Friday 18 October 2019

Graeme Souness on the big transfer mistake that may cost Manchester City in the title race

Harry Maguire has made a solid start to life at Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)
Harry Maguire has made a solid start to life at Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Graeme Souness believes Manchester City will be regretting their decision to pull out of the race to sign Harry Maguire, after suggesting the Premier League champions could face a defensive crisis in the next few weeks.

City opted to withdraw from the battle to sign Maguire as they were out-bid by Manchester United for the England centre-back last month, but that decision has now been called into question as the frailties in their squad have been exposed.

With key centre-back Aymeric Laporte out for up to six months with a knee problem, an injury that will keep John Stones out for up to five weeks has added to the defensive woes for City manager Pep Guardiola.

After a shaky display as they slumped to a shock 3-2 defeat at Norwich last weekend, Souness believes City could face further problems after they fell five points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool after the defeat at Carroll Road.

"It will hurt them," Souness told Virgin Media Sport. "I thought they would be okay going into the game against Norwich at the weekend, against the lesser team in the Premier League, and then when they play big teams in the Premier League and the Champions League, they might come unstuck.

"But they looked dodgy at the weekend and if you go back to the end of last season, they have lost three centre-halves.

"(Vincent) Kompany, for me, was still their best defender when he was fit. Then Laporte was ruled out and while they are still waiting for Stones to settle in and get his decision making better, he has all the equipment to be a top player.

"The spin Guardiola is putting on it is that he has a big squad and they will deal with it, but if Fernandinho has to go in there at centre-back at the age of 34, he could fall over with a muscle injury at any time when he is that age.

"They have a new signing, the big old lump in Rhodri they signed this summer could go in and play there, but it is a problem for them.

"If he (Guardiola) could turn the clock back, he will never admit this now, he will know they should have pushed the boat out and got Maguire. They've lost their two best defenders now and it will hurt them."

City bounced back from their defeat at Norwich with a 3-0 Champions League win against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night, with the next big test of their patched-up defence coming against Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

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