Manchester City ground out a difficult 1-0 win at home against bottom of the league Sheffield United yesterday, owing to a first-half goal by Gabriel Jesus.
Some excellent play from Ferran Torres opened up space to assist the Brazilian, who converted from five yards for his first league goal since the start of November.
The rest of the game was played out in a rather dull fashion, with Sheffield United threatening towards the end. Jesus missed a golden chance to double City’s lead in the second half, but a solid save from Aaron Ramsdale denied the striker.
Here’s five things we can take away from a decent performance at the Etihad…
Ferran Torres is still a difference-maker
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about Ferran Torres, considering how well City’s defenders and midfielders have been playing, and how often they’ve been scoring.
The winger hasn’t played 90 minutes in the league since November 21st and it’s easy to forget how well he played early on in the season, especially in the Champions League.
We were reminded of his quality, however, when he set up Gabriel Jesus’ tap-in. All hope looked lost as he was nearly squeezed off the ball by two Sheffield United defenders, but his skill and determination to find the space in the box was really impressive. The pass, too, was expertly placed. Jesus had time to take a touch, adjust his feet, and smash home from five yards. Excellent from the pair of them, but Torres in particular.
Winning mentality cemented
It’s a testament to the quality of the Premier League that bottom-placed Sheffield United can cause such a problem for Guardiola’s high-flying City. Despite the relatively early opener, Chris Wilder’s side remained solid at the back and occasionally threatened from a counter-attack.
You never felt, however, that City were in danger of conceding a sucker-punch goal. John Fleck did go close from a snapshot volley, but aside from that, Dias and Laporte looked very solid. Even when City were playing at their best when on the attack, you often felt in recent seasons that they were vulnerable at the back. Partly due to the inclusion of Ruben Dias, right now it seems unthinkable that City would even dare to concede a goal.
The defenders are exceptional, but the whole mentality of the team is geared towards domination and winning at all costs, which might be the difference at the end of the season.
Form is everything
If this game was played out four or five fixtures ago, we probably would have seen a different game. Yes, City have been on great form for a while, but it’s important to remember the fact that the Blades are in the middle of a bounce-back in their own form. They’ve won four of their last five in all competitions, including an absolutely massive win over Manchester United in midweek.
You’d be forgiven for approaching this game with an air of complacency, but in the Premier League, nothing can be taken for granted, and this was a relatively tough game in the end.
Aymeric Laporte still exists
Considering their monstrous defensive record, seeing the Stones-Dias partnership broken up today certainly came as a shock to many fans – an unwelcome one to the many Fantasy Premier League managers such as myself who have Stones in their team.
That wasn’t the only cause for concern, though. ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’, after all. It’s a reasonable worry that bringing Laporte into the team and breaking up that brilliant partnership might unsettle the defence. Laporte, however, reminded us of his quality and looked really solid at the back, if a little bit overshadowed by Dias’ near-perfect display.
Guardiola cemented a record
Today’s win was Guardiola’s 500th of his professional managerial career, as well as the one that took him to 400 total Premier League points across his four and a half seasons in England.
We all know how brilliant Pep is, and these stats really drill home how good of a manager he is. We are incredibly lucky to have Pep in control, and we all hope he’s around for another 400 points more (at least).
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