For once we didn’t get drawn into the group of death in the Champions League but you can only play what’s in front of you. We did just that tonight and we did it rather well.
City dictated every aspect of the game against Feyenoord this evening and it was clear even before kick-off that they were not messing around. A strong team selection from Pep saw Ederson return to the starting line-up sporting a Cech-esque goalkeeper helmet with the only change being Bernardo Silva in for Danilo. The Blues blasted Feyenoord away with two early goals and from there it was always going to be a question of how many more could we put past them? Well, the answer to that is two, we put two more past them.
Anyway enough foreplay, here’s what we learned from the game:
Back three? Back four? Who cares if it works?
In the build up to the game I saw many people on Twitter wanting/expecting a more traditional back four be deployed by City instead of the back three ft. wing-backs that we’ve become accustomed to this season. I too was excited by the prospect of reverting to the formation that allowed us to play some truly frightening attacking football last season. Sané and Sterling bombing down the wings with Aguero or Jesus in the middle to finish the move off. It seems that a 4-3-3 would get the best out of our best players. Well we finally started a game with four at the back but Sané and Sterling remained on the bench.
Instead, Jesus and Bernardo were moved out to the wings, often drifting inside to the middle to allow space for the overlapping pacey full-backs that we finally have. Walker in particular was outstanding down the right hand side, putting in the cross for Aguero for the second goal. I think the main issue about playing the back three/five is that it doesn’t leave any room for the wingers in the team, two of our best performers from last season. It’s clear that Leroy can’t play as a wing-back and I wouldn’t even dream of testing Sterling in that position on the right anytime soon either, but we saw tonight that Pep can alternate between the two formations as he sees fit and I think that will play a major factor in how successful we are in the rest of the season. It will allow for optimal rotation between players as our playing schedule intensifies towards the Christmas period, playing wing-backs one week and wingers the next. So really it’s as Pep sees fit, back three? Back four? Who really cares as long as we win?
Stones is stepping up
How many City fans could have called that Vincent Kompany would get injured as soon as the transfer window closed and we didn’t sign a centre-back? Well, that’s exactly what happened and it left us seriously short at the back – especially if we opt to start with a back three – and someone needed to step up. It looks like Stones is doing exactly that at the moment. Now I know Feyenoord is hardly the biggest test in the world for our defence but we have to give the whole team credit for not letting them play football. It’s very easy to say that they’re a bad team but part of that is down to us not letting them play the way they want and a big part of that was John Stones. He looked so natural with the ball at his feet tonight, Feyenoord were prepared to give us space in our own half and Stones was more than capable of moving forward with the ball and playing cutting passes into the midfield. He looked strong and decisive in the tackle and even managed to keep Otamendi out of any drama for the evening. The sensible figure that the Argentine requires next to him?
This, and I haven’t even mentioned his goals. It feels so good to be a threat from set-pieces again and Stones is exactly the kind of danger in the box that we’ve been missing these past few seasons. Two goals in an away Champions League game is a feat in itself, let alone for a defender. Sergio Ramos eat your heart out.
Two Silvas are better than one
David Silva is probably the best City player I have ever seen play. He doesn’t grab the headlines with his goals and there are players out there with better assist records than him but on the ball he is untouchable. It’s probably the biggest compliment I can give a player that he reminds me of El Mago and I’m giving that compliment to his namesake: Bernardo Silva.
This was his first full 90 minutes in a City shirt and it was a joy to watch. The way the ball seems to stick at his feet and his ability to just take that little extra touch to move the ball away from the oncoming defender is something I’ve had the pleasure of watching David Silva do for years. Now I know it’s very easy to try and create a comparison between players for the sole reason that they have the same name and play in similar positionns, but I think City have picked up a little gem in this guy and I expect so much more from him as the season progresses.