Although a sour taste lingers after the 4-0 defeat at Goodison Park, a case for optimism can be mounted on the chances Manchester City created but the need for immediate improvement looms heavily around the northeast side of Manchester.
Here are three things we learned during Sunday’s meeting with Everton:
1 - Defensive stability is imperative
Pep Guardiola said that blame cannot be placed solely on the defense and that conversion of first half chances would have changed the nature of the game. While this is true, when under pressure, City’s defenders need to be more sure of themselves.
With half as many direct glances at the net, Everton was able to capitalize with a tidiness that validates their place in the top rank of Premier League teams.
Regardless of City’s performance at the other end of the pitch, the defenders need to be more prepared to squelch the multitude of opponents who are eager to embarrass the possession-oriented City squad.
When Everton gained possession in City’s half, Guardiola’s side left men floating as they stood in confused formations at the back. Everton did well to manipulate the space left by City’s defenders and their final looks managed to evade all efforts of obstruction.
Pep — in his wise management of the conversation about how his team plays — does well to deflect pressure from a single player or line of players. The fact still stands that Everton was able to thread together an incredible game between City’s back line and the defensive midfielders.
Gael Clichy mentioned in a post-match interview that a compact mentality will be the primary focus of Manchester City as the season proceeds. Whatever their training provides in terms of conceptual preparation, the defense needs to be more aware of opponents’ movement and more capable of slowing others’ advances, however few they may be.
2 - City need to score in order to control a game
This notion has been central to many pre-match and post-match posts of late. Sunday’s game makes it painfully clear. As I said before, Pep is correct in his statement that a City goal would make the environment for his formation completely different.
He is correct that they created many chances against Chelsea. At Everton, City’s advanced players made a number of excellent runs, often getting behind the Toffees to challenge goalkeeper Joel Robles. City fought until the end to create more but, compared to the clean openings and thrifty, passionate goals wrought by Everton, it all comes to nought.
The good looks from Raheem Sterling, David Silva, and Sergio Aguero, the service from Kevin De Bruyne and Bacary Sagna, as well as the strong performances of others cannot be forgotten in a moment like this.
There does not seem to be a lack of confidence in the front of City’s formation but a scoreless match like should sting badly. The side must determined to find success from their current make-up and regain as much as possible in the coming fixtures.
3 - Pep is looking to the future while salvaging this season
As they seek to regain momentum, Pep Guardiola has indicated that the City Project will not be complete in the near future.
Simon Davies and the Manchester City EDS have gained notoriety with a long run of success. Before Guardiola arrived in Manchester, the young men were playing in flexible, possession-based, high-speed football.
Although City is moving slowly with Gabriel Jesus and have loaned a number of promising players out for the remainder of the season, the emergence of talent already present in the Sky Blue system could field a very different squad by next fall.
Regardless of who is utilized to turn around the trend in Man City’s top flight performances, the urgency for consistent results grows with the approach of Champions League fixtures and the growing risk of missing qualification for next year’s European competition.
Either way, certain elements of the roster can be sure to switch. Guardiola has said that those who determine such things will be evaluating current players’ performances and will act after the season to develop the squad as they see fit.