Manchester City move up to second place in the Premier League table with a game in hand following a clinical 4-0 victory against Crystal Palace.
Four goals, three points, two for Stones and a clean sheet – City are well and truly in the driving seat and climbing up the table in fashion. The shortfalls Pep Guardiola has previously faced against Crystal Palace were quickly forgotten, as a rampant City side controlled the game from the starting whistle.
The score line was opened when John Stones leaped brilliantly to head home a sublime outside of the boot delivery from Kevin De Bruyne just before the half hour mark. The lead was doubled early into the second half, when Gundogan dispossessed Andros Townsend just outside of the box, and after some fancy footwork curled a delightful effort into the top corner of Guaita’s net.
The day just got better and better for Stones, who further compounded City’s lead when he prodded home a loose ball from a mis-cleared corner – his second goal of the night and second of his Premier League career. The night was capped off when Raheem Sterling curled a spectacular free kick into the top corner, somewhat making up for his penalty miss against Brighton last week.
Here are five things we have taken following today’s performance...
John Stones is yet again proving that he is more than worthy of a starting position in the squad. The acrobatic leap and strong header from De Bruyne’s delivery that opened the scoring was a finish you would expect to see from Sergio Ramos, not John Stones – who struggled to make it into the team this time last year.
Stones capped off the performance when he stabbed home a loose ball to make it three-nil and left the Etihad with yet another clean sheet. This is the eighth win from nine appearances so far this season for ‘The Barnsley-Beckenbauer’, and amazingly he still does not look like he is close to reaching the peak of his form.
The Hundred Club
Now I am not entirely sure what match Graeme Souness was watching in the first half – but I am certain that I am not the only spectator who thought his 100th Man City assist was one of the best of the bunch. The outside of the foot technique, the accuracy, the disguise of the delivery – everything about the assist was just sheer brilliance and Kevin yet again proved why he is one of the world’s best.
Out of all the Premier League players since Kevin signed for the Blues in 2015 – Christian Eriksen is the closest player to him in assist statistics – and he still sits some thirty away from the Belgian. De Bruyne’s class is ever-growing, and after the countless top-tier performances this season you would really expect City to offer him a contract extension soon.
Points against Palace
There is no denying that Crystal Palace have been a thorn in Pep’s side over the past two seasons, with The Citizens only managing to take one point at home from the last two home affairs. If last night’s performance is anything to go by however though – then I am pretty sure Pep will be waking up on his 50th birthday with a smile on his face.
This is now the fifteenth consecutive unbeaten game in all competitions this season – with the last loss coming way back in November when City succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to Spurs. Despite the somewhat shaky start to the current campaign – things are starting to look much brighter, and a win against Villa on Wednesday will leave City in top spot in the Premier League.
A player that I am growing more and more impressed with each week is Ilkay Gundogan. For someone who can sometimes be overlooked given the talent around him and mistakes that he has made in previous games – the German is really finding his feet this season and showing a ‘Stones-esque’ surge in form.
He is definitely playing with more confidence on the ball which is proving to be a huge bonus for City when it really matters. He swiped the ball away from Townsend’s feet and danced around him effortlessly before finessing the ball into the top corner, a perhaps uncharacteristic finish for a player of Gundogan’s character and style. Let us hope that these performances become routine in the future.
Take it to the transfer market
A performance like that does not bare the weight of many negative lessons to take home, but one thing that remains on my mind is the need for City to utilise the transfer market in the summer. Recent reports suggesting around £200m being made available for Guardiola to spend are indeed welcoming, but these funds have to be spent on the right people for City to continue to dominate English football.
Aguero’s fitness doubts are growing increasingly concerning and fans will be lucky if he manages to pluck out many more top-tier performances that have been seen over the past few years. Jesus is lacking the physical prowess in and around the penalty area, and although he has nimble footwork with the ball at his feet, he is still a way off reaching the levels of his South American compatriot. Let’s keep an eye on the upcoming transfer buzz around the Etihad over the next few months – the need for a new striker is exciting, and names like Lautaro Martinez, Joao Felix and superstar Erling Haaland will certainly leave some mouths watering.
Aston Villa travel to The Etihad midweek for more Premier League action – with Guardiola hoping to make it sixteen games without loss and tighten up the title race.
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