Manchester City came into Saturday’s encounter needing nothing less than three points. Liverpool’s win against Sheffield United put the Reds eight points ahead in the table. City know they cannot afford many more, if any, slip-ups in the weeks ahead.
It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but Pep Guardiola’s men come away from Goodison Park with a 3-1 victory. Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring for City from a beautiful ball from Kevin De Bruyne, before Dominic Calvert-Lewin brought the match level. City’s persistence paid off however, as Riyad Mahrez hit a pinpoint free-kick to break the deadlock. Ederson provided the resistance needed at the back, and Raheem Sterling put the game to bed, to keep the Cityzens within touching distance of the league leaders.
Here are five things we learned today as City earn their fifth win of the campaign.
Jesus Misses His Chance
Gabriel Jesus’ interview came out this week where he gave his feelings on his current situation. The general idea of it was that he was unhappy with the amount of playing time he was getting, as to be expected. He was very understanding of the circumstances, though. Sergio Aguero is a club legend and is playing some of the best football of his career. Jesus has begun the season in good form, but some things are simply out of his control.
Earlier this season Pep Guardiola mentioned in a press conference that he loved when his players are eager to get into the side. He told the media that there have been instances where a player coming to him before the match has changed his mind on a starting eleven in the past. Jesus’ comments could fall under this category, and he was given his chance in this match.
The Brazilian scored, but failed to make a big statement in a match that was begging for someone to step up.
It might be beginning to sound like a broken record, but Riyad Mahrez’s quality simply cannot be ignored. Yet again, the Algerian was called upon ahead of Bernardo Silva. Yet again, he showed just why Pep Guardiola simply has no choice but to make this decision. It was his bit of magic against Lucas Digne that set up De Bruyne for City’s first goal. His brilliance and wonder of a left foot was what kept Digne honest on 84 minutes. It gave Aguero the time and space to overlap the winger and force Jordan Pickford into making a save he could only parry into the middle for Sterling to finish. Most importantly, Mahrez stepped up when it mattered most and hit the perfect free-kick beyond the reach of Pickford to give City the lead.
Everywhere you look in this match, Mahrez was there, stamping his authority. Many questioned the decision to make a then-record deal for a player that could not get consistent game time in the starting eleven. This season he is showing everyone exactly why, and repaying his manager and teammates for their support as he adjusted to his new club. If he keeps this form up throughout the season, £60 million may turn out to be a bargain.
A common theme we have seen in City’s most recent matches is Kevin De Bruyne occupying the right-back area. Ahead of him, Kyle Walker has been combining with Riyad Mahrez or Bernardo Silva higher up the pitch. De Bruyne has been scintillating in this role, constantly popping up in the perfect areas to deliver his signature cross into the box. However, Walker does not produce the type of attacking quality needed for this different role from his usual more defensive one.
Enter Joao Cancelo. The Portuguese full-back is at his best working higher up the pitch. With Mahrez in the form he is in, the combination potential between the two with De Bruyne pulling the strings from behind, could be devastating. Pep Guardiola has used his summer signing sparingly since his arrival, but could it be time to give the former Juventus stand-out his full Premier League debut?
Ederson Proves his Importance Once Again
Ederson is most often known for his ability with his feet. A typical City game will see him make four, five, or six times the amount of accurate passes as saves. Today was a timely reminder that when City need a get-out-of-jail-free card, Ederson can provide that.
The Benfica product made two crucial saves in the last twenty minutes of the match to deny Yerry Mina from bringing the game level. When Manchester City needed a big performance from their make-shift defence, it was the deepest line that came up big when it mattered most.
Rodri Silently Impressing
His name won’t show up anywhere in the statistics, but Rodri continues to be one of the most important pieces in Pep Guardiola’s side. The Spaniard was thrown into the squad right from the start. While his quality has always shown, signs of his little time to adjust to the new system were always evident. At Atletico Madrid, the two defensive lines of four deployed by Diego Simeone always meant that when Rodri went after the ball, he did not have to worry too much about a lack of cover behind him.
In Manchester City’s system though, Rodri finding himself out of position can leave the team wide open. Kevin De Bruyne came off after one game and was clearly frustrated in his conversation with Pep, and it was seemingly concerning the centre of the pitch being too exposed.
Today, Rodri could best be described as a metronome in midfield. He silently distributed possession to the array of attacking talent ahead and beside him. Most importantly, there was never a moment where Rodri left the City defence exposed. He sat right in front and broke up play during the entire ninety minutes.
You can follow the author here: @realgavinford
You can follow us on twitter here: @City_Xtra