Manchester City bounced back from their Leicester mauling to beat Watford 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium. Goals from Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva sealed the deal as City fought to make up lost points.
Here’s what Anis learned from today’s victory.
Pep goes back to basics
Guardiola went back to a fundamental set-up in the wake of a heavy loss to Leicester and a downward-spiralling cycle of form. The ‘back threes’ that were have been a feature of recent games were gone and in came a side that looked more like the early season line-ups that proved so successful.
Zabaleta and Clichy came in at full-back, Gundogan held the midfield while Nolito lead the line in the absence of Kelechi Iheanacho. Elswhere, Raheem Sterling made his long-awaited return.
Manchester City flew out of the blocks, again reminiscent of their early season form, and put Watford under a host of pressure in the first half. Yaya and De Bruyne came close before the latter broke free and whipped in a superb ball for Zabaleta to prod home. Watford came into the game in high spirits after thumping Everton yet they were quickly rattled by City’s explosive attacks.
But as the game went on, Gundogan collapsed and nerves started to manifest itself in the form of something City supporters had known all too well before. Against Southampton, Middlesborough and Everton, City dominated the visiting side but failed to see the game through. So when Amrabaat laid a goal on a silver platter for Igahlo, heartbreak almost felt inevitable. But luck was on City’s side today and fate saw to it that Iaghlo would miss from point-blank range. Only minutes later, David Silva played a one-two with Raheem Sterling and smashed home to give City their deserved lead.
After so much tinkering and constant chopping and changing, Pep knew a calm and collected win was all he needed from Watford and he almost got that. I am not a firm believer in the don’t fix it if ain’t broke mantra but today showed a Guardiola comprising for the greater good. He’s an ever-evolving pragmatic tactician but he’s also a good football coach and going back to a proven and settled system was a move well-played.
Ilkay Gundogan’s injury blow
Ilkay Gundogan’s injury is a massive blow to City’s hopes and aspirations this season even if – let’s face it – he has been poor this season.
The German seemed to have aggravated the knee which bore him so much trouble this calendar year. He tried to run it off, which suggests it wasn’t a repeat of his dislocation, but couldn’t continue and Pep reckons he’ll be out for quite some time.
Gunodgan’s career at City has been very hot and cold, producing some big performances on the European stage but seriously underwhelming in the league at times. We had to accept that he had just recovered from a horrible injury of his own so to see him go off in tears after slowly finding his feet wasn’t a particularly nice sight. The early suggestions are that he will be missing for several months which means he could be eying a return for when City need him the most – in Europe.
As for now, Yaya Toure should start seeing some regular action and hopefully Fabian Delph can come back alive some time soon to provide the cover we could desperately need in the coming months.