So we’ve done it, we’ve made it through Pep’s first game unscathed… just about. Whilst it wasn’t a fantastic performance by the Blues, there were plenty of positives to take from the game. Let’s take a look at how the individual players performed on the opening day of the 2016/2017 Premier League season.
Willy Caballero – 7
Given the nod ahead of fan-favourite, Joe Hart, the pressure was on Caballero to perform. His distribution was generally good, apart from one or two stray passes in the first half which didn’t lead to any major chances for Sunderland. The Argentine didn’t have much to do in terms of goalmouth action, apart from one very good reflex save from Jermaine Defoe in the first half. There wasn’t too much he could have done about the goal.
Bacary Sagna – 6
Sagna returned to training fairly late, and some expected Pablo Zabaleta to start ahead of him. He didn’t show any signs of tiredness though, playing the full 90 minutes for City. Sagna was solid at the back as usual, but will need time to adapt to the role of ‘inverted full-back’.
John Stones – 7.5
Stones was thrown into the starting line-up after just three days of training with the team, but he was his usual calm self on the ball, adding some much needed composure to our back line. He maybe could have intercepted Jack Rodwell’s through ball to Defoe but it would be pretty harsh to fault his performance.
Aleksandar Kolarov – 6.5
The much-maligned Serbian did nothing to enhance his reputation amongst the City fans after giving away a series of unnecessary free-kicks. However, Kolarov was solid defensively and looked much more comfortable in centre-back than he had previously in pre-season, striding out of defence to make a pass on a number of occasions.
Gael Clichy – 7
Clichy looked much more at home playing in his new role as an inverted full-back than his French compatriot, Bacary Sagna, did. Clichy also did well defensively and played some delightful passes, the highlight of which was a well-weighted through ball to David Silva in the first half. He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho when City were chasing the win.
Fernandinho – 8
City’s midfield engine played to his usual brilliant standard. Fernandinho was a constant option for a pass into midfield, covered in defence whenever one of the centre-halves went forward, and also moved into centre-back during the last ten minutes of the game. Pep has claimed that Fernandinho can play in ten positions, and you can certainly see why he thinks that way. He made some crucial interceptions in the closing stages, and we should consider ourselves lucky to have such a versatile and hard-working, yet technically gifted player.
David Silva – 7
Silva was expected to start this game, just not in the position that he did. He played in a deeper role, slightly ahead of Fernandinho. Like his midfield partner, he was always available for a pass, and we certainly lost some composure when he was replaced by Fabian Delph.
Kevin De Bruyne – 6
De Bruyne also returned to training late, after being given extra time off as a result of his partner giving birth and an extended run in Euro 2016. He wasn’t quite his usual self, making the wrong decision on a couple of occasions, and producing a couple of wayward shots which killed an attack. It wasn’t a terrible performance by the Belgian, and getting a full 90 minutes under his belt will be of benefit in his bid to regain the form he showed last season.
Raheem Sterling – 9 (Man of the Match)
Plenty has been made of Raheem Sterling’s disappointing performances at Euro 2016, but the 21 year-old silenced his critics with a fantastic display today. Sterling did brilliantly to draw the challenge from Patrick Van Aanholt which led to Aguero’s opening goal from the penalty spot, and was a constant thorn in the side of both Van Aanholt, and Donald Love on the opposite flank. It was a very promising display, which will hopefully boost Sterling’s confidence.
Nolito – 6
Nolito put plenty of effort in on his competitive debut for the Blues, but there was a touch of Jesus Navas about him today – lacking in end product. It was far from a disastrous performance by Nolito, but he will have to improve if he wants to keep his place, with Leroy Sané set to return to fitness next week.
Sergio Aguero – 6
It’s a testament to how well Sunderland defended that I have given Sergio this mark, despite him opening the scoring. Aguero didn’t really do anything wrong, mainly because he wasn’t allowed any time on the ball by Younes Kaboul and Lamine Koné. Aguero cut an isolated figure at times, and will improve once Kevin De Bruyne returns to his best. He took his penalty very well, as per usual.
Jesus Navas – 7
He struggled to get into the game initially, having replaced fellow Spaniard, Nolito. When he did manage to get a bit of time on the ball, he made it count. Navas provided a delightful ball into the box, which turned out to be the assist for the winning goal, as Paddy McNair could do nothing, apart from divert his cross into the back of his own net. Two assists in two games for Jesus, after providing the cross for Kelechi’s consolation against Arsenal in Gothenburg.
Fabian Delph – 6
Delph failed to really stamp his mark on the game, with City losing a bit of composure after he replaced David Silva. One thing which can be said for Delph, is that he put in 110% as usual, a trait that will always be rewarded by the City fans.
Kelechi Iheanacho – n/a
Kelechi was brought on for Gael Clichy with ten minutes to go, and didn’t really see much in the way of the ball, apart from one blocked shot. He maybe should have been brought on slightly earlier in order to provide some support for Aguero.
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