After 90 minutes of what felt like pure nail-biting, gut-wrenching determination, Manchester City managed to get the win over a defiant Burnley side courtesy of an extremely narrow 1-0 scoreline. Needless to say, they all count and in this late stage of the season, they count all the more as Pep Guardiola’s side look to stay on course for the club’s first ever league title retention.
With the Blues now just 2 games away from the end of this monumental title race with Liverpool, we dive in to the key talking points in 5 Things We Learned…
The Narrowest of Margins
After what was a thoroughly lacklustre first half, City came out after half time with a fire in their eyes. Were it not for a couple of outstanding blocks from Burnley keeper Tom Heaton and former City youth captain Ben Mee, then perhaps this game would have had a flattering scoreline. Yet as Sergio Agüero finally managed to break the deadlock in the 63′ minute, all that mattered were 29.51 precious millimetres.
Full credit must go to Burnley, who were clearly under Sean Dyche’s express orders to reclaim his stolen 2017/18 Manager of the Year award from Pep Guardiola’s duggout in frustrating the Catalonian’s side. But when faced with an away trip to one of the toughest grounds in the Premier League in the closing act of one of the tightest title races in football, there is simply no margin for error.
As has been well documented in the aftermath of this game, City’s 2018/19 season will inevitably be defined by mere inches when all is said and done. As shown above, all it takes is the timely intervention of John Stones’ boot to rescue three points, or as with today, the sheer persistence of one of England’s most dominant sides. That is exactly what City can become if they remain on the right side of history, courtesy of a goal decision system or two.
Pep and Pragmatism
“Get it in the corner!” cried Pep Guardiola.
“Attack!” screamed Sean Dyche.
What a world we live in. Some say that Turf Moor changes a man. Just ask Raheem Sterling, whose traumatic miss in our 1-1 draw last season seemed to kindle a defiant flame in the City forward’s already skyrocketing career.
However, seeing us end the game with four centre backs on the pitch just showed how much Pep Guardiola is commited to winning by any means necessary. Indeed, as John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi soldiered onto the field of play to marshall out the result, Pep gave us a big statement in how much he wants to see the Premier League trophy adorned in sky blue and white once again.
City had already dealt comfortably with the dreaded second balls and aerial duels throughout the match, but if you ever find yourself wondering if Pep feels constrained by his attacking principles, then simply turn back the clocks to Burnley away 2019.
Leroy Leaves Lacking
Given that Pep dedicated a good chunk of his post-Manchester derby remarks to his decision to play Leroy Sané against teams that hold a high line, it was perhaps a slightly bewildering sight to see the German’s name in the starting line-up at 1pm on Sunday. There’s no doubt that Leroy shone in his substitute appearance at Old Trafford and warranted some good faith, but within Guardiola’s existing philosophy, the start against Burnley seemed a tad left field.
True enough, as if to deliberately vindicate Pep and half of City fan Twitter, Leroy really sturggled to assert himself in his 64′ minutes on the pitch. Particularly in the first half, there was simply no space for him to pull off his trademark slip-and-slide game with his fullback, making him look inert and ineffective within the attack.
As emphasised by Gabriel Jesus’s electric substitution in his place, Leroy just didn’t have the tools to hurt Burnley on the day. However, that is not to say that he cannot adapt himself to become a more potent forward for games such as these. The problem is that with standards already so high, the German is rarely afforded a run of games to get himself up to those world-beating standards we know he is capable of before he becomes an unfortunate victim of Pep’s squad rotation.
Yes, if he is benched for Leicester, then it will feel valid. But it doesn’t mean that Leroy can’t yet improve himself to become an even better player for both Pep and for City.
Thank You, Mr. Consistent
The above image is as much as testament to the enduring qualities of Sergio Agüero as it is to the continued brilliance of Manchester City. Indeed, the two have gone very much in hand over the past eight seasons. For just as his first Premier League season ended, Agüero has continued – securing results of the Sky Blues without fail.
Yet for all of the ecstatic memories and iconic Martin Tyler repeated commentaries, one aspect of the Argentian’s game has gone under the radar, potentially even by proxy. For whilst Agüero is undoubtedly a big game player, he is also one of City’s most regular performers, to such an extent that it seems to bizarrely relegate him from people’s esteem on merit.
The fact that Agüero has only begun to receive an iota of the praise he deserves for his near-decade long stay in England should not go unnoticed, of course, but as with a lot of Manchester City’s press, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we don’t receive as much attention as the media darlings at United or Liverpool.
Thankfully, we will have history, being generated before our eyes in the present, to tell the tales that journalists cannot. For with his goal against Burnley, Sergio drew level with Thierry Henry, who many regard as the Premier League’s greatest ever player, for consequtive seasons scoring 20+ goals. It’s simply history in the making.
Feeling nostalgic now? We’ll let the footage speak for itself.
Two Games for Glory, Three Games for History
Now on 92 points and unbelievably still with a shot of losing the title, Manchester City stand on the brink of success. For as Pep and his players will know as well as you or I, only Leicester at the Etihad and Brighton at the Amex stand between City and the Premier League title they so deserve.
Make no mistake, these will not be easy games. With many players seeming to flag for fatigue in recent games, both sides on either occasion will likely be mostly playing on adrenaline. Leicester, managed by former Liverpool boss Brendan Rogers, are a young attacking side with little fear and nothing to lose, with the likes of James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy all ready to stick the knife in City when they are so close to glory, showing they are more than capable in yesterday’s 3-0 win over Arsenal. Likewsie, Brighton are not yet assured of league safety, and in the worst case scenario are sure to play their hearts out in front of their home crowd to stay in the Premier League. Even with survival secured, their 1-1 draw with Newcastle just goes to show that no side can be ruled out when you think you’re home and dry.
The win against Burnley crucially keeps momentum in our favour. There must be nothing but a winning mentality coursing through the dressing room come Monday – if we can beat managerial genius of Sean Dyche by 29.51mm, then who is Liverpool reject big Brenny Rogers to stop us?
With everyone up for a fight, then it bears rememebering that a domestic clean sweep is still a possibility, with Watford waiting at Wembley on May 18th. There might be only two games to glory in the Premier League, but there is only one additional match to play if we want to go down in history!
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