This was never going to be the easiest of games against an Aston Villa team eager to impress their new manager Remi Garde in his first proper game in charge but City must ultimately reflect upon the goalless draw as two points dropped rather than one point gained. The Blues controlled the match from the first minute to the last but were unable to make the breakthrough despite creating a string of decent openings in the second half, and one has to wonder whether Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to play without a recognised striker for much of the afternoon after Wilfried Bony limped off in the 25th minute was the correct one. Here’s how I rated the individual performances on the day:
1 Joe Hart – 7/10
Didn’t have a single shot to save all afternoon but was quick off his line to smother a promising Villa attack in the second half and distributed the ball well. Another clean sheet to add to his tally but it’s unlikely to be one he’ll celebrate too wildly.
3 Bacary Sagna – 7/10
Was a little sloppy in possession in the first half but generally acquitted himself well, particularly in terms of his link-up play with Jesús Navas. Sagna’s played an awful lot of football in Pablo Zabaleta’s absence this season but, thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be taking its toll at the moment.
4 Vincent Kompany – 8/10
Was completely unfazed by anything Villa’s attackers had to throw at him and began several attacks for his own team with some smart passes out of defence. City have looked so much more assured defensively since Kompany’s return from injury and if he can stay fit, it’s a really solid platform on which to build the rest of the season.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 8/10
Showed again today why City were so keen to secure his signature during the summer with an outstanding defensive display. He won all of his aerial duels, played the ball out from the back well and won it back for his team on several occasions when it appeared he only had a 25% chance of doing so. Very impressive.
11 Aleksandar Kolarov – 6/10
Offered his usual level of tireless support in attack but his crossing was poor today, the one he blazed high over the bar in the second half being particularly frustrating. Gaël Clichy’s return from injury finally gives Pellegrini the opportunity to rotate his left-backs and I expect he won’t hesitate to do so in future fixtures.
6 Fernando – 7/10
The renaissance of the much maligned Brazilian continued with another solid display against Villa. He’s one of the least technically gifted footballers in City’s squad but sometimes it’s important to have someone on the pitch who plays the way they’re facing, does the simple things well and wins the majority of their 50/50s. Fernando’s inclusion in a three man midfield in recent weeks has made his team harder to beat and he was very nearly the hero of the day against Villa when his injury time header cracked off the crossbar.
25 Fernandinho – 7/10
Didn’t quite impose himself on the game in the same way he did in mid-week against Sevilla but did his usual job of knitting City’s defence and attack together well. Seemed to spend much of the afternoon in an unnecessarily deep position when a more attacking Fernandinho could have been the difference between City winning and drawing, but I suppose you’d have to take that up with the manager rather than the player.
42 Yaya Toure – 6/10
The team generally seems to be benefiting from Yaya being given less defensive responsibility of late but it’s up to the big man to deliver in an attacking sense and, against Villa, he didn’t do so. His pass to release Raheem Sterling on the break in the first half was a smart one but that was about as good as the day got from the Ivorian’s point of view and it seems he can rarely be relied upon to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and drive his team forward anymore.
7 Raheem Sterling – 7/10
Played with confidence following an excellent performance in the last match and probably looked the most likely player in a City shirt to score, but the hit and miss nature of his end product means you’d be a fool to put money on him doing so. His decision to cut in on his right foot when through on goal in the first half was a bad one, as was his decision to go down in search of a penalty when staying on his feet might still have yielded a chance. He’s a dangerous player most of the time, but he’s also an unreliable one at the moment. In fairness, he was very unlucky not to score in the second half when his close-range header hit Villa ‘keeper Brad Guzan in the face.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 6/10
Not one of De Bruyne’s best afternoons in a City shirt, I’m afraid. At times he showed some nice touches and his low cross from deep which just evaded Sterling in the first half was a very good one but he was guilty of squandering City’s best chance of the game in the second half when he appeared to try and flick the ball in from seven yards out rather than just burying it. As good as he is, the Belgian perhaps can’t be expected to be a match-winner every week and David Silva’s impending return should hopefully ease the creative burden on the 24-year-old’s shoulders.
14 Wilfried Bony – Came off too early to mark
Didn’t have much involvement in the game before he limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury in the 25th minute. His first touch was a superb one to release De Bruyne down the right, his second touch was dreadful, and his third touch was a tackle. Thankfully, he probably couldn’t have picked a better time to get injured, what with Sergio Agüero expected to be back in action following the international break.
15 Jesús Navas – 7/10
Pellegrini’s decision to bring on Navas in place of Wilfried Bony was always likely to be a controversial one but I don’t think we can have too many complaints with the Spaniard’s performance. He gave his team width and pace down the right and though his crossing wasn’t always perfect, the ball he whipped onto Sterling’s head in the second half was as good as you’ll see.
18 Fabian Delph – Came on too late to mark
Managed to overcome the taunts of the grown men brandishing inflatable plastic snakes in the crowd with a solid 15 minute cameo and was a yard away from scoring a riot-inducing winning goal in injury time. It’ll be interesting to see where he fits into the squad in the coming weeks given the current form of Fernando and Fernandinho.
72 Kelechi Iheanacho – Came on too late to mark
It’s difficult not to wonder whether the day might have panned out differently had Pellegrini opted to make a like-for-like substitution when Bony went off injured rather than opting to play without a recognised striker for much of the match. Perhaps the Chilean doesn’t see Kelechi as a lone striker at the moment, but the 19-year-old has proved himself to be a more than capable member of the squad during his limited time on the pitch this season and he almost set-up the winning goal in this match when his superb cross found the head of Fernando in injury time. Today was a perfect chance to display some faith in the young Nigerian but like the game as a whole, it’ll have to go down as an opportunity missed.
Written by Dan Burke