Manchester City machine creaks stressed but title a move closer
Manchester City fans ‘spent the last minutes howling with the ball to remain hoofed outside of danger’ Photograph: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images
City inside their best have often seemed machine-like but they also never been some sort of war-engine blindly steamrollering opposition; rather the mechanism that drives them is ok and precise and that means that it really is at risk of becoming gummed. The thing that was perhaps most telling was just how the crowd, which from time to time has also been undergoing getting some Alan Ball-era flashback, spent the last minutes howling for the ball for being hoofed forward and due to danger. That, though, isn’t Guardiola way – although there initially were certain players who seemed markedly often accept the ball being forced in their own personal half.
Even more worrying, perhaps, was the way in which simple long balls caught City out again and again. Tottenham had half dozen clear chances, including a plausible shout for any penalty, as well as them originated in runs between or behind both the central defenders. The career in the back four generally was problematic. It often was too big and repeatedly the room between John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, or Stones and Kyle Walker, was wide enough to exit City vulnerable.
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It is difficult to set made that first move to nerves – a reduction in preparation level of today’s rush of fixtures is often a more likely explanation – but the impact ended up being to leave City looking as exposed since they often were in Guardiola’s first season for the club.
While more sanguine City fans, perhaps, will contentedly tick off another obstacle overcome, one has for a long while loomed among two major hurdles alongside Wednesday’s Manchester derby, and reflect that four more wins guarantees the title, others will quickly fret that Burnley and Leicester usually do not seem quite such straightforward opponents when they did last month, even when neither provides a huge amount left to try out for.
Liverpool’s greatest achievement this coming year, perhaps, is usually to push City sufficiently inside title race that the mettle has been tested along with ability.