Manchester City are showing much more fight this season against the smaller teams than they were in previous seasons. In their game against Burnley in 2015 they lost 1-0, but this season Sergio Agüero scored twice, admittedly after Dean Marney put Burnley ahead, to secure a tough away victory for City.
Eyebrows were raised when the team sheet came out for the Citizens, when it read that Ilkay Gundogan and John Stones weren’t in the squad and that David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were on the bench, with Guardiola opting for a more physical side. He did the same against Crystal Palace. City started slowly, with Burnley having the better opportunities. Raheem Sterling had a poor first half and it seems his form since the start of the season has dipped, as he isn’t producing the displays he was for the opening six or seven games. From a City offside, a Paul Robinson long ball was cleared poorly by City and Dean Marney hit it sweetly on the volley and Claudio Bravo could do nothing. This is the key area of concern for City because defensively it is the same old story. No Vincent Kompany, no clean sheet. Kompany is world class on his day no doubt but it is unlikely he will ever regain and maintain his fitness and performance levels he has had in the past five years.
After the goal it was still Burnley controlling the game, similarly to how Palace came out stronger weeks before, however, Yaya Toure unlike against Palace struggled, making several wayward passes and some poor touches but Fernando and Fernandinho were excellent winning duels in the midfield. This is key in games like this for City as they need to improve defensively and be physical against other teams, they rely on the two Brazilians along with Touré gaining a foothold in the game.
Veteran goalkeeper Robinson made a great save from an Agüero curler but then the little Argentine struck. Similarly, like the winning goal against Palace a corner came in, Burnley failed to deal with it and Agüero was lively and pounced to equalise for City. They then controlled the first 25 minutes of the second half, with Toure and Agüero coming into the game more and City finally got their second, Burnley failing to clear the ball again with Ben Mee even taking Michael Keane out in the process, Fernandinho’s determination allowed him to cross the ball back into the box and the ball struck Agüero on the knee and went in.
It has been a common theme that City have struggled in games that are more physical and they have a tendency to take the lead, then sit back and then usually end up conceding. This has happened against Middlesborough, Everton and even Palace, where they eventually scored the winner. In all honesty, they were probably the easiest and most fortunate two goals the Argentine has and will ever score. From then onwards, Burnley came into the game and kept playing balls in the air up front, which Nicolas Otamendi deadealtth brilliantly. He put in an excellent defensive performance and only got booked unfairly for a handball when he tumbled. Otamendi’s physicality has helped City at the back, as he is the one winning aeriel duels and making vital tackles and in the final moments, Burnley had three efforts cleared by Otamendi and Kolarov. Claudio Bravo, who had a solid game all around made two great saves near the end to give City the result they needed. Overall, this was a well disciplined and managed performance by City, something they need to keep repeating if they are to end up as champions
This article was written by Ben Tipper. Twitter @bentippermcfc