Manchester City emerged victorious over Hull City by a margin of 3 goals to 1 in the Premier League to maintain the gap from fourth to fifth.
Manchester City entered the Etihad on Saturday needing the three points to maintain their stronghold on fourth in the Premier League. They encountered an in-form Hull City side who could have caused much trouble. But, as the game unfolded, the Citizens beat the Tigers by 3 goals to 1, grabbing a well deserved win.
Hull City, on the other hand, will be disappointed with their performance after a string of good results. But, Marco Silva will not be too worried, with Hull still in 17th place, 2 points off the relegation spots.
We at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at some of the more significant talking points to emerge from the result.
Not many would have given Fabian Delph much of a chance under Pep Guardiola. The player has been cast aside into the fringes ever since joining from Manchester City. And, his City career, one that never got started in the first place, seems set to end last summer.
But Guardiola’s arrival saw an upsurge in Delph’s status in the first-team setup, with the player playing a part in the first two league games before succumbing to an unfortunate muscle injury – one that kept him out for the long haul.
Fabian Delph is named Man of the Match in the stadium.
— City Watch (@City_Watch) April 8, 2017
Fabian Delph with another great performance. He has clearly developed his game under Pep based on last 2 games. And he can shoot 🔥 ⚽🔥 pic.twitter.com/piBvSWsYFo
— City Chief ️ (@City_Chief) April 8, 2017
However, Delph returned in January and while he did not receive much game time in the Premier League, he started 4 FA Cup games and was slowly working his way back into the team. Now, the 27-year-old has played 180 minutes of Premier League football in the last two games and his performances have impressed the onlookers.
Replacing Yaya Toure a huge challenge
Pep Guardiola has several major challenges ahead of next campaign. But, perhaps the most challenging task would be to find a replacement for Yaya Toure. The veteran had been cast aside by Pep Guardiola earlier in the season but he has forced his way back to being a starter for the club.
And his performances show why he still is an indispensable part of the first-team setup at Etihad. On Saturday, Yaya made the whole side tick with his presence in the midfield and was the perfect connector between the defence and attack.
Most passes completed in the Premier League today:
Harry Arter (90)
Yaya Touré (90)
Fabian Delph (74)
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (73) pic.twitter.com/SmEGMI8bu3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 8, 2017
Manchester City all-time greats:
1. Yaya Toure
2. David Silva
3. Colin Bell
In that order. Yaya edges it for me, won us big things..
— BlueCityZen (@BlueCitizen007) April 9, 2017
Fans consider Yaya Toure a legend at City, for all he has achieved at the club, including being a key component in the title-winning squad and being one of the foundation structures for the team that we see today.
But, the player is yet to extend his deal and looks set to depart the club in the summer. His age means that he is no longer a viable part of the first-team project for Guardiola but the Spaniard will surely have to dig deep into the scouting network to find a player who can replace the midfielder at Etihad.
The need to find a natural partner for John Stones
John Stones has been subjected to much criticism since joining Manchester City. The English international has been more exposed at Etihad and his performances have drawn a lot of slack from the onlookers. However, he is slowly getting to grips with what is needed to excel at a big club like City.
On Saturday, he looked assured at the back and on possession while also being adept at moving the ball along to his more creative counterparts. He was dispossessed just once, made two successful tackles and two successful dribbles while boasting a 95% passing success rate.
But, it is the absence of a quality partner for him that is causing more trouble for City. Otamendi has failed to impress and Kompany is too injury-prone to be a regular part of the long-term project under Guardiola, who has often deployed Kolarov at centre-back.
But, Kolarov too is on the wrong side of 30 and is not even a natural centre-back. If City are to challenge for the title more ardently next campaign, Guardiola needs to add a more natural centre-back to the squad; one that can not just boss the position but also aid in Stones’ development into a world-class defender.
City need a better goalkeeper and Pep needs to drop the possession obsession
There is no doubt Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers to take up the game. But, his obsession with 11 passers in the team is unlikely to work in the Premier League. English football is considered the most unforgiving league in the world.
Guardiola’s gamble to isolate Hart and bring in Bravo has already cost City points this season and the manager must prioritise the addition of a goalkeeper – also prioritise the shot-stopping aspect, especially above the technical prowess and the ease-on-the-ball aspect – in the summer.
Claudio Bravo has faced seven shots on target in the Premier League during 2017.
He’s conceded seven goals in that time.
— From The Stands (@FromTStands) April 8, 2017
Bravo was reinstated on Saturday. But, the Chilean was again far from convincing, failing to make a single save. Guardiola must understand that passing success ratio for goalkeeper means nothing if he cannot save shots on a regular basis.
Navas can be Guardiola’s Valencia at Manchester City
Pep Guardiola seems to have a taken a leaf out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book. Premier League needs full-backs who can go from one part of the pitch to the other with pace while also being able to track back. In fact, the right-backs in the Premier League are known for their marauding nature than their defensive prowess.
Kyle Walker and Hector Bellerin are considered two of the best right-backs and both are equally offensive while not being that defensive stout at times.
Jesus Navas with all the criticism is having another decent game at RB. Goal came from his cross and his crossing has been good today.
— City Chief ️ (@City_Chief) April 8, 2017
Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to convert Antoine Valencia into a right-back is perhaps one of the best decisions of the legendary Scot. Valencia is now the first-choice at right-back, drawing praise from every corner, with Jose Mourinho even hailing the player as the best right-back in the world.
And, Guardiola seems to be doing the same with Jesus Navas now. Navas has played 270 minutes in a row as right-back and his performances have been on point. The 31-year-old even got an assist on Saturday and it remains to be seen if he can emulate the overtures of Valencia, on the other half of Manchester.