• Karel L.

City closes the year with a win and leaves its competitors behind

Manchester City achieved a difficult victory against Brentford and thanks to Chelsea's last-minute equalizer, the Citizens now lead the table with an 8-point advantage.

The analysis

As always I will start with the lineup, which by the way looked pretty solid. Pep made 4 changes from the previous game, almost all of them in attack, as this time it was the turn of Foden, Grealish, and Jesus to start.

Speaking of the defense, from the start it seemed to me that Aké would not play left-back, but rather would occupy the position of a third center back and Cancelo would be moved to occupy a more attacking and recovery position alongside Fernandinho and Bernardo to give freedom to Kevin, which did not happen at all.

Another thing that catches my attention and makes me quite happy is that once again City EDS youngsters were included on the bench (Palmer and Mbete), although again neither of them got minutes.

Brentford's approach was very similar to the one used by all the teams in the lower part of the table that face us, that is to say, they accumulated as many players as possible at the back and tried to get a ball to their forwards.

Now entering the development of the match I have to mention that the locals have been one of the teams that have best-closed spaces to face City this season, because although in our field they did not do much, in their territory they pressed very fiercely, which at least at the beginning complicated City.

However, during the first half, there was one detail that surprised me a lot and that was that at times Fernandinho was the one who went down to occupy the 3rd center back position, while Aké and Cancelo moved forward to occupy the midfield and "free" Kevin and Bernardo.

Another detail to highlight is, as I have mentioned many times before, the commitment of the whole team to cover the spaces that are generated, for example, during most of the game, Bernardo Silva was forced to move to the wing as Foden and Grealish had a constant need to participate more in the game, which led them to occupy positions of "midfielders" at times.

And now that I'm talking about Bernardo I want to make an observation about the game he played today. After the game against Leicester, I said that I was surprised how well he linked up with Kevin playing as a false 9, because when both are in the midfield one usually overshadows the other, and today that was the situation.

Kevin had a brilliant afternoon because apart from providing his first assist, he was the one who set the tempo of the game, while Bernardo disappeared for many moments.

I don't know if you share my opinion on this issue, but due to the great importance that the Portuguese have had throughout the season, I hope he is given more opportunities as a false 9 since at least in that game he performed very well.

Going back to this game I would also like to highlight that Bretford played a quite physical game, in fact, they were constantly looking to provoke both Ruben and Laporte.

For the second half, the setup was the same as the one we saw against Leicester and which almost cost us the draw, only 2 center backs, with the full-backs accompanying Fernandinho in midfield and everyone else in attack.

To tell the truth, the game never found a good rhythm, the whole time it was interrupted and extremely physical, so from my point of view, this kind of victories are the most important, against teams that even if technically they are not the best, they are able to put you in trouble because of how "well" they defend.

Finally, I want to make once again a small review of what for me are the negative points, and today rather than focusing on the performance of the team I want to focus on the referee, because this is not the first time (and will not be the last) that we are affected repeatedly.

In addition to this there is also the fact that, as I mentioned last time, Guardiola takes too long to make changes. Although the team was winning, it was clear that no one felt comfortable with the way we were playing, especially considering that they could equalize "at any moment".

Key moments

This match was marked by 2 key moments that determined the course of the game.

- 14' Ederson's save: At this point, the match was 0 - 0 and Ederson made a great save after Ruben almost scored an own goal. As we saw throughout the match, Brentford defended tooth and nail, so not letting them have the lead in the match was vital.

- 15' Cancelo's save on the line + Goal: Just a minute after the last action, Cancelo cleared a ball off the line and thanks to that, City managed to score, as in that same play Kevin crossed for an unmarked Foden who only had to push the ball.

Players of the Match

One of the players to highlight despite today's difficult match is Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian was in charge of providing the assist for Foden (which was his first assist of the tournament, by the way) and was the one who led the team on the pitch. It is also good to see him back to that level where his presence is vital for the team.

The second to be recognized is Foden because despite facing a defense that closed the spaces well, the guy was in charge of generating his own opportunities, which helped us to take the lead.

Last but not least is Rúben. Our center back was constantly provoked by the rivals, in fact on many occasions he received fouls that the referee didn't even bother to call, but he stayed focused and performed very well.

Post-match reactions

· Our coach highlighted Foden's importance to the team. "Exceptional. With Phil, he's already a football player. We don't have any doubts about his quality. We knew it. Since he came to play with us, always he's been exceptional!" [via @primevideosport]

· He also emphasized that there are still a lot of games to come. “We won a game but we are at the end of December with many games to play. We are eight points in front but with 54 still to play. The team after all the years together still fight. [via @ManCity]

· Brentford's coach also gave his impressions of the game "First-half, [we were] unbelievable. We gave one chance away against ManCity; we have the lowest budget, they have the richest budget, the best players, the best manager..." [via @primevideosport]

Who's next?

Manchester City's next match will be on January 1 against Arsenal.