Manchester City sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory over Sunderland with goals from Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane. The win took them to third in the table with a game in hand against second placed Liverpool. Anis looks back on today’s game and praises Leroy Sane, the old guard and a very fine looking City team.
“The people say in the winter transfer window one guy arrived (Gabriel Jesus). I think two arrived. Leroy came here a little bit scared, but after the game against Arsenal, I think something clicked” – Pep Guardiola’s words only a few weeks ago.
Arsenal was in every sense Leroy Sané’s epiphany, the moment he realised he could finally juggle it with the big boys. He had featured only sparingly beforehand and mostly preferred in cup competitions. He’s only managed 315 minutes in eight league games before the game with Arsenal. Post-Arsenal, he’s racked-up 449 minutes in only five league games.
Leroy Sané has all the ingredients to be a top draw football player. He is technically supreme, has a good footballing brain and is built like an athlete with blistering pace. In many ways, he reminds me of a young Gareth Bale.
He is the prototype modern footballer and you can see why he has been such a hit recently. He is deft on the ball but even defter without it, often creating havoc amongst the opposition’s back line with his incredible movement. He controls the ball with both feet and few players use their speed as well as he can. His six goals in the last ten games show he has an eye for goal, too.
Sané has proved to be the perfect foil to Sterling on the opposite flank and watching him grow and develop these past few months has been a privilege. For the German, the sky is the limit.
A strong looking City side
Manchester City look in really good shape at the moment. They’re unbeaten in nine and have now won four consecutive league games, the first time since the start of the season. Looking up the table sit Chelsea, only eights points ahead now. Dropped points at West Ham tomorrow could make things very interesting, especially considering City are still to play Chelsea again this season.
City’s run of form since the Everton defeat has been magnificent. Ever since Gabriel Jesus’ arrival against Tottenham, City have looked a fresher, more dynamic and defensively solid team. You could say, Jesus was the catalyst for this run of form. While his injury derailed what would have been an exciting first couple of months, the benefits Sterling, Sané and even Aguero are still there to see.
Manchester City are ruthless in attack, more fluid than they have ever been all season. Sané, Sterling and Agüero might seem to combine naturally but only because the framework has already been provided for them. Pep has found the right combination up front whilst a settled midfield built around Yaya Toure has brought greater security and protection. Willy Cabellero has helped improve a defence ten fold while the City defenders seem to finally getting to grips with Guardiola’s notoriously detailed positional play system. They know where to be on the pitch and when. How to pick up the ball from the keeper and where to place it. Playing in a Guardiola team you have constantly think two, three steps ahead and I think, that is what is beginning to happen.
The old Guard do it again
I am quite possibly the biggest Yaya Toure fan in the world and have been his staunchest defender across the years, yet even I have to admit at how surprised I have been by his performances since he returned. He has quite literally saved our season. While Fernandinho and Gündogan had begun to fall away to poor form, suspension and injury, he made the deep-lying playmaker role his own.
A guy who many said could never play in a Pep side has now become its instrumental cog. It is testament to his calibre that Toure could come back, play as the deepest midfielder at the age of 33, and continue bossing Premier League midfields like he always has been. And even in the tough, crunch European games where so many continued to doubt him, he shone against against the goal-scoring machine that is AS Monaco.
His partner in crime, David Silva has done no worse either. It might only be March but this could possibly be his best season in a City shirt. At 31, he has the maturity and experience to play a deeper role that he might not have had before and this City side are all the better for it. Agüero too a member of the old guard (ableit being only 28) was another fine performer against Sunderland.
Guardiola might be looking towards the future with this squad but for the moment – at least – he knows he can continue to rely on the same players everyone else has relied for the last six years.