Sergio Aguero bailed out Man City with two instinctive finishes against Burnley, but Pep Guardiola now has to restore some structure.
It was a familiar sight at Turf Moor for Manchester City fans, with the awesome Argentine papering over the cracks created by a unsettled, chaotic backline.
Dean Marney’s wonderful 14th-minute volley was deserved punishment for Pep Guardiola’s men who stuttered out of the blocks, but it could have easily been much worse had referee Andre Marriner or his assistant spotted a clear push by Nicolas Otamendi on Jeff Hendrick inside the penalty area. That pesky, low sun.
Although the foul went unpunished, it did show that this ever-changing defence which Guardiola continues to peck at still has the ability to self-destruct at any moment.
Even when Aguero dragged Man City out of doldrums, the victory never looked completely secure. Claudio Bravo’s unconvincing attempt to gather a cross in the dying moments was another opportunity missed for Burnley, who can cast themselves unfortunate to have not picked up a point at the very least after a much improved performance from the shambolic showing at West Brom last Monday.
In 22 games as Man City manager, the Spaniard has retained the same back-line on just one occasion when they played Steaua Bucharest and Stoke City in the space of a few days back in early August.
With no League Cup football on the agenda and qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League already in the bag, Guardiola has to approach this first clear run at the Premier League campaign with a settled defence.
That means picking a back three or a back four and sticking with it. That means ditching an excessive rotation policy that has contributed to Manchester City’s very patch form of late.
The time for major experimentation has to stop or else the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool – teams Man City will face before we head in 2017 – will not let them get away with the same mistakes Burnley did.