Manchester City’s Ferran Torres Experiment Is Worth Repeating In Sergio Aguero’s Absence

For the fourth Premier League game in a row, Manchester City only managed to score one goal when it felt like they needed two.

This unary goalscoring has brought two wins and two draws, but it feels like this type of form and these types of displays in front of goal might not be enough if they are to reclaim the Premier League title from Liverpool.

In this game against Sheffield United, the solitary goal came via a long-range effort from Kyle Walker. Though they managed 16 shots and eight on target, they failed to convert any of the chances they created inside the 18-yard box.

This despite an impressive first-half display from stand-in striker Ferran Torres, who was on the end of some good chances but was thwarted on each occasion by the Sheffield United defence and in particular their goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale.

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City manager Pep Guardiola was pleased with the number of chances his side created, especially against a side such as Sheffield United, but will know his side have to be more clinical in the future, and will expect them to be so.

Most of the fanfare around Manchester City in the recent transfer window surrounded the signing of centre-back Ruben Dias. The Portuguese took his place at the back alongside Aymeric Laporte, keeping the clean sheet which helped secure three points in Sheffield.

The club’s defensive problems, or at least their defensive instability in certain moments, have been widely documented. They’ve especially struggled to find a reliable partner for Laporte, and such issues and individual errors were one of the reasons they lost their title to Liverpool last season.

Dias was the high profile name brought in to solve this problem, and his arrival fit the narratives and pre-season storylines as a result. The same could be said of Nathan Ake who, as a left-sided defender, offers backup to Laporte as well as providing an option at left-back or on the left of a back three. Another solution to the problem.

There was less focus on the attacking areas of the squad, which is understandable when looking at the array of attacking talent Guardiola has at his disposal. City regularly have players on their bench who would walk into most sides in Europe.

Despite this, one area they are struggling in at the moment is the centre forward position, and this is leading to those problems in front of goal. 

Any team would have problems when their two main strikers are injured, which has happened to City with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus both out, but even when Aguero has been in the side lately, they haven’t always looked as much of a threat as the attacking talent on the pitch suggests they should.

City should be equipped to deal with such problems even if they have to play someone in a less familiar role through the middle, and it’s a role Torres played to good effect against Sheffield United, at least for the opening 45 minutes.

There was relatively little fanfare around Torres’ arrival from Valencia this summer for a fee of around $27 million. Perhaps because his transfer fee wasn’t as eye-catching as the $80 million paid for Dias or the $52 million for Ake.

So far this season, Torres has played on both the left and right wings for City, but against Sheffield United, Guardiola decided to use him through the middle.

And it didn’t take the Spaniard long to show why he had been chosen for such a role in the absence of Aguero and Jesus.

Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, and Phil Foden have been used in this position in the past, but Guardiola decided to use the former pair in their more natural positions, with Foden dropping to the bench.

Torres’ movement was clever and bright as he looked to make runs in behind as well as offering a surprisingly good option to hold the ball up. 

As you might expect playing in front of and around direct creators such as Sterling, Bernardo, Kevin De Bruyne, and Riyad Mahrez, it wasn’t long before his first chance arrived.

The cross came in from Joao Cancelo on this occasion, but Torres’ header was saved by Ramsdale

A second chance arrived when Torres drifted inside from a wide position on the right, ending up well-positioned at the near post to get on the end of a Sterling cross from the left, but Ramsdale was also well-positioned to save once again.

The second half had the feel of a training session for City. Aside from a good chance for John Lundstram, Sheffield United didn’t test the visitors much, but City’s attacking play was too pedestrian, contained too many touches, and too little urgency.

Torres was left isolated and uninvolved as a result and was eventually replaced by Foden with Sterling moving into the central attacking role.

Despite the promise he showed in that first half, Torres was unable to get his name on the scoresheet, but this doesn’t mean Guardiola should abandon the idea of using him as a central striker.

The answer to their chance conversion problems may lie in consistency and familiarity, something that is more likely to come if Guardiola works out the best solution, and then gives it chance to work. The Torres experiment is well worth repeating.

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