Robin Sainty: ‘Money isn’t necessarily the key to producing vibrant attacking football’
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
This hasn’t been a week that Daniel Farke will look back on with much fondness.
An embarrassing Carabao Cup defeat for City's shadow squad at Crawley was bad enough, but the possibly season-ending injury to Timm Klose and a further setback for Christoph Zimmermann were much worse.
Anyone who casts their mind back to Farke's first season would hardly be surprised that a completely different 11 to Saturday's team failed to gel and played in fits and starts. It was always a high risk move to make so many changes but at least none of the starters against Chelsea suffered further damage.
Based on some of the post-game reaction on Saturday questions like "why didn't City spend more money?" and "why didn't they sign more centre backs?" will be cropping up again, but would that be fair?
What City proved comprehensively last season is that money isn't necessarily the key to producing vibrant attacking football, while it has been made abundantly clear all summer that the overspending mistakes of three years ago, which almost led the club into administration, will not be repeated even if they are still being paid for.
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City now have a distinctive style of play and a group of players who have totally bought into and stick to it fearlessly, while the retention of those players, their promotion bonuses and their improved long-term contracts with Premier League wage levels (with strict relegation clauses) give the lie to the suggestion that the club has simply banked the promotion money.
For myself I would much rather see any available funds invested in young players whose hearts are in the club and whose value is rising exponentially by the week than any overpriced mercenary or free agent looking for a big final payday.
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As for the centre back issue, before Tuesday night City had five centre backs competing for two places. It's easy with hindsight to say they should have signed another, but how much football would he have got without injuries?
Last season, Ben Godfrey and Zimmermann looked indestructible and with them, plus two experienced operators in Klose and Grant Hanley with Ibrahim Amadou also able to cover, Farke would have felt well stocked before Tuesday night.
You can't legislate for every eventuality and had Teemu Pukki joined Josep Drmic on the treatment table the question would have been "why didn't City sign more strikers?"
Defence will always be a big talking point because of City's style of play. Last season they conceded 57 goals, but they scored 93 with some of the most exhilarating football I've seen in my 50 odd years of supporting them. The fact that they can be caught short on the break is an unavoidable by-product of their desire to get forward quickly and in numbers.
Clearly there has to be a balance, but I think most fans accept that what we're seeing is infinitely better than the turgid football in the Premier League under Chris Hughton and Alex Neil when going behind meant almost certain defeat.
As for Saturday, City should not be exempt from criticism. They were sloppy in possession and looked heavy-legged in the second half as for once it was them chasing the ball.
Chelsea basically replicated City's system with central midfield flooded, any width provided by the full-backs and a high press which created more of a stranglehold as the game progressed with City resorting to playing more aimless long balls in the second half than I have seen for over a year.
City were forced into mistakes by a quality side, but there will be no tearing up of the blueprint as a result. In a week that saw a historic football club allowed to die, City's approach both on and off the field not only continues to earn admirers but is increasingly looking like an oasis of sanity in a world of madness.