The gap between how good Manchester City are and how good West Bromwich Albion are is comparable to the distance between the Earth and the Sun. This game finished 3-0 but could and should have been much more, with City treating their opponents much like an older brother would torture a younger sibling by locking them in a full-Nelson for 90 minutes.
I saw somebody tweet at halftime that West Brom had one touch inside the City box in the ENTIRE first half. That pretty much describes this game in a nutshell. On top of that, I don’t believe that West Brom had a touch in the box in the second half until the 83RD MINUTE.
So just to recap, if all of this math checks out, Manchester City held a Premier League opponent to a single touch in the box for 92% of the game, which is absolutely ludicrous! This game was so far out of reach, even when it was only 1-0, that the broadcast spent close to a minute of camera time on a fan eating what I think was a meat pie. Seriously.
On a more serious note, City fans got their first look at our brand new center back in Aymeric Laporte. Pep Guardiola didn’t think he needed much time to acclimate given he started less than two days after the transfer was announced. Granted, John Stones being ill had a lot to do with it, but it’s still somewhat of a surprise.
Laporte slotted right in next to Nicolas Otamendi as the left-sided center-back and showed why he was so coveted by Pep this transfer window. Laporte didn’t do anything spectacular but you could see glimpses of the things he will bring to the table going forward. He is poised and comfortable on the ball, and comfortable carrying possession upfield if he is given space.
Furthermore, Aymeric makes quick decisions and fits in well to Pep’s style. His vision is clearly great and there were several occasions when he looked to pick out a through ball that surpassed multiple layers of the defense. His long ball delivery was pinpoint as well, spraying switches out to Bernardo Silva on the right wing on several occasions.
Tactically, Guardiola didn’t reinvent the wheel and kept it pretty straightforward with the worst team in league in town. City had a lot of success when Sergio Agüero would drop into midfield to advance possession and his passes were on point. Fernandinho was being man-marked for much of the game by West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez when he sat in his standard position deep in midfield.
With the Brazilian taken out of his traditional role in the build-up, Pep pulled in the full-backs to compensate and create additional passing options. Fernandinho also roamed further upfield than we may be accustomed to and was rewarded with a goal after staying in the box for a quick recycled attack.
Kevin De Bruyne was once again tremendous, contributing a goal and assist (with a couple of other missed chances that he would normally finish). The impact he makes on every aspect of the game can not be overstated, and he continues to convince everyone that he is the best player in the league.
I was very happy to see Brahim Diaz get an extended run in this match considering that this team is going to need him going forward. He definitely impressed on the left wing and I would imagine he gave Pep confidence in using him throughout the season.
That being said, I was very unhappy to see Diaz take a ridiculously high tackle to the leg from Matt Phillips with his studs up. And of course, it was only a yellow card! This is honestly getting ridiculous and it’s starting to affect my daily mood. The amount of horrible tackles City players suffer without any punishment whatsoever is offensive and something must be done about it.
Someone on the MCFC subreddit recently posted a compilation photo of all the tackles that these referees have missed and there was a comment that more or less said, “I hope that we don’t have to add any more images to this picture”. Well, it’s only been one game, but here we are, adding another one.
So now City have three goals in every game:
1 - Win. That’s easy enough, they tend to do that all the time.
2 - Have no one get hurt the “normal way”. Failed in this game with David Silva going off early with what appeared to be a rib injury? I’m far from a doctor, but I’m hopeful that this one is too bad.
3 - Avoid leg-breaking tackles from the opponents. Edit: This apparently is impossible.
3 (Revised) - Pray that the leg-breaking tackles don’t actually break anyone’s leg and are properly punished by the officials. (Yeah, I’m not getting my hopes up either).
Manchester City are definitely a wounded team and can not afford to lose anyone else with Champions League and the League Cup coming in hot this month. Pep needs to have his team at their best to survive that stretch and I expect he will be wrapping his guys in bubble wrap moving forward.