Manchester City were held to disappointing draw at home to cross-town rivals United today with City ruing their chances to climb up the table. Guardiola’s boys in blue dominated the game and had a host of chances but none of which were taken.
Anis looks back on the stalemate and draws a few conclusions.
Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling’s drop in form
I have on-going bet with a friend that Raheem Sterling would get 15 league goals and assists this season. As you can imagine, it started off well for me but recently Sterling’s goal contributions have started to dry up. He’s currently on 13, with five games left to play, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fretting it like I have been for most of the season.
In truth, City’s wingers have had an alarming drop in form this past month or so. Sterling has been benched all together and Leroy Sané has seen his effective playing style fizzle away. Consequently, a team which relies on the pace and imagination of its wide players has suffered and such is the poor quality in reserve that Guardiola has no adequate players to come in and fill in for City’s two star players of the season.
United came into the game with one and only one objective – to secure a point. And they succeeded. Part in because City couldn’t convert the many chances they had (City had 16, United had 2) but mostly because the chances created weren’t of a high quality. David Silva’s presence was missed on Sunday against Arsenal and his absence was felt more dearly today against a compact and resolute United defence that couldn’t be unlocked. As for Sané and Sterling, they failed to plug that gap.
Story our season?
Manchester City ended the game with 19 shots (United had 3) and dominated possession at 69%. For the neutral it might have seemed a thoroughly undeserved result but ask any City fan and they will tell you that’s pretty much the norm around here.
City bossed the ball, controlled proceedings throughout most of the game and Vincent Kompany and co. handled Rashford and Martial – United’s only two outlets – relatively well. Pep appeared to have executed his game plan too. So why did tonight feel like a loss?
Perhaps it was because Fellaini was sent off and City should’ve capitalised or perhaps it was because Gabriel Jesus’ winner was called offside leaving everybody with egg on their face for the second time already this season. Either way, it’s difficult to claim City deserved anything more because what happened today has happened on numerous occasions. United may have produced a turgid, stubborn performance but they got what they came for. City didn’t.
Is Vincent Kompany back for good?
One huge positive from tonight was that Vincent Kompany played his third consecutive game and came through unscathed again. He may have been due a rest after two games last week including 120 minutes at Wembley but the captain started and was magnificent again. City look more solid and comfortable with him in the side and I’m sure no-one wants to get ahead of themselves but the signs are looking great for City’s perennially-injured talisman. Long may it continue.
What now for Manchester City?
The derby was City’s last big game of the season in what has been a campaign filled with disappointing performances when it matters most. There is still a lot to play for – Champions League qualification is by no means a formality – yet the season will begin to wind down and eyes will set on the summer and of course the transfer window. There have been positives to take from this season and a few negatives to go with it. Pep Guardiola’s debut campaign may seem luke-warm but there is only so much anyone can do with some of these players. Luckily, no problem is too big (especially this one) that £200m can’t fix.