Friday, January 22, 2021

Are Manchester City improving?

Manchester City seem stronger than ever

If you look at the results from this past weekend of Premier League football, my claim that Manchester City are a better team now than they were 12 months ago may seem like a slightly strange. While a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend is nothing to be ashamed of, City are expected to be challenging for the title, and picking up results against the top teams is a huge part of that title challenge. A draw looks like a poor result.

Though to anyone that watched the game, caught the highlights, or reviewed the stats – it’s obvious that City deserved much more than a draw, and the scoreline turned out to be quite flattering for a below par Spurs side. 

Manchester City Domination

Spurs are one of the best teams in the league, there is no doubt about that. Though they weren’t on top form this weekend, Marucio Pochettino’s side were fighting tooth and nail from start to finish. The introduction of Lucas Moura provided an ill-deserved equaliser, though it’s this clinical nature that will bode well for Spurs this season. 

The equaliser came completely against the run of play, with City dominating the first 10 minutes of the second half. Coming close on a number of occasions, it felt like only a matter of time before they added a third. Some disorganisation from a corner proved to be their undoing, and they spent the next 30 minutes trying to put themselves back into the lead. 

Credit to Spurs for managing to hold out and scrape a draw, but it’s rare that I’ve seen Tottenham under Pochettino be completely pinned back into their own half, with shots being peppered at the goal from all angles. If you haven’t already, take a look at the full time stats, they’re almost frightening. 

A performance like this, against almost any other side in the league, would generally lead to a heavy victory for the reigning Premier League champions. They created a number of chances for themselves, and if not for the stellar performance of Tanguy Ndombele, City may have put four of five past their opponents. 

Manchester City Pep Guardiola

Last Minute Drama

In the third minute of added time, Gabriel Jesus smashed the ball into the back of the net, beating Hugo Lloris all ends up. Players went wild, fans went wild, even neutrals watching across the country were reveling in the amazing game that had unfolded before them… until referee Michael Oliver put a halt to the celebrations. 

It was revealed that in the build-up to Jesus’ goal, the ball had grazed Ayemeric Laporte’s arm. Under the new handball rules introduced at the start of this season, the ball cannot touch any part of the arm (deliberate or otherwise) in the build up to, or scoring of a goal. Oliver was completely correct in his decision to disallow the goal, and contrary to the reaction after the game, there was no VAR review. Oliver saw the incident in real time and made the decision without needing to consult the new system. 

There have been a number of opinions flying around about the new handball rule, and I quite firmly stand on the side calling for the old law to be reinstated. However that’s a tale for a different day. 

Magical Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne missed the majority of last season with a variety of injury issues, and even without their most creative midfielder, City still managed to romp their way to 98 points, amassing an incredibly 95 goals along the way. By the end of the season, we were all singing the praises of Bernardo Silva (and rightfully so), discussing how impressive it was that City could replace their Belgian star and still maintain such a high level. 

The last two games have proven exactly how much of a drop-off City actually had without De Bruyne last season. 

What he brings to that team simply cannot be understated, registering three assists already this season, and providing both goals for City at the weekend. He also created nine total chances, and whipped in 18 crosses. He dictates the entire game, and is the focal point for everything Manchester City do when he is on the pitch. The way he can control the ball, see a pass, and deliver it, is unparalleled in the Premier League – perhaps even in the world.

With Kevin De Bruyne back in top form, an established star in Bernardo Silva continuing his form from last season, and new signing Rodri sitting in front of the defence, City genuinely look even more terrifying than they were 12 months ago. That is nothing but bad news for every other team in the league. 

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