Manchester City overcame a difficult start to ease past rock-bottom Huddersfield away from home and stay in the title race with Liverpool. Danilo, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané bagged the goals as Guardiola’s side kept a fourth successive clean sheet. Here’s what we learned from the fifth win from five in City’s 2019 so far…
A Game Of Two Halves
There’s no sugar-coating the fact that City were bad before the break today. Passes were sliding around seemingly at random, with no apparent correlation between where the ball was aimed and where it ended up. It was like a game of FIFA.
Whatever Pep said at half-time, it worked. This is a man known for his motivational mid-match monologues, a veteran of the delicate art of bollockings. Surprisingly, this extends beyond “I’m not happy with your performance out there, show me something else in the second half”. Whatever it is, Guardiola knows all about it, and the results were clear in City’s performance in the second period. Even fifteen minutes of decent play was enough to take the game away from the unfortunate Terriers.
Danilo Lightens Left-back Load
Since signing from Real Madrid in 2017, Danilo has shown something of a knack for goalscoring that most defenders lack. His deflected opener today, though, was only the crown jewel of a very good all-round performance. Playing in a familiar, if unnatural, left-back position, the Brazilian looked assured in defence (granted the opposition weren’t great) and created the third goal with a great long pass to Aguero. It wasn’t Danilo’s first good showing in recent weeks but it was probably his best chance all season to stand out from the rest of the team. He took that chance.
This has promising connotations for the rest of the season. With Benjamin Mendy’s injury problems not unlikely to reoccur in future, Fabian Delph, Aymeric Laporte and Oleks Zinchenko have nobly done what they can to fill the gap. But these are all cases of square pegs in round holes, however well disguised, and Danilo offers a much more agreeable solution. On current form, he may be the best fullback at the club.
Sané Produces Once Again
Since the start of last season, no player has produced as many assists in the Premier League as Leroy Sané, on 24. In fact, no other player comes close. His talent is quite ridiculous.
Without the world-class left boot of Sané, there’s no guarantee City would have won the game. It was his cross from inside the box that set up Sterling’s goal and, minutes later, he controlled and finished from Aguero’s knockdown to put the result beyond doubt. These contributions mean Sané has now been directly involved in more league goals than any other City player this season, with eight scored and nine assisted. This total is better than Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba. If his development continues, we may soon be looking at the best player in the country.
The Art of Defending Restored
Until City played Rotherham at the start of the month, Pep’s side were keeping about as many clean sheets as a maternity ward. Today’s shutout, though, marked the fourth game in a row without conceding a goal. It may not sound like much but it is by far the best defensive run Laporte and Co. have been on in several months.
Kyle Walker, recovered from fatigue and a rumoured abdominal injury, looks like a classy fullback again, while mistakes from players like Delph and Zinchenko have been cut out. The quality of opposition hasn’t been brilliant but you have to start somewhere…
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