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Five Thoughts: Manchester City 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

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Too close for comfort but a win is a win

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

FIRST THOUGHT: I've Seen Better but a Win's a Win.

Wow but that could've been so much worse. I don't imagine I'll the image of James McClean's final shot going just wide will be leaving my head any time soon. A strange match from the opening lineup--City manager Manuel Pellegrini going with what looked for all the world like a 4-1-2-1-2 with Fernando protecting the back four, Delph moving forward (first time they've been paired), Nasri and Navas on the wings (first time they've been paired) with Aguero and Bony as dual strikers (might be the last time we see them paired this season but more on that in player ratings). The formation held for about 5 minutes or until about the time Stephane Sessignon took a McClean cross and fired a rocket past a curiously statuesque Joe Hart. After the goal, Sergio Aguero turned into a center forward, Nasri drifted toward the middle, Aleksander Kolarov(!) was making some attacking runs... I mean, I applaud the effort but our attack reminded me of our defense against PSG four days previous: lots of effort with very little organization. After twenty minutes, the mutterings of 'typical City' could be heard far and wide.

That's about when things turned for the better. Kolarov got taken down in the box on one of his runs, Aguero slotted home a beautiful PK and later on, the first-string in the forms of Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. All those two did was take City from being "moderately better" than Albion to "clearly better" though it was still uncomfortably long until that second winning goal was scored: Aguero again causing some havoc and Samir Nasri, who had a wonderful match, scoring to an open net while the Baggies defense was surrounding Aguero.

It was not pretty. The moments where we looked like a great team, worthy of a semi-final slot in the Champions League, were few and far between. But City will enter next weekend as the fourth place team in the Premier League no matter what anybody does on Sunday and they are two points closer to third.

SECOND THOUGHT: PLAYER RATINGS

  • 9 or above is a match to frame
  • 8 or above is a winning effort
  • 7 or above is doing the job
  • 6 or above is not good.
  • 5 or thereabouts means your the problem.
STARTERS

GK: Joe Hart (6.5) Since Wednesday, I've read takes from a healthy number of folk claiming Hart was at fault for that disastrous first goal by PSG. That thought stayed with me as I watched Sessegnon's screamer hit the back of the net with Hart still in static crouch. I don't think he played a bad game. I just don't think he played up to his own high standards.

LB: Aleksander Kolarov (7.5) A knowledgeable friend of mine (okay, he's a coach) swore to me the Serbian was awful today. I disagree. Kolarov was extremely active, sent in some of his patented fine crosses, battled with Sessegnon. He looked for all the world like a guy who hadn't started in a while.

CB: Eliaquiem Mangala (7) Another steady performance marred by a legitimate penalty shout. Against PSG he barreled into Matuidi (seen them given) and today he hit Sandro but good. That said, he hasn't had a howler of an effort for quite some time.

CB: Nicolas Otamendi (7) Bitter and Blue commenters were sharply divided on his effectiveness against PSG and I imagine we'll see the same this time around. I thought he was good, especially in the air. If Kompany plays Tuesday, Pellegrini has a helluva choice to make.

RB: Pablo Zabaleta (7) He got beat by McClean more than once once and strangely didn't close out on the wing a few times but steady otherwise.

CM: Fernando (7.5) Once again, Pellegrini's philosophy of playing a guy after making enormous mistakes paid off once again. Fernando didn't have a great game but he was steady which is exactly what was needed after what happened in Paris.

CM: Fabian Delph (6.5) He's plenty fast and a good athlete but never really put his stamp on the game. I'd like to see him get more chances and he probably will before the year is out but a nondescript performance today.

LM: Samir Nasri (8.5) Pellegrini was effusive in his praise of our man with the boy band hair. It was good to hear and Nasri's performance was good too see. He looked very proud after the match and he should've been.

RM: Jesus Navas (7.5) Played a crucial role on the right side, per usual. He was part of the build-up to the winner (passing to Aguero) meaning he made a big play, per usual. The endless criticism of his finishing will never die and for some it always overshadow the things he does well.

ST: Wilfried Bony (4) It's getting ugly. One shot on goal and zero chances created. The loudest cheers from the hometown fans other than the two City goals scored were when Bony was taken off the pitch. Up until now, Pellegrini has favored Bony over the youngster Kelechi Iheanacho but that's up until now. It is becoming increasingly clear that Bony will be playing elsewhere next season whereas Iheanacho is the future. It's time got Pelle to start playing the future.

ST: Sergio Aguero (7.5) Nasri gets Man of the Match for me but Aguero was the primary actor on the pitch. I think I lost my voice screaming at the TV set after he got hurt. Turns out to be nothing serious but why he had to hobble around for five minutes before he came out is beyond me.

SUBS

Kevin De Bruyne (7)

Yaya Toure (7) These two changed the match in our favor. De Bruyne said he signed with City in part because they called him every day, telling him how much they wanted him. The competition for him? PSG. Nice work, City.

Gael Clichy (NR)

THIRD THOUGHT: PSG NOTES

Their best midfielder, Marco Veratti, is back in full training and will probably play Tuesday at the Etihad. However, with a lineup that reflected a team that had won their so-called league weeks ago, starting goaltender Kevin Trapp was hobbled with an injury.

FOURTH THOUGHT: QUESTION I'D LIKE AN ANSWER TO

Are we ever going to have a second great striker? Other teams have them, you know.

FIFTH THOUGHT: POLL!

You know what to do.