Vardy and Co highlight problems at Man City
Guardiola does not seem to have fixed defensive deficiencies from last season
Jamie Vardy provided a stark reminder of Manchester City's limitations this morning (Singapore time).
Blunt, brash and bustling, the evergreen striker's haul in a 5-2 win for Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium embodied all that Pep Guardiola's side desperately need in reserve.
It is hardly coincidental that Vardy is now the first English Premier League player to score a hat-trick against the Catalan's team on two occasions.
|MAN CITY||LEICESTER CITY|
|(Riyad Mahrez 4, Nathan Ake 84)||(Jamie Vardy 37-pen, 54, 58-pen, James Maddison 77, Youri Tielemans 88-pen)|
Lionel Messi is the only other player to bag a treble against a Guardiola-managed team, and he managed that only once.
Similarly, it is not by sheer fluke that Vardy has nine goals - almost double that of his nearest challenger - against City since Guardiola took charge.
Instinct over ideology sets the 33-year-old and the ex-Barcelona coach apart. One believes dominating the ball is key to winning games; the other seizes limited chances on it.
Vardy headed in at half-time having helped his team draw level in an opening 45 minutes where they were a distant second in possession and chance creation.
By the end, Vardy was walking off with the match ball tucked under his arm and a smug grin on his face.
Brendan Rodgers once subscribed to Guardiola's stats-based aesthetic and paid the price for it. At Liverpool, he became derided for losing games but "winning the passing".
Now the Northern Irishman is fully invested in his talisman's carpe diem philosophy in front of goal.
By the midway point of the second half, the former England international had amassed the fewest touches of any outfield player, yet was still the most impactful.
Playing on the periphery suits Vardy more than expansive football did for City's patchwork attack. When the opportunities presented themselves, he was lying in wait.
On a weekend when contentious penalty decisions became the order of business in the English top flight, the pattern continued with Vardy taking full advantage of Kyle Walker's hands-on shackling to equalise just eight minutes before the break.
City's walking wounded have more than injuries to worry about. Their depth deficiency is not limited to a treatment table that left just 12 senior players at Guardiola's disposal.
A thunderous half-volley from Riyad Mahrez against his former employers in the fourth minute set the tone for an onslaught that was never truly forthcoming from the hosts.
For all his efforts, Raheem Sterling is an ill-fitting candidate to fill an auxiliary striker role with the established options of Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero both sidelined.
Neither is Benjamin Mendy, the culprit for Leicester's third penalty of the afternoon with a clumsy foul on James Maddison, a befitting alternative to Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus had admitted that he could lose their centre-back Ruben Dias to City, and the 23-year-old's arrival cannot come soon enough for Guardiola.
If he is serious about earning a new contract, the City manager needs to get his act together and fast.
Ederson, Walker, Garcia, Ake, Mendy, Fernandinho (Delap 51), Rodri, Mahrez, de Bruyne, Foden (Torres 64), Sterling
Schmeichel, Justin, Evans (Fuchs 80), Soyuncu, Castagne, Mendy, Barnes, Tielemans, Praet (Maddison 69), Amartey, Vardy (Iheanacho 85)