.

The 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened West Brom, and the failure to convert a host of late, gilt-edge chances saw two more vital points dropped and left City with a measly return of 18 goals from their first 12 games. Aston Villa, Everton, West Ham, Southampton and Leicester are among the 10 clubs to have scored more.

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was left frustrated by their draw at home to West Brom in the Premier League

With Gabriel Jesus firing a blank in his last five Premier League games and Sergio Aguero’s league goal drought stretching as far back as January – yes, January – Guardiola’s City project and philosophy may be facing an existential crisis.

They can dominate as much as they want, but as long as their troubles in front of goal continue, the heights they hit not so long ago will continue to be agonisingly beyond reach.
Jack Wilkinson

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Bilic’s Baggies show stomach for the fight

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West Brom head coach Slaven Bilic says he is calm about his future at the club and doesn’t really care too much about what is going on behind the scenes

When relegation looms, clubs are faced with decisions that could either pay off or worsen the predicament they find themselves in.

In the case of West Brom, they stand on the precipice of a decision – should they stick with Slaven Bilic or not? It’s a decision that could see their season go either way.

Had Tuesday’s trip to the Etihad followed the form book, few eyebrows would have been raised had reports, which claimed the Croatian would become the first managerial causality of the season, came to fruition.

They still might, with speculation surrounding the Baggies boss’ future even after his side had ended a 13-game losing streak against Manchester City with a tenacious, resilient and deserved 1-1 draw.

Not for the first time this season Bilic’s Baggies showed they can mix it with the very best in the division, but, unlike their near misses against Tottenham and Manchester United, on this occasion they came away with something to show for it.

If it does prove to be Bilic’s final chapter, a performance reminiscent of the steely determination that brought the Baggies back to the big time only five months not only acts as a parting gift but leaves a seed of doubt as to whether the club are taking the right course of action.

I guess only time will tell.
Jack Wilkinson

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Havertz’s form is a worry for Chelsea

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Wolves’ win over Chelsea in the Premier League

Kai Havertz is too good at football not to come good. There are too many expert judges who reckon him the next big thing in football. Too many wise old heads who tipped this young German for greatness even before he became one of the best players in the Bundesliga.

These are also legitimate reasons why Havertz needs time but it doesn’t solve the problems facing Frank Lampard as he sets about picking his next team after back-to-back defeats.

  • Wolves 2-1 Chelsea – Report and free match highlights

Havertz turned in another underwhelming performance as Chelsea followed their 1-0 weekend defeat to Everton with a 2-1 reverse against Wolves at Molineux. The 17-game unbeaten run feels a long time ago now. Title hopes have been deflated in just days.

It is not immediately obvious what Havertz is bringing to this team. His work was tidy enough but there was little hint of an end product in the final third and he was playing too far up the field to really help provide support to Kante in controlling the counter-attacks.

He is a player still working out where he fits in this team.

READ THE FULL FEATURE ON HAVERTZ’S FORM

Podence and Neto shine for Wolves

Speaking to the media after Wolves’ stoppage-time victory over Chelsea at Molineux, Nuno Espirito Santo was determined to treat the two imposters the same. His team had been on the receiving end of a late winner against Aston Villa at the same ground on Saturday. He made it clear that he saw just as many good things in that game as he did in this one.

Nevertheless, this was a mood changer. Wolves have been so settled in their system and personnel over the previous two seasons that the recent change of shape coupled with player sales and injuries have led to greater uncertainty of late. The return to a back three and the return to taking a top-six team down a peg or two will settle supporter nerves.

Much has been made of Diogo Jota’s strong start to life at Liverpool but here was a reminder that in Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto, there was a good reason why Jota’s place in the side was no longer guaranteed. Podence was a joy to watch and Neto decisive. Asked to provide more end product in the absence of Raul Jimenez, this was a stunning response.

But more than that, it was fun. Neto with his direct running, Podence with his nutmegs and drag-backs, this was the sort of night that supporters at Molineux would have loved to witness up close. Circumstances prevented that but at least there is renewed confidence now that, when they do return, there will still be a Wolves team well worth watching.
Adam Bate

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