It’s a return to winning ways for Manchester City, as they bounced back with a much needed victory at Selhurst Park. Two goals in quick succession late in the first-half secured City the three points, while also keeping a much needed clean sheet.
With two goals and none for the opposition, it’s the opposite result to their last Premier League outing, so let’s see what we can take away from this game and into the rest of the long season left to play.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
This match started much like the Wolves game and for a while it seemed like we might find a similar result. Roy Hodgson clearly took notes from Nuno Espirito Santo’s side and set up unbearably defensive. They were quick to close City down when they got close enough to the penalty area and were ready to intercept or block any through ball behind their back line.
It forced City to look for another way to break them down and, just like before the international break, it led to many crosses into the box. This time however, it paid off when Bernardo Silva cut the ball back onto his left foot and got the cross in for Jesus’ diving-header and fiftieth goal for the club.
City had plenty of chances before this too and upon re-watching the game, you can see it was just a matter of time until they scored. Still, after over three years of Guardiola, we tend to doubt the prowess of our attack. We constantly have to remind ourselves that there’s a plan and to be patient when waiting for the goals to come, as far more often than not it pays off.
EDERSON SAVES THE DAY
As Hennessey battled to keep the score down at the other end of the pitch, Ederson was in fine form keeping Palace out. Having little to do for most of the game, the goalkeeper needed to stay focused and be on hand for two big second-half saves.
The Brazilian got his fingertips to both a well placed header from Benteke and a hard strike from Zaha to keep his fourth clean sheet of the Premier League season. With the defensive injuries City continue to have, it’s a relief to know there’s a world class keeper in between the posts.
DOUBLE DUTY DM’S
It’s been said before that Pep Guardiola would play eleven midfielders in a side if he could. We didn’t quite see that yesterday but seven is enough. With the staggering injuries at the back, it was Rodri and Fernandinho who had to step-up and take his place in the centre of defence.
It goes to show just how versatile you have to be to maintain your place in this City side and it has to be said what a great job both players did under the circumstances. Other than one or two hiccups early in the game, they both stood tall – winning long balls, and intercepting counter-attacks, clipping the Eagles’ wings.
After the match Pep said Rodri hadn’t even trained in that position before, which makes it all the more impressive. But it does bring up another point we should address…
THE KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT
Despite not having a single fully-fit recognised centre back available, Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis aren’t next in line. Clearly it wasn’t a mistake to choose Rodri and Fernandinho given the outcome, but it does beg the question of what it would take for capable City academy players to be afforded an opportunity to prove themselves in the Premier League.
Realistically, given how Wolves played at the Etihad and got a result, it was expected that Palace would set up ultra-defensive and try to hit City on the counter-attack. If there are three injuries to the positions they play in, and the opposing side are going to play in a way they’re not going to see much of the ball – it’s difficult to see it ever happening.
This isn’t a judgement on whether that’s good or bad, but we need to manage our expectations on when academy players are going to get a look-in outside of semi-meaningless matches. Pep repeatedly says he values our young players but by that logic, yesterday, Phil Foden was worth £250 million a minute.
While City continue to be short at the back, the injury list is slowly depleting and we saw the benefits of it in this game. De Bruyne played as if he’d never been out of the side and brought cohesiveness to the midfield with great link-up play and accurate balls into the box. He was the architect of the second goal, putting fear into Palace defenders as he bombed forward on the counter. But for a poor decision from Gabriel Jesus in the second half, he would have had a goal for his efforts.
It was great to see Benjamin Mendy slot into the left-back position too. There’s been a lot of uncertainty in recent weeks with Zinchenko out of form, Angelino not fully trusted, and Cancelo even getting a run out there for half a game. Mendy looked strong and capable. With any luck, he can stay fit a make that position his own in the games to come.
John Stones also made a comeback and finally the first team is starting to look stronger. More should be said on how difficult any team would find the Premier League with the amount of injuries City have suffered, but now hopefully they can start to put this bad luck behind them and continue the challenge to retain the title.
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