Manchester City did not bring anything substantially new to their Premier League match against Burnley aside from an almost constant state of hustle. The simple fact that they had to win was apparent throughout most of the game. Moving forward, there will not be many matches that they can afford to play with any less grit. Looking back at the Burnley fixture, here are three things we learned:
1 - Stubbornness will often lead to victory
City pursued the ball relentlessly in the midfield. They turned quickly with much more precise passing than we saw in the performance against Liverpool.
Kevin De Bruyne, rather than getting rest in the last game of the holiday period, played the most vital role of anyone on the pitch. He embodied the full-field responsibilities required in a system like City’s.
Aggression of this sort has been lacking in City’s more monotonous games. When De Bruyne and Sergio Agüero have a strong defensive presence, they provide valuable skill in turning possession and advancing into attacking positions.
2 - Varied approaches to the attack paid off
Gaël Clichy wouldn't get too many votes for "most likely to score the opening goal" with so many talented goal scorers on the field. However, his skillful shot further proves City’s ability to penetrate from any number of angles.
The second goal — a clean-up effort from Sergio Agüero — is not what most expect from a Pep Guardiola system.
The biggest lesson from the day is that the squad was absolutely determined to find the back of the net.
There were more traditional approaches in the first half that reflected a reenergized attacking front but the Blues were always one touch away from opening up the game early.
3 - City has to manage excitement and frustration
If Fernandinho’s red card was surprising and unfortunate, it points to a continued trend of Guardiola’a boys getting too heated for their own goos.
Arguing with the officials has taken a lot of focus away from elements of the game that the Sky Blues can manage. It must be said that the officiating appeared uneven, allowing natural frustration to build, but the City squad is far too talented to be limited by such obstacles.
On a more technical level, City need to manage their energy in must-win games in order to settle passes and get off shots in a more consistent manner.
City looked much stronger but played with frantic desire at times. There were multiple occasions where the ball dropped at a City player's feet in Burnley’s box without much threat to the Clarets' goal.
Let's look at these dimensions of the game in a positive light, though — City got the win after playing with ten men for two thirds of the game. With improved performances, they will represent an even greater threat to their challengers.
The manner with which they opened the game will be a good building block for future matches. In the end, the dire effort to get a win will help Sky Blue fans breathe easy as play continues.