Manchester City made it eight wins out of eight this season when they beat AFC Bournemouth 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The incredible Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring for City in the 15th minute when his free kick crept under Bournemouth’s wall and past a statuesque Artur Boruc in goal.
City then went 2-0 up 10 minutes later when Kelechi Iheanacho started and finished a breathtaking, sweeping counter-attack.
Iheanacho then turned provider in the second half, teeing up Raheem Sterling for a tap in (that he did his best to miss) and then İlkay Gündoğan, making his Premier League debut, made it 4-0 when he latched on to De Bruyne’s brilliant through ball.
The only sour note of the day came four minutes from time when Nolito was stupidly sent off for aiming a tame headbutt at Bournemouth’s Adam Smith.
The win means City are sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table, five points clear of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool and six points clear of Manchester United. Here’s James Cunliffe with four pieces of wisdom from a fine day at the office for Pep Guardiola and co.
What a picture! 😎 pic.twitter.com/zSFFImT9FG
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 17, 2016
Chalked to the touchline
This week there’s been talk of Pep Guardiola using chalk in training to mark specific positions on the wing Raheem Sterling should be taking up. This is all down to the Catalan not wanting Sterling to drift inside as much as he has been doing because pinning his opposing fullback out wide frees up needed space for others to roam into. This was all evident in the win against Bournemouth.
On numerous occasions Sterling found himself in acres down the right side where he could receive Aleksander Kolarov’s pinpoint switches. Disciplining himself to Guardiola’s preferences, the Englishman gained more opportunities in one-on-one situations and, being the natural dribbler he is, he thrived off it.
Nolito also got into the action, and with Nicolás Otamendi’s new found comfort on the ball, he was plucking down cross-field passes too. Width is key in giving City’s midfielders, Gündoğan and De Bruyne today, the room to operate in-front of the oppositions defence. Yet another tactical tweak the sky blues are reaping the benefits from.
The best we’ve ever had
Is this the best football we’ve ever seen at the Etihad? I think so.
It’s astonishing the job Guardiola, the staff and the players have done so far this season. To adapt so quickly in a new style of play with new people in the club deserves huge credit. Many had their doubts over Guardiola’s philosophy working in England but almost all the myths have been debunked, and we are still in September.
It’s a world apart from last season’s gloomy campaign. I am genuinely excited to go and watch City play football, as excited as I’ve ever been. We are cutting teams apart at times – Pep doesn’t have to adapt to the Premier League, the Premier League must adapt to Pep. In a single week fans have enjoyed three dominating displays in Manchester, against good opposition too, things which were unthinkable during Manuel Pellegrini’s tenure.
City’s David Alaba
He wears number eleven and rotates from left-back to centre-back. That’s right, it’s Aleksandar Kolarov.
At Bayern Munich, Guardiola used the versatility of the Austrian David Alaba and played him in all kinds of experimenting systems and positions. At City, Kolarov’s his man. And it was hard to imagine that Kolarov would hold such importance in the Guardiola-era beforehand, but technically he’s great and he looks inspired under the new boss.
Above I mentioned how Sterling stuck as far wide as possible through Guardiola’s instruction and I think Kolarov’s role at central defence was key to this, probably the reason he was selected over John Stones. His passes were perfections and he was excellent there, as he has been since the season begun. It wouldn’t surprise me if City’s hard-man is used elsewhere in another wacky Guardiola formation in the future. Bravo Aleks!
Under the radar
There’s two players I want to talk about going under the radar in City shirts; Kelechi Iheanacho and Fernandinho.
Iheanacho is constantly compared to United’s Marcus Rashford, and while his stats outweigh Rashfords, it’s the Englishman who gets all the plaudits. For me though, the longer Iheanacho stays out of the limelight the better. We’ve seen how exciting prospects have been hindered by the media’s hype in the past and it would be awful for it to happen to our boy. Quietly, Iheanacho is developing into a real star.
Kelechi Iheanacho stats at #MCFC:
Simply Sensational! 🔥🔥🔥#Kelechi
— KCEE (LIMPOPO) (@iam_kcee) September 17, 2016
Onto Fernandinho. The Brazilian is an 8/10 every week without fail and has no real weakness in his play but yet goes largely unnoticed outside the City circle. He is definitely one of the league’s greater midfielders that doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Maybe this is what he’s benefiting from, maybe mass propaganda would affect his consistent capabilities.
Both were brilliant for City’s win. Iheanacho padded his goal involvement records with a goal and an assist and Fernandinho’s pocket gets heavier and heavier now Jack Wilshere has joined Paul Pogba in there.
Written by James Cunliffe
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