A close range strike from Kolarov and a Samir Nasri lob saw Manchester City stretch their dominant run of form, to three wins in three games. Though Everton pushed City to their limits throughout, Manuel Pellegrini displayed championship winning pedigree to best their stern opposition
If Manchester City lost their hunger last season, they have certainly approached this campaign with the fire burning emphatically in their bellies.
The Citizens have made it a record nine wins on the trot, and don’t look like they have any visible shortcomings to their game. Their speed down the flanks, and creativity on the wings firmly showed that they can contribute all over the pitch, rather than just through Aguero and Silva. Everton’s ability to make comebacks had been well documented in the league’s first two games; however they came up, and unsurprisingly so, short. Manchester City looked like a team that have learned lessons from last season’s failures, strengthened spots where they needed re-enforcements, look simply unbeatable in the process.
The match was far from a boring one, with both teams attacking and wanting to win the game over the full ninety. At the end of on absorbing encounter, there were a few things that became clear.
Everton need to buy another left-back
Roberto Martinez has never shied away from making big calls and sweeping tactical decisions. For the most part, he gets them right. Replacing the injured Leighton Baines, with the inexperienced Galloway however, was not one of those. Baines, despite a dip in form last season, still provides an immense amount of defensive discipline and an unpredictable threat from set-pieces. Despite a diligent display against Graziano Pelle in Everton’s 3-0 win against Southampton, the City clash proved too much as Galloway succumbed to injury just before the break.
With both Baines and Galloway out for the next tie, Everton are short-staffed at the back. While the prospective sale (despite Roberto Martinez’ insistence against it) of John Stones would free up the needed funds for such a re-enforcement, Everton will need to buy first before selling.
There aren’t many left backs which a club like Everton can purchase at present. Having someone ply out of position as a stop gap, till Leighton Baines reaches full fitness, is a gamble Roberto Martinez will have to make
City’s defence might prove their biggest strength.
Despite Nicolas Otamendi’s undeniable talent, he will have to wait before becoming a member of the Citizens’ starting XI. The much maligned French centre-back Eliaquim Mangala was made a scapegoat from many of Manchester City’s defensive failures last term. This season on however, the former Porto man might prove exactly why Manchester City splurged a 50 Million to acquire his services. In a relationship similar to that of Ramos and Pepe, captain Vincent Kompany and Mangala are slowly forming a formidable wall in front of Joe Hart. Kompany’s aerial prowess and ball playing skills are now being complemented by Mangala’s robust tackling. While the Frenchman is still to time his tackles to perfection, he looks a far more assured presence than he did last term.
At the full-back positions however, City are truly spoiled. In Pablo Zabaleta’s absence, Gael Clichy is enjoying a good spell of form at right-back. His ability to bomb down the right flank, proving both a defensive presence and an attacking option, have made him a more than adequate back-up to the Argentine. Against Chelsea and Everton, Clichy was able to work in tandem with his centre-backs, ensuring that he squeezes out enough space to prevent crosses from reaching a threatening position.
Despite being linked away from The Etihad at the start of the summer, Aleksander Kolarov has risen to the challenge, and is enjoying perhaps his best run of form in a City jersey. The Serbian manages to make himself a constant threat on the left wing, despite the opposition being pre-occupied with Raheem Sterling. He times his overlapping runs to near perfection, and is beginning to establish a burgeoning relation between himself, David Silva and Raheem Sterling, evidenced perfectly by his goal at Goodison. Though fingers will be pointed at Tim Howard’s positioning for the goal, Kolarov’s strike was sturck with remarkable pace from a tight angle, an effort that’ll challenge even the best shot stoppers.
The defence’ collective discipline and ability to hold to their eighteen-yard line, has worked to perfection. Against Everton, their ability to catch players offside, most notably Lukaku, has only served to highlight the collective evolution of Manchester City’s back-line, proving that they are just as solid as their attack.
City are looking, playing and performing like champions
When Pellegrini won his first Premier League title, he relied heavily on form and fitness. Last season exposed City’s lack of quality in depth, a problem that they have now effectively addressed. The tried and tested ‘old guard’ of Toure, Silva, Aguero and Nasri continue to fire on all cylinders, but the support that the attack now receives has been qualitatively enhanced.
Raheem Sterling’s record breaking A?50 million pound transfer might take more than a season to seem worth it. Nonetheless, the former Liverpool man has picked up from where he left off, looking every inch a player that deserves to play for a top club. His constant movement and ability to interchange positions with Silva, makes him an attacking threat that is difficult for most centre backs to aptly judge. He has given City an X-factor of unpredictability, elevating City’s playing style and the collective ability of those around him.
In spite of having key players on yellow cards, City did not commit to an all out defence, instead aiming to attack and search for a winner. The eventual game killer, scored beautifully by Samir Nasri, served to exemplify all of Manchester City’s efforts throughout the game. Yaya Toure, despite being off his game for most of the ninety, managed to time a . nonchalant no-look pass to Samir Nasri for his goal.
The collective form of all of Manchester City’s players, in addition to their quality strength in depth, shows that Manuel Pellegrini is ready to take Manchester City to greater heights this season. While the season is only three games young, City have weathered three very tenuous fixtures with alarming ease, laying down the marker of quality football that might prove too be hard to beat.