• Karel L.

Big win for City at Villa Park

Manchester City managed to take the 3 points home after a very difficult match against Aston Villa. Thanks to this result, City remains second in the Premier League, only one point behind Chelsea.

The analysis

At first, the lineup seemed quite strange, and it was difficult to understand why Guardiola needed to send two defensive midfielders to the pitch because on paper the reality is that Aston Villa did not look like an opponent that deserved that kind of precautions, although throughout the game it became clear that perhaps it was more a matter of available players.

As for the attack, the Spaniard coach repeated what worked last game, Mahrez, Sterling and Gabriel together in a constant movement and rotation to get spaces and opportunities.

Villa opted for an approach similar to the one chosen by all the teams that face City, a midfield as solid as possible, in this case with Douglas Luiz who is an expert in long balls and with a fast attack to have some advantage in counterattacks and transitions at speed.

Already at the start of the game, one of the things that, from my point of view, worked best was to move Rodri further forward and give him the freedom to move all over the pitch because his usual position was being occupied by Dinho.

This risky proposal turned out to be very good, first because of the Spaniard's passing precision, but also because he is very good at recovering, so, if before he recovered in our field due to the position where he played, now he could do it in the opponent's field.

Another important detail throughout the game was Fernandinho, a key man in this kind of complicated matches because he has a special ability to understand the perfect moment to press and support the teammate, which, in most cases, ended in recovery in our favor.

Apart from that, on the defensive issue I think there is something that needs to be highlighted and that is that constant understanding and commitment of the whole team when it comes to defending, because when Zinchenko was thrown into the midfield to try to create more chances, someone always occupied the fullback position. Sometimes it was Sterling, sometimes Ake, but we were never vulnerable.

Talking a bit about the opponent, the reality is that they started to lose their ideas after Bailey's injury, because besides being an emotional blow, this moment came right after the goal.

I also think it is necessary to mention that Sterling drove the Villa defenders crazy, they never knew how to stop him, he was a total nightmare for them.

In addition to this dynamism, there was also the fact that Jesus never had a fixed position during the whole game, he moved everywhere, appeared both on the wings and in the middle, inside or outside the box, etc.

However, despite the fact that the locals were not devastating by any means, they compensated their disorganization with aggressiveness and enthusiasm, which complicated the game for many moments.

Finally, I think it is necessary to highlight Pep's attitude towards this kind of matches, as he did not give the rival the opportunity to reach the goal with clarity, in fact, all his final approaches were balls into the box in the hope that someone would miraculously appear to score the goal.

And I highlight this because if you remember, these kinds of matches were the ones we usually ended up losing due to a lack of concentration or for looking for the third when there was no need to do so.

Key moments

This match was marked by 4 key moments that determined the course of the game.

- 26 ' Rúben Días' goal: This moment was decisive, firstly because of what it means for the team's morale when the captain scores and secondly because it came at a time when Villa felt very comfortable and when we were losing control of the game.

- 30' Bailey's injury: Up to that point in the game, Bailey had been one of the most important players for the home team, as he was in charge of leading every counterattack, so losing him made them look much less dangerous and they no longer had as much speed upfront.

- 58' Ake and Rúben's great defensive play: When the match looked more complicated, one of the most important actions of the match happened, which prevented Villa from equalizing the score. In that play, Watkins won Cancelo's back and crossed for a teammate who appeared almost alone. Fortunately for us, our two central defenders were attentive and prevented the opponent from shooting comfortably.

- 75’ Ederson's save: At this moment, the Brazilian goalkeeper managed to stop a great shot in front of him in the box, which prevented an equalizer that could have complicated the result a lot.

Players of the Match

One of the men who stood out most during the match was Sterling. The English attacker has now had a few games playing in his natural position, which has restored his confidence and helped show those flashes of genius we once enjoyed. In truth, Raheem has always been and will always be criticized and hated for the mistakes he makes, but it is unfair that he is given so little recognition when he delivers performances like today's.

Another name that always stands out when we talk about the best player of the match is Bernardo, as the Portuguese has a great ability to hold the ball and distribute and recover, which was very necessary for City, in addition to scoring an impressive goal.

Finally, I would like to recognize the work of Zinchenko, because his contribution in midfield was brutal throughout the match. The Ukrainian appeared many times to press and defend in areas where nobody expected him, he rotated positions and helped both Rodri and Fernandinho in the recovery and also gave fluidity to the team, in my opinion, he was the one who pulled the strings of the match.

Post-match reactions

· Pep rated the team's performance highly. “We came here against an incredible team with quality and top players and the way we played in the first half and even the second was magnificent.” [via @ManCity]

· In addition, the Spaniard spoke about Bernardo Silva and his importance in the league. “(He is) The best player in the league at the moment.” [via @spbajko]

· Rúben Dias also spoke about his goal and what it meant to him. "It was a special goal for me! It is a very important win today way against a team that are on fire under a new manager. Very important to get the three points. Everyone fought a lot and we are very happy." [via @ManCity]

Who's next?

Manchester City's next game is against Watford on Saturday.