MANCHESTER CITY will NOT retain the Premier League title if the shocking partnership of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi continue to play in defence together.
That is the view of Manchester United legend Gary Neville, and the stats do little to allay fans fears as Pep Guardiola's side are now five points behind rivals Liverpool.
3 Stones and Otamendi had howlers as Manchester City crashed to a shock defeatCredit: Getty Images – Getty
England International Stones, 25, was picked to feature alongside Argentine teammate Otamendi for City's trip to Norwich following Aymeric Laporte's injury.
But the mishap duo came in for much criticism as the defending champions suffered a surprise 3-2 defeat, their first league loss for NINE MONTHS.
And the stats show that a Stones/Otamendi partnership concedes more goals overall – 28- as well as more goals per game – average 1.1 – than any other pairing under Guardiola at City.
They also have a higher percentage of more than three goals conceded per game than when the likes of Laporte or former captain Vincent Kompany featured.
SunSport columnist Alan Shearer revealed he'd be rubbing his hands together playing against Stones and Otamendi, but Neville went further to insist that the pair could seriously hurt City's title chances.
Speaking on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football, he said: "Guardiola gave up on this partnership 18 months ago when Laporte came to the club.
If these two (Stones and Otamendi) play together at their current rate of performance they won't win the league
"Otamendi always gets caught out as a centre-back and quickens up the opposition in attack. He's so not a Pep Guardiola type centre-back, they're usually composed but he's rash.
Sir Alex Ferguson at times during his Manchester United career would see a game too far with players and say, 'that's it, you're done'. Manchester City's 4-3 defeat at Liverpool in 2018 was the game when Guardiola decided that Stones and Otamendi couldn't play together.
"Laporte's injury, Vincent Kompany leaving and not replacing him is a big problem for Manchester City. Stones and Otamendi have played 25 games under Guardiola in the Premier League.
"They've conceded more goals than any other partnership, conceded more goals per game, the clean sheets are down, the three-plus goals conceded is well up and then there's the big one, lower win percentage.
"That will cost Manchester City the Premier League title.
"If these two play together at their current rate of performance they won't win the league."
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Guardiola drily congratulated Liverpool on winning the title after City's loss to Norwich but one fan was so annoyed by their start to the season that he called for the Spaniard to be sacked.
Speaking after the defeat, Pep, 48, said: “We are in September, OK? Congratulations Liverpool, you are the champions.
"We’re in September, what do you have to do? We’ll recover, train and come back.
“We’ve dropped five points. Tottenham (which ended 2-2), we played incredibly well.
"Today, in the important parts we have to know exactly what to do.”