The Blues disarmed the Blades as Manchester City overcame a tough Sheffield United side in a tense midweek fixture to secure all three points. The only goal of the game came from the in-form Sergio Aguero, who came off the bench in the 67th minute and netted the winner just five minutes later.
Here are five things we learned from the game…
Laporte Means Clean Sheets
Is it a coincidence that in Aymeric Laporte’s first game back, Manchester City kept their first clean sheet this calendar year? No, it’s not.
Throughout the Frenchman’s absence, nonsense defending has been rife at City, with the club failing to keep clean sheets more often than in previous seasons. Laporte being named in the starting XI was a surprise to many City fans, however his inclusion in the side proved dividends as the Blues kept just their second clean sheet in the previous 10 fixtures.
Whilst Laporte is lacking match fitness following his lengthy spell on the sidelines, it was fantastic to see him back in a Manchester City shirt.
The Penalty Situation Needs Reviewing, Seriously
The question of who should take Manchester City’s penalties has been a subject of debate amongst fans for years. Sergio Aguero isn’t a great penalty taker, whereas other attackers – Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling – are also generally unconvincing when they step up to take a penalty.
The common solution amongst City fans is for Gundogan to be the primary penalty taker whenever he is on the pitch, however, the German is often in-and-out of the starting XI, resulting in Jesus stepping up to the spot, followed by a simple save by Dean Henderson.
However, it appears to me that a simple solution is crystal clear: Kevin De Bruyne. Whilst it would be logical to have a striker take the penalties, City’s attackers simply are not good enough at taking penalties to be deemed as the primary penalty taker, instead, Guardiola should look to top midfielders of the past such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard who regularly took penalties for their respective sides despite the talented strikers on their team. Similarly to Lampard and Gerrard, De Bruyne is a formidable, accurate striker of the ball, thus it is my opinion and undoubtedly the opinion of many others, that he should be stepping up to the spot on a more regular basis.
Garcia Is Ready
Whilst the young Spaniard played just over 15 minutes at Bramall Lane, he was thrust into the game at a time when The Blades were throwing themselves forward and pushing strongly for an equaliser – Garcia defended well in the final stages to ensure that City kept a hard-fought clean sheet.
For many City fans, Garcia would be preferred to start over John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, who have both been ‘dodgy’ at times this season and have cost the Blues valuable points, whereas Garcia has barely put a foot wrong this season and his fantastic potential is evident for all to see.
Should the Spaniard be featured more prominently in the coming months, it is entirely conceivable that he could become a certified starter at the club within the next 18 months.
Sterling Needs A Well-Deserved Rest
We all know that Sterling is a world-class footballer, with 2019 being a truly tremendous year for the England international. However, in recent months Sterling’s form has dipped – his final ball and finishing are nowhere near the levels of last year and frankly, in the last few weeks, City have looked better when he is not on the pitch.
Whilst Sterling’s effort and work-rate is always exemplary, Mahrez, Aguero and Jesus are all in far better form, but furthermore, Sterling being rested prior to the recommencing of the Champions League may prove dividends in the long run.
City Are Far Better With Mahrez
Whilst Mahrez endured a tumultuous first season at the club with various ups and downs mixed with good and poor performances, this season Mahrez has simply been fantastic.
The Algerian possesses great footballing intelligence, an abundance of technical ability and lightning-quick feet, whilst his involvement in the final third both out wide and when he drifts into the middle allowing for the overlap from Walker, Cancelo or De Bruyne has been brilliant in recent months. He is an exciting player to watch but more importantly, it has become clear that City play better when Mahrez is playing.
You can follow us for live updates here: @City_Xtra
You can follow the author here: @BrandonEvans_18