Manchester City put Sean Dyche’s Burnley to the sword this Saturday afternoon after a stunning 5-0 home performance.
After a faltering start to this season, City demonstrated their collective and individual talent still remains within Pep Guardiola’s squad. Slick, aggressive and assured are some of the first words come to mind in one of the most convincing victories City have achieved so far this season.
Of course, Burnley weren't their usual selves and did not defend particularly well but given City’s stuttering performances of late, it was a sight for sore eyes to see the side move the ball sharply and efficiently with willing runners further forward.
With that in mind, here are five things learned from City’s display today...
Take the Ball, Pass the Ball
Some of the quick, intricate, two touch football was something we have not seen anywhere near enough through this opening part of season. We saw it in patches against Wolves, Arsenal & Liverpool but today had an extra dimension of duration. Unlike the Spurs fixture last weekend, City moved the ball with urgency and incisiveness.
That in turn created an inordinate amount of space for players like De Bruyne and Mahrez to operate in. The willing runs of Torres, Mendy and Jesus pushed the Burnley backline towards their own goal and constantly had Dyche’s defence on the back foot, scrambling to keep up.
I should caveat the lack of quality Burnley do possess as this moment in time, but it was a refreshing performance from the Blues to get that crucial second goal when on top and put the game to bed.
Fresh Faced De Bruyne
After not travelling with the squad to Greece for the midweek Champions League tie against Olympiacos, De Bruyne was given a well needed rest after his exploits over the past 18 months. And it certainly showed today that such a rest was warranted.
The Belgian has looked sub-par this season and appeared to gas out around the hour mark. Today however, the playmaker looked back at it. He was central to many of the attacking build up play and was rewarded with another couple of assists, one being a quintessential De Bruyne ball from the right-side of the box to the back post for a sumptuous volley from Mendy.
Even in the 89th minute, De Bruyne had the energy and pace to overlap Mahrez and trigger a lovely shot across goal. Unfortunately, his effort hit the woodwork - a common theme for De Bruyne in a City shirt.
After some harsh albeit warranted words from fans towards the Algerian in recent weeks, the winger had his best performance in sometime today, grabbing his first hat trick in City colours. The talented winger has looked poor in recent games - West Ham & Tottenham come to mind - but today he recaptured the sharp directness we hope to see week in week out.
He moved with such poise and aggressiveness that Mahrez became the main outlet throughout the entirety of the ninety minutes. Burnley failed to double up on the winger and were punished by the Algerian.
Crucially, Mahrez did not slow the play today as much as he has done this season. He played passes quickly and had a calmness in front of goal that looks promising for the fixtures ahead.
A Stepping Stones
It is excellent to see John Stones have two confident back to back performances. Olympiacos and Burnley aren’t the most ferocious attacking sides the centre half will face but his assuredness and commanding presence in the air is something we have not seen since arguably the start of the Centurion season.
The Yorkshireman appears much calmer playing along side Dias so far. His ability on the ball is well documented but his defending has looked much improved in these past two games. He hasn’t lost his man when running off his shoulder or tried to over compensate his progression of the ball, he has simply looked very assured and ready for the competition at the centre half spot.
There will be harder tests in the coming weeks but seeing a committed and improved John Stones at the heart of the defence is something City fans have been hoping for these past 18 months or so.
A Fully Fit Squad
It feels like we have entered a parallel universe where it appears many other clubs such as Leicester and Liverpool are suffering dramatically with injuries at the same time as our squad are all back fit which feels like for the first time in Guardiola’s tenure at the club.
I hope Sterling, Laporte & Aguero were all given rests this weekend, as the rests for Walker and De Bruyne clearly paid off today as they appeared refreshed and lively throughout. I, as many City fans presumably, were very frustrated with another spot on the bench for Foden. But as the fixtures come thick and fast and a key Porto fixture in mid-week, I'm sure the young playmaker will be given more starts in the future.
Nevertheless, the fact we know have a full squad back now in a relentless time of the year is a blessing and will enable Guardiola to rotate the squad and keep the players fresh.
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