City starts the year with a big win
Thanks to a last-minute goal by Rodri against Arsenal, Manchester City managed to seal the first victory of the year in a match in which they suffered for many moments.
One of the main concerns before the match started was the absence of Foden, who missed the game for not being fully fit, which is why it was more than certain that Jesus would start as a 9, something that had not happened for a long time.
When the line-up was announced, apart from confirming this, the presence of Rodri also stood out, who after several matches out, returned to take over the midfield and give more security to the central defenders.
It is also fair to note that once again the bench was full of extremely talented youngsters like Kayky, Mbete, Palmer, and McAtee and even though none of them got minutes (again), they are slowly starting to become regulars there.
Now, during the first few minutes of the game it looked like for the first time Ake would be playing as a full back, but that was not the case, as barely 10 minutes into the game he was already occupying the third center back position while Cancelo had already moved up to play alongside Rodri in the midfield.
Going more deeply into the analysis of the match, against Brentford I highlighted that for many moments Bernardo disappeared, mostly because he became the man who sacrificed himself to close the spaces left by his teammates and free De Bruyne, but in this game, it was the opposite, in fact, the Portuguese took control of the team for several moments, so if the ball did not pass through his feet City suffered.
Another issue that was clear from the first minutes is that although Fernandinho is a great player and one of the best we have, the difference is very noticeable when Rodri is on the pitch because the Spaniard is at his best, so he does not miss a single pass, gives a clean exit of the ball, recovers (almost always) immediately, etc.
Having said that, I was also quite surprised by Arsenal's initial stance, as one would expect that being a more competitive team than the ones we usually face they would play offensive and try to take the result, but it was not the case, in fact, during the first 20 minutes they did not even try to press in our half, to the point that Ederson was already playing alongside the center backs.
Despite this, I think we have to give them special recognition because few teams manage to make us as uncomfortable as they did today. They were quite competitive and when they realized how they could hurt us they took full advantage of it.
Now, throughout the game, I read a lot of criticism against Ake and although the Dutchman contributed little or nothing offensively, I have to say that he was quite solid at the back and contributed a lot to keep us from losing this game, especially considering that Laporte played one of his worst games since he arrived in England.
For the second half, it was surprising that Guardiola did not adjust anything, because to tell the truth the performance was quite bad.
I must also say that the home side made a lot of mistakes, as despite the goal City still suffered a lot every time Arsenal had the ball and even then they opted to drop back a bit, even when the game was still 11 vs 11.
Finally, as always, I would like to talk about the negative points. First of all, there is Gabriel Jesus, who completely disappeared during the whole game, he didn't make a single outstanding play and he was playing in his natural position. Now, I don't want this to be confused with hate, as Jesus has been one of our best players in these first 6 months of the league, but I do think it's important to see that he no longer feels comfortable playing as a striker.
Added to this is the fact that once again our coach does not make a single substitution. I understand that for the way we were playing changing something could have been counterproductive and he didn't want to risk it, but I find it surprising that having so much talent on the bench he didn't turn around even once to see how any of the guys could help win the game.
This match was marked by 4 important moments, 3 of which occurred in a very short period of time.
- 56' Penalty on Bernardo + Goal by Mahrez: Although the team was gradually regaining possession, it is also true that we were not generating anything up front, so this penalty on Silva that Riyad then converted into a goal was what got us back into the game.
- 58' Ake's save on the line: After scoring the goal, Laporte almost scored an own goal, but fortunately, the Dutchman was alert and saved us from going behind again just a few minutes after scoring.
- 59' Gabriel Magalhães sent off: This was the point at which Arsenal collapsed, as losing one of their central defenders forced them to hide at the back and gave us the opportunity to go further forward.
- 92' Rodri's goal: This moment was vital because thanks to Rodri's goal we were able to maintain the large lead we have against Liverpool and Chelsea.
Players of the Match
When talking about players of the match, I think it is clear that the first one to be highlighted is Rodri, as having the Spaniard back was certainly a good way to start the year. The guy is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world today and without him, this victory would not have been possible.
Another one who will get little recognition but who I think deserves a thank you is Ake, the guy played as a full-back being a central defender and still won several duels against Saka. Also, as I mentioned above, he pulled a ball off the line that could have meant our defeat.
Finally, there is Ederson. The Brazilian continues to show why he is here, as being totally honest, without his presence in goal and his good footwork we probably would have lost this game by a wide margin.
Despite not having a brilliant game I think all fans should applaud the attitude of Cancelo, who despite everything he has experienced in recent days was here giving his all for the team.
• Our coach acknowledged the good play of the opponent but highlighted the different conditions faced by each team.
"Congratulations, they were better. We face a team who had 6-7 days since the last game. We had 2 days and come back and didn't have a team. that's why we put one more player in the middle. It was difficult, we didn't have energy."
• He also highlighted how difficult the season has been.
"We had many cases from Covid this season and injuries - Phil Foden, Kyle [Walker] today was back for the first time - and in this period today we were incredibly tired. Arsenal were better today but football happens."
Manchester City will face Swindon Town next Friday.