AFTER Manchester City maintained their 100 per cent record in the 2015-16 Premier League season with a 2-0 victory over Watford at the Etihad Stadium, Callum Matthews picks out three things we learnt from the Blues’ latest win.
Bacary Sagna is a more than able deputy for Pablo Zabaleta
When the news emerged that Zabaleta was facing a month on the sidelines a lot of City fans would have been worried, however Sagna has looked like a different player this season.
Last season the Frenchman struggled when he played, however after a string of games at the start of this season he’s started to look like the player we saw at Arsenal.
He laid the ball on a plate for Raheem Sterling’s first City goal and the game’s first goal with a sublime cross from the right.
The 32-year-old also made a perfectly timed and crucial block to deny Ikechi Anya, and Watford a route back into the game with it delicately poised at 2-0.
Tidy but effective in his general play, he may finally be the man to provide a serious challenge to Zabaleta at right-back, who may struggle to get his place back when he returns from injury if Sagna’s impressive start to the season continues.
@MCFC Great performance from Sagna today.
— Steve Lucas (@PabberZabberDoo) August 29, 2015
Sterling’s ability to play in different positions adds a new dimension
During the half-time interval, Manuel Pellegrini made a subtle change and moved Sterling upfront alongside the slightly disappointing Sergio Aguero.
Within minutes the move was vindicated with the 20-year-old placing home within the six-yard box to finally break down the stubborn Watford defence.
Sterling’s ability to adapt from playing on the left, on the right, in the hole and up front is going to be crucial throughout the season.
Samir Nasri, David Silva and Jesus Navas are all top class players in their own right but they’re not that versatile but Sterling’s ability to adapt makes him extremely valuable.
You can still see the rawness in his game though. The majority of the time he picks the right option, it’s just his execution that needs fine tuning. I’m sure that’ll come with maturity. His defensive qualities are also much better than I’d noticed previously in a Liverpool shirt, and with the hardworking Navas on the other side, has played a part in why City are still to concede this season.
Pellegrini also deserves huge praise for his half time sub and subtle tactical change. He’s been criticised numerous times, including by myself, for his lack of tactical nous but he proved today he does have the ability to change the course of a game.
Fernandinho must partner Yaya Toure in midfield if he’s available
Last season was bitterly disappointing for City. It’s well publicised that Toure and Vincent Kompany had under par seasons and that played a huge part in City’s shortcomings.
Personally I think the form of Fernandinho was just as big a blow. During his first season, City won the league and he was superb throughout. He’s started this season in similar vein.
Amongst City fans the feeling is he was mentally scarred, like many Brazilians, after their disappointing World Cup campaign but with that now seemingly behind him he’s back to the player the fans love.
He once again finished with aplomb to double City’s lead and was deservedly named man of the match. His ability to break up play and then use the ball effectively is crucial. He’s much better at that role than Fernando and when the pair are both fit, the 30-year-old must start ahead of his fellow countryman.
He gets criticised by neutrals for his aggressive style of play and his sometimes cynical fouls, however that’s his role within the team. With the likes of Toure, Silva, Sterling etc in the team someone has to do the ugly work and ‘take one for the team’ and it’s normally Fernandinho that does that.
It’s no coincidence that in the 10 game winning streak the club are currently on, he’s started in eight and been a scoring substitute in one of the other games.
It’s quite simple, Fernandinho has to start.
— James Ingle (@ingle_11) August 29, 2015
— Graham Deanson (@CarloD42) August 29, 2015
By Callum Matthews at the Etihad Stadium