Manchester City limped to a 1-1 draw against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday evening at the Etihad Stadium. The lone City goal on the night came from Ilkay Gundogan, who put his side 1-0 up just before the hour mark. Ultimately, Shakhtar’s Manor Solomon equalized with 20 minutes remaining and neither side were able to find a winner before the final whistle.
Overall, here’s what we learned on a relatively uneventful European night at the Etihad…
Gundogan isn’t suited to the eight
The midfield three for City felt like it lacked balance and cohesion, and much of it can be attributed to Gundogan. The German can’t match the work-rate Bernardo offered Pep in the middle of the park last season, while his ability to link up with his forwards doesn’t match that of David Silva. If only the side had a young talent who brought a little bit of both of those desired traits to the table… (We’ll come back to this later.)
We’ll give credit where credit is due, as Gundogan was opportunistic in slotting home City’s only goal on the night, although his strike was very much a case of being in the right place at the right time.
Rodri right at home
The Spaniard has looked quite comfortable early on during life in Manchester. Although injury temporarily stalled his development, Rodri is once again playing and fitting into Guardiola’s style. Rodri demonstrated his ability to play the deep lying midfield role with precise passing throughout.
Perhaps the biggest knock on the former Atletico man is his pace. Inserting some pace into the midfield should help create the balance tonight’s trio lacked, giving De Bruyne more freedom to roam and allowing Rodri to sit back and provide the stability City’s high pressing style requires. All in all, he remains the most formidable heir to Fernandinho’s throne to date.
Backline conundrum continues for Pep
20 games into the season and City’s best back four remains a mystery. From A to Z (Angelino to Zinchenko) and everything in between, the backline has been a revolving door for Guardiola due to various injuries and a lack of stability.
Once Laporte and Stones return to full fitness, they should both assume starting roles at the back. City will then need to find which combination of fullbacks best suits the side if they plan on collecting any hardware in the New Year.
No Foden no fun
If there was ever a City match that felt like it could use a healthy dose of Phil Foden, it was this one. Instead, the City faithful got but a taste of the local lad’s talents, albeit a tasty one, and it was too little too late for City to find a winner.
Guardiola insists that the 19-year-old academy product is ready for regular first team minutes, yet he continues to neglect giving them to him. It was clear what the crowd wanted when he entered the match, and what the midfield lacked before his insertion. With Pep looking for the right combination in midfield moving forward, perhaps Foden is the perfect candidate to Phil the gap (pun intended.)
At the end of the day, the draw secured a point for City which locks up first place in Group C, and a spot in the round of sixteen knockout stage with a match to spare. With little to play for but pride in their final group stage match away against Dinamo Zagreb next month, the fixture should serve as an audition for several young players to impress away from home in Europe.
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