A brilliant Manchester City breezed past Burnley at the Etihad on a mild Monday night to solidify their grasp on a second-place Premier League position. A brace each from Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez, as well as a David Silva goal was enough to see Pep Guardiola’s side to a comfortable three points. But an injury to Sergio Agüero on the stroke of half-time and a disgraceful incident at kick-off (more on that below) slightly tainted an otherwise enjoyable evening.
Here’s what we learned from the second game back…
Phil Foden Is Ready (Again)
Absolutely nobody was surprised when Phil Foden opened the scoring with a belter from outside the box. If David Silva is missing one thing, it’s probably long-range shooting, and scoring from distance tonight was a great way for Foden to underline why he shouldn’t be considered the same kind of midfielder as his Spanish teammate. Foden is only growing in confidence and respect from the footballing world, and today he scored in back-to-back Premier League matches for the first time, a huge milestone for any goalscoring midfielder. Seeing Foden score reminds me how United fans must feel whenever Rashford bags; something about knowing he came from the same city, developed in our academy, makes it that bit more special.
Although the goals were excellent, a different moment caught my eye even more. In the build-up to our fourth goal, Phil slipped in a pass that De Bruyne would have been proud of – perfectly disguised, beautifully weighted. These kinds of moments are what show us that Foden isn’t just a talented young prospect. He’s absolutely a player who will be good enough to start for us for over a decade, and who’s already ready to play a regular starting role next season. If we sign anyone to replace Silva this summer, fans will rightly be fuming on Foden’s behalf.
The End of an Era
David Silva isn’t quite done with City yet, but while we’re on the subject of El Mago we might as well talk about what could be his last City goal. You can almost certainly now count the number of games he’ll play at the Etihad on one hand, and while that’s a devastating thought, we can at least comfort ourself with the knowledge that we saw him score tonight.
Since the Premier League restart, we’ve been treated to two vintage Silva performances, with the little magician running the show from midfield. His touch is still as sublime as ever, his passing just as intelligent. And to see him get in the mixer and smash in from Bernardo’s low cross was a delightful moment for any City fan. There’ll be more time in later articles to talk properly about just how much we’ll miss this club legend, but for now we have the memory of him celebrating with his teammates, the word ‘Captain’ printed in bold on his armband.
A Flash of Algerian Brilliance
There was so much to admire about City’s second goal, so let’s start with the pass from Fernandinho. To me, one of the most underrated aspect of the Brazilian’s game is his long-range sprayed balls, and this was a wonderful example of his technical prowess.
It only got better from there as Riyad Mahrez took over the show – and what a season this man is having. His touch was sublime, but it was the tricky dribbling that really sold Burnley’s defence. From there, the finish wasn’t an easy one, and we often see shots from that angle saved. Not this time – Riyad tucked it home with surgical precision to put the game beyond doubt. It was also great to see him further exorcise the demons of his penalty miss at Anfield all that time ago by confidently bagging a spot-kick just before half-time. This was just the latest performance in an electric season from our Algerian wizard, who looks to be in line for another start on Thursday against Chelsea, where any smart punter would back him to be amongst the goals again.
Defensive Crisis? What Defensive Crisis?
Back-to-back clean sheets since the resumption of the Premier League have certainly emphasised City’s philosophy – attack really is the best form of defence for Guardiola’s side. In the games vs Arsenal and Burnley, City have averaged just under 70% possession. In the same period, they haven’t conceded a single shot on target, let alone a goal.
While it’s still pretty clear that we need at least one new defender in the summer, our ability to make four changes to the backline and still keep the opposition out all match is encouraging to see and serves as a solid reminder that our system is just as important as our personnel when it comes to defending. We’ll need to be even better against Chelsea and Liverpool in the coming weeks, as they’re sure to offer a tougher test for Ederson and his back four than Arsenal and Burnley have so far.
An Uphill Battle Still Ahead
It’s an off-the-pitch matter, but I absolutely have to talk about what happened at kick-off today above the stadium. A plane, presumably paid for by a Burnley fan, passed over the Etihad several times pulling a banner that read ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. According to alleged leaked text messages from the commissioners of the plane, the message cost a ridiculous £600 and was intended to upset City’s black players. This embarrassing display, which I imagine was sent out by a few lowlifes with too much money lying around, was met with the appropriate disgust on social media – but it served as a reminder that there are still plenty of people living in some kind of 1800s version of Britain with their heads in the sand.
To Burnley’s enormous credit, they were very quick to release a statement promising lifelong bans for the fans responsible (I hope your five minutes of fame were worth it, morons). Ben Mee also spoke at length, unprompted, about the incidents after the game. There’s so much to be proud of in the way that football has responded to racism in recent weeks, and yet it’ll be a long time before encounters with cavemen like these is in the past. As Micah Richards and Graeme Souness discussed after the game, we must be loud in our condemnation of any and all racism in the modern world. Well, the people behind this display are racist – and we’re loudly telling them to get out of our sport and into the 21st century.
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