Manchester City show why Premier League is theirs to lose, though the flaws are there


MANCHESTER, England — For the first 25 minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day, Manchester City confirmed why they’re favourites to win the Premier League title once more this season. Then, for the opening 20 minutes of the second half, they confirmed why they won’t.

Pep Guardiola’s aspect barely had to sweat out their Christmas dinner to rating 4 occasions inside half an hour in opposition to Leicester City. Had it not been for 2 skilled saves from Kasper Schmeichel and a few near-misses, they may have had eight earlier than half-time.

But then got here a reminder that even City are able to capturing themselves in the foot, and when Leicester scored for a 3rd time in simply 10 minutes after the break to make it 4-3, there had been some fearful faces amongst the residence followers — maybe remembering that well-known 4-4 draw between Newcastle and Arsenal greater than a decade in the past.

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The panic was short-lived thanks to two extra City targets to make it 6-3, however over the course of the recreation that they had not been as dominant as the scoreline advised or, certainly, as Guardiola would have hoped for, significantly after such a quick begin.

“It was a roller-coaster, a typical Boxing Day with a lot of goals, for everyone it was an entertaining game,” stated Guardiola afterwards. “It was a nice game to watch and three more points. We keep going. The quality of players we have produced this amount of actions to score goals. No manager and tactics can solve it without the quality.

“It was bizarre. Even at 4-0 in the first half, each time that they had the ball they arrived in the remaining third delivering good passes. They moved quite a lot of gamers. They have quite a lot of high quality. They are a grasp of counter-attacks.”

Leicester, ravaged by illness and injury, can have no complaints about the result, but Guardiola will no doubt be concerned that his team managed to concede 14 shots and eight on target despite having had 72 percent possession. When Kelechi Iheanacho made it 4-3 on 65 minutes — Leicester’s third goal a 10-minute span, City’s vulnerability on the break made it feel almost inevitable they would concede again. They were fortunate Leicester went to sleep at a corner just four minutes later, allowing Aymeric Laporte to head in a fifth and giving the hosts some much-needed breathing space.

Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and a penalty every from Raheem Sterling — ferociously disputed by Rodgers — and Riyad Mahrez saw City race into a 4-0 lead after just 25 minutes. Rodgers responded at half-time by switching to a back three; James Maddison and Ademola Lookman scored twice in four minutes before Iheanacho turned in the third to give the Leicester fans who didn’t leave early hope they might be witnessing a Christmas miracle, only for City to sort themselves out just in time. Laporte’s header turned the momentum and three minutes from time, Sterling got his second to make it six.

After scoring seven in opposition to Leeds and 4 in opposition to Newcastle, City have hit 17 targets of their final three video games. These are horrifying numbers, particularly with no recognised striker, however then a few of their defending was scary, too. Liverpool and Chelsea will not be throwing in the towel simply but.

“Clearly we didn’t make a great start,” admitted Rodgers. “You expect to be up against it. The second goal was nowhere near a penalty. It’s so frustrating. Paul Tierney, the VAR, has missed very physical challenges in the last few weeks, but deems that a penalty. He [Laporte] has fallen over. Before you know it, we’re 4-0 down in the opening 25 minutes.

“At half-time, we stated to the gamers can we win the second half, can we get nearer to them? The greatest issue was it was so necessary not to unravel bodily and mentally. They’ve by no means accomplished that. At 4-0 away, with everybody going in opposition to us, it might have been straightforward for the gamers to try this. But they did not. At 4-3, we’re disillusioned with set-pieces.”

Guardiola has such a strong squad that while a number of Premier League teams are struggling to field teams due to the ongoing wave of coronavirus cases and postponements, he could again afford to leave Jack Grealish and Phil Foden on the bench against Leicester, having been left out again at Newcastle as punishment for a disciplinary issue. He has a galaxy of attacking stars to choose from but Leicester’s second-half onslaught — much of it built on swift, efficient counter-attacks — perhaps gave evidence of how important Rodri has develop into.

The Spanish midfielder was absent and he was a giant miss at the base of the midfield. It’s no coincidence that this season City’s win share with Rodri in the staff is 86 p.c. Without him, it drops to 29 p.c.

The most necessary statistic from Guardiola’s standpoint, nonetheless, will probably be that regardless of their transient wobble, City have gained 9 league video games in a row. It is the basis of the kind of run that wins titles. After displaying off their finest and worst in opposition to Leicester, the greatest impediment to retaining the trophy could also be themselves.

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