While the Sky Blues started the game with more direction than the opening minutes of recent matches, Swansea’s staunch defending restricted City to a single goal in the first 45 minutes. The second half turned mostly in Swansea’s favor as the Blues were pressured and frustrated by a re-energized, relegation threatened squad.
From the high-flying first half to the muted, mystifying second, here are three things we learned:
1 - City needs to be on the front foot
Swansea, in the first half, absorbed City’s pressure, allowing the Blues to weave and work in dynamic, creative ways. Even though they only scored once, throughout the first period they absolutely dominated the nature of the match.
As the match reached its mid-point, City started losing momentum. Missed chances and slightly misconstrued looks began to deflate the electric environment of the Etihad.
The start of the second half saw Swansea surging forward. The Blues handled their defensive responsibilities well but couldn't move up the pitch. They seemed off-beat as Swansea closed passing lanes and made strong tackles to restrain City.
A crucial key to the Sky Blue’s greater success will be the ability to reshape moments like the second half of Sunday’s match.
2 - Gabriel Jesus: a young leader
Throughout the doldrums of second half struggles, Gabriel Jesus appeared all over the pitch trying to inject his comrades with relentless pace and positive play. He created a number of excellent openings for teammates as he played tidy second balls into open space for a surging teammate.
His goal-scoring qualities are obvious. The insight to hold positions at the top of the box, receive hot passes under pressure, and use his strength to deftly distribute to others makes him even more exciting as a force in the City offense.
Then, there's the fact that he won the game... Of course, he never operated alone, but in only his second Premier League start he put himself in positions to score both of City's goals.
Sergio Agüero looked more upbeat when he entered, and future matches are sure to feature the Argentine legend next to the Brazilian phenom in a relationship that is bound to make defenders’ heads spin.
3 - The defense has improved
Disappointment is bound to pervade assessments of the match in reference to the lack of offensive quality in City’s second half performance. However, the defense put together an outstanding show that deserves recognition.
John Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov held the center of the pitch with authority. Although Gaël Clichy and Fernandinho appeared a little out of sorts on the fullback positions, Swansea’s chances were limited.
If Swansea was able to turn the game toward Willy Caballero’s goal in the second half, the defense did well to minimize pressure in the final third.
Most of the squad has been given an opportunity to taste success in the last four games thanks to Guardiola’s relentless rotation of the team. With more solid demonstrations up and down the pitch, the team looks ready to make a run.
When they look back and reassess Sunday’s second half, a number of lessons will serve to lead the squad toward more sound management of games.