Manchester City’s centre-back partnership of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones will cost the club the Premier League title, according to Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.
Both Otamendi and Stones struggled during Man City’s shock 3-2 defeat at Norwich on Saturday, a result that leaves Pep Guardiola’s side five points behind league leaders Liverpool.
Guardiola can do little change to his side though as the duo are his only fit senior centre-backs following the summer departure of Vincent Kompany and serious injury suffered by Aymeric Laporte.
Former Liverpool defender Carragher was scathing of Otamendi’s performance in particular while he feels Stones’ long-term future at Etihad Stadium could also be in question.
“He (Otamendi) dives in, he has done it all his career," Carragher told Sky Sports Monday Night Football
"He will never change and that's why he's not good enough to play for Manchester City. I have never believed it from day one and nothing I have seen in the last four or five years has changed my mind.
"John Stones, in some ways, over the next three or four months, is almost fighting for his Manchester City career in that, if it doesn't go well for him they are going to buy someone.
"At this moment, I don't think Guardiola wants to put those two on the pitch together but he has got no option because he has not gone big in the summer."
Neville also thinks that Guardiola doesn’t rate the Otamendi-Stones partnership and his inability to bring a replacement in until at least January could cost City dear in the final shake-up.
"Guardiola gave up on this partnership 18 months ago when Laporte came to the club," Neville said.
"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, 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."
Neville and Carragher both agree that Guardiola will look for a solution to City’s defensive flaws but disagree over what exactly the Spaniard will do.
"He has always surprised us, he has always shocked us, he has always done what would be unexpected," added Neville. "Pep Guardiola doesn't accept what he has, he always tries to come up with new systems.
"I can see that Pep Guardiola is not just going to sit back over the next three months. Already in the back of his mind he will be thinking that he needs a plan B here that can give them domination of the ball and defensive stability.
"He won't do this because Pep Guardiola will never do what we expect, but he has played a back five before.
"I know the boy Joao Cancelo pretty well, I had him at Valencia. He can play right wing-back perfectly and Oleksandr Zinchenko is suited to wing-back. Walker has played in a back three for England and Otamendi has two people to cuddle him.
"That is a potential option, but at the moment I think he is thinking of a plan B."
Carragher disagreed, adding: "I don't think he will do that. I don't think he is a three at the back man with wing-backs. He does it the Dutch way, 3-4-3 with a diamond.
"But I think somebody you have got to look at is Fernandinho coming into the equation and going back to centre-back. I think that is something that he will look at.
"You don't want to go away from that 4-3-3 because it is a machine. I don't think they should rip that up. I think the solution for now is to go to Fernandinho."