Match Coverage

City are now a real Guardiola side and the sky is the limit: What We Learned from Watford vs. Man City

Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Manchester City scored their 15th goal in six days when they swamped Watford at Vicarage Road. It was a continuation of the dominant, potent play seen against Liverpool and Feyernoord mid-week and was a further statement to the teams around them in the league.

Here’s what I learned from today’s 6-0 victory against Watford.

As good it as it gets?

15 goals. Six days. A 50-shot barrage. An average of 68.5% possession. It was another speechless display and it has got people thinking: Was that as good as it’s ever been?

Think back to those surreal 20-odd games in Pellegrini’s first season across the winter period where we went unbeaten or the illustrious home form we showed in Mancini’s title winning season. This week has been that level of dominance and more – a much more stringent defence than Pellegrini’s side and a fiercer attacking force than Mancini’s. Pep Guardiola has finally brought the magical results from his time in Spain and Germany to England and what a pleasure – what a delight it has been to witness it.

A classic Pep Guardiola defence

After the sheer lunacy at the back in the past few seasons, this season has been a welcome throwback to when we could actually defend and keep clean sheets. Kompany, no Kompany. Otamendi, no Otamendi. Every player has finally understood the structure and system Guardiola has tried to put in place and the specific roles you must follow to sustain it. It might have taken a lot longer than we expected but it seems Manchester City are finally there – a team that defends like titans, puts in a shift for each other and moves as a collective unit.

John Stones is rapidly ascending the defensive pecking order after three surreal back-to-back performances while Mendy and Walker’s performances have frozen the brilliant Danilo out of the side. Fernandinho and most importantly, Kevin De Bruyne are racking up incredible defensive numbers to help shield the defence and build up play effectively.

Yet, most crucially, the defence has benefited from a fresh midfield and attacking line that presses from the front. Pep Guardiola flat-out refused to blame his defence after some games last season instead focusing his criticism on what he felt was inadequate work done by his forward in shutting down space. His words clearly then have not fallen on deaf ears as the kilometres and high-intensity sprints produced by players like Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero are testament to the work in progress this side has been.

The Boys are Back in Town

It’s ridiculous to think – well, watching now anyways – that some people thought Jesus and Aguero could never play together. The sample size was of course small if not particularly special either and truth be told nothing really clicked offensively for Manchester City until Sadio Mané was sent off last week. Jesus and Aguero had finally found their ‘killer’ touch and punished Liverpool for it. All it took was a little luck to see finally converting chances at a fair rate – unlike Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge.

But the magic really started to happen when Pep reverted to a back four and slid Jesus and Aguero into a front three together. It may sound awkward and forced but ask Feyenoord or Watford because it’s been anything but.

With Jesus and Aguero fluidly occupying whichever channel their heart desires, there was space granted behind them for Raheem Sterling or Bernardo Silva. Neither scored a non-penalty goal this week but both were massively influential in sealing both victories. Popping up centrally, cutting wide and attacking the heart of the opposition defence. You can see now why Pep was so desperate to get his hands on Alexis Sanchez and the sheer devastation the Chilean could have caused in a central role. But Sterling and Bernardo aren’t bad choices either are they?

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