Manchester City got their Champions League campaign off to a perfect start with a superb 4-0 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.
Pep Guardiola’s men looked as though the extra 24 hours they’d been given to prepare for the match due to the postponement caused by Tuesday night’s torrential downpour had done them good and opened the scoring after 8 minutes when Sergio Agüero turned in Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross at the near post.
İlkay Gündoğan wasted a good chance to double his side’s advantage when his tame effort was kept out by Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer but then the debutant won a penalty for his team which Agüero duly converted to make it 2-0.
Agüero then completed his hat-trick in the second half when he rounded Sommer having been put through on goal by Raheem Sterling and then Leroy Sane and Kelechi Iheancho – both on from the bench – combined to complete the rout late on.
So that’s seven wins from seven matches for Guardiola. Here’s James Cunliffe with four positives from a night of many.
What a debut it was for İlkay Gündoğan. In just his first game for Guardiola’s City, the German slotted in like the perfect piece to a puzzle. Considering his four month absence previous to last night makes his performance all the more impressive.
The famous “a jack of all trades is a master of none” saying has been cut short quite often. The actual ending to the quote finishes with “but oftentimes better than a master of one” and Gündoğan’s versatility in midfield and array of interests could prove advantageous to City this season.
The ex-Dortmund man is positive on the ball, confident in making the intricate passes, can glide past players with his dribbling technique and is seemingly two-footed. Between Gündoğan and Fernandinho, City hold a neat pair of all-round midfield generals.
Champions League comfort
The relationship between the Champions League and Manchester City has been a rocky one for the past five years. European nights have been entertaining yet stressful for City fans but last night’s 4-0 win was the first time I’ve sat there under the floodlights in a relaxing environment.
#MCFC just made a tricky Champions League game look like a League Cup tie against lower league opposition.
— Typical City (@TypicalCity) September 14, 2016
From start to finish, Guardiola’s City outfit were in control. An early goal to settle the nerves and near 60% possession go hand in hand with a smooth ride for the supporting fans. And speaking of the connection between Blues fans and the Champions League, Guardiola spoke of City fans failing to fill the Etihad on these special nights after the game.
We need them in the Champions League. In the Premier League everyone can see them, but in the Champions League people don’t come. We need them to compete with Europe’s best.
However, due to Tuesday’s thunderstorm postponing the match, City fans had less than 24 hours notice to rearrange and I’m sure matches with Celtic and Barcelona will be more packed. The club offered refunds throughout this time but didn’t put any more tickets up for sale, meaning empty seats were expected with the circumstances. After all, we are a working class club.
Pep’s throat must hurt in the morning
It’s quite refreshing to see a City manager animated on the touchline after three years of Manuel Pellegrini’s sedentary. Pep Guardiola is absolutely relentless and he isn’t afraid of showing his emotions whilst pacing up and down the technical areas either.
You can see the Catalan constantly shouting information to his players throughout the match. Calling them over to instruct at every given opportunity, the City boys are certainly benefiting from this increased level of concentration.
John Stones in particular looks to have an interesting alliance with Guardiola, it’s almost like the boss is a father figure to the young Englishman. If Stones isn’t releasing the ball quick enough or making the right pass, Guardiola has no hesitation in giving him what is known in the trade as “a right bollocking”.
A tactical tweak
From inverted-fullbacks to a pair of number tens in attacking midfield, our eyes have been opened by the tactical genius of the world’s best manager. Over the past two games, a new inventive strategy seems to be developing in City’s centre-backs moving up into centre-midfield at times when Fernandinho or the fullbacks drop in deeper.
More notably it is Stones, the ball-playing centre back, who has been making these small advances forward. Counter-balancing his movement, Fernandinho drops deeper with possession and has the chance to fire the ball into Stones to play through the opposing first pressing line.
The former Everton man has the ability to hold the ball in these areas and with Guardiola exponentially improving his players in the first two months; even Otamendi has calmness about him in possession. Many defenders taking possession in these areas would just look to be safe on the ball but Guardiola allows his players to take risks and be progressive.
Written by James Cunliffe
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