After the last meeting between Manchester City and Napoli, many thought that Pep was being deliberately hyperbolic by describing Napoli as one of the best sides he has ever faced. Tonight’s game showcased exactly why he felt that way. No team this season has managed to pile on such unrelenting pressure over a consistent period of time against this City team.
For the majority of the first half City looked second best and the opening of the second half followed the same pattern. Fortunately though, even a great team like Napoli cannot contain City for long. Dominance and goals followed with a deserving win sealing qualification for the knockout stages in the new year.
John Stones is on Another Level
Not enough people are praising Stones for the sharp upturn in the quality of his performances this season. The player we have seen over the opening months of the campaign is a far cry from the nervy, prone to mistakes player that we saw last year. Tonight was a fine example of just how far he has come during his short time at the club. Everyone knows how good Stones is with the ball, but he has surpassed his own reputation right now. In the midst of an intense and co-ordinated Napoli press, he never once looked flustered. Nor did he thump the ball forward needlessly like the rest of his team mates during the opening exchanges. Rather, he was the foundation of City’s positional play. His level-headedness and willingness to spend those extra few seconds on the ball allowed his team mates to move and find space ahead of him. Couple that with his stellar defensive work and City have their leader at the back for years to come.
Passivity Does Not Suit Us
As good as Napoli played during the opening thirty five minutes, some of the blame must fall at the feet of Pep and his players. Instead of playing with our usual levels of intensity and aggression, it seemed as if we were content to allow Napoli to build with the ball from the back. Whilst it is a decision I understand Pep taking (Napoli excel at breaking the opposition’s press and attacking at speed), it was ultimately ineffective. City couldn’t advance the ball up the pitch with any consistency and wave after wave of Napoli pressure followed. It wasn’t until we began to crave our usual dominance of the ball that the match began to turn in our favour.
Whether we intended to be so passive at the start of the game is up for debate, but one thing isn’t: we cannot play to our highest level when we surrender control of the ball so easily.
Agüero Finally Crowned as City’s Greatest Goalscorer
It has been on the cards for seemingly forever, but finally Sergio has done it. Whilst it wasn’t a vintage performance from the Argentine, the way he broke the record was a brilliant summary of what he brings to City. Sharp, fast and clinical all it took was a brief moment of freedom for him to score. That is what he has always been for City, the man on the pitch who only needs a half chance to fire one into the back of the net.
Tonight was another huge game for the club, another game that it was essential we do not lose. Who was there to score the winner? Sergio, of course. It couldn’t have happened in a better way and here’s to him scoring many, many more.
Sergio Aguero became Manchester City’s all-time record goalscorer with his goal against Napoli.
The City Store has celebrated his achievement by releasing a new range! Check it out!