With a few English teams faltering after warm-weather training spells, Manchester City returned from Abu Dhabi with a dose of vibrant football for the Etihad audience. The dreams of Huddersfield Town were decisively stifled in a landslide victory that marks a continued rise in the Blues’ recent development.
Here are three things we learned:
1 - Conquering a crowded box
City’s woes with ‘the last touch’ have been cured. Huddersfield was worn thin by a quick and sharp Sky Blue squad.
From the start of the season, most of City’s opponents kept scores low by putting their entire team behind the ball. On Wednesday night, Cityshowed that they have worked out ways to get behind a well-stacked defense.
Leroy Sané, Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Agüero and Kelechi Iheanacho each used smart positioning and a clean touch to prove that even players whose fates have been in question are developing in the current City system.
2 - Pep will stand by his players
Consistent support for players who make mistakes, a relentless resistance to singling out individuals, and continued selection in the squad after committing fatal errors has made it clear that Pep Guardiola recognizes the potential of each player.
Even as he has noted that they lack strength in crucial areas, he has leaned on each element of the team throughout the course of the season.
The drama around all of the players who might leave City after this season is apparently being funneled into passionate performances, as Agüero, Iheanacho, Zabaleta, and many others have been embroiled in rumors of inadequacy.
The Sky Blue crescendo we are witnessing is being orchestrated by a mash of young and old that will make for a number of interesting conversations this summer.
3 - Training
A lightning fast press and more favorable glances on target are helping City gain momentum.
The manner in which they are gelling in terms of movement, first touches, and the ability to open up space in an opponent’s box has been apparent in the rise of Raheem Sterling and the instincts of Kevin De Bruyne, not to mention a number of others.
While a few players have become symbolic of the system currently in use, Pep has been able to activate a higher level in most players who have been seen as insufficient or past their prime.
Whether they are out to prove themselves or merely enjoy their football to the highest degree, City have begun to produce a style of play that is incredibly fun to watch. Speed and skill are on full display as the Blues teeter at the edge of total abandon.
Fighting from behind has almost become a trademark as forward thinking defenders get caught off guard, but the ability to keep the score slanted highly in their favor has given City much more room to breathe recently.