I have often been asked why I don’t write my matchday articles on the same day as the game. Often it is because I am at the game and for those that I didn’t go to (yesterday) it is sometimes easier to sleep on it instead of a knee-jerk article.
Following yesterday’s first half of football, the last thing anyone would have wanted to do was read an article on how annoyed I was. You were probably equally as annoyed and would have rather watched the latest edition of Dancing on Ice.
To be honest, not many of us were confident going into yesterday’s game and you only need to look at the predictions in our Prediction League to back that statement up but that doesn’t excuse the opening 45 minutes we had to witness.
I was one of the lucky ones. I could have easily turned my TV off but 3,000 or so supporters travelled up to Manchester and had to sit or stand there and watch what looked like a return to the Steven Gerrard era.
Unai Emery admitted it wasn’t a good show and that lessons needed to be learned: “The first half was the worst performance we’ve had in the matches we’ve played. In the second half, we tried to forget the result and continue in our work, trying to improve and be competitive and like we’re in the last matches we played. We played better and scored a goal.
“But they deserved to win and we have to take a lot of information from the match and use it.”
Manchester City 3 Aston Villa 1
The home side were rocked this week when the Premier League charged them with 115 breaches of the Financial Fair Play rules. Following on from their shock 1-0 defeat to Tottenham last weekend, they were always likely to bite back and boy, didn’t they do just that.
I don’t watch every City game but I would put their opening 45 minutes against Villa on par with any performance I have seen from them this season. In truth, Pep Guardiola’s men could have scored more than the 3 they scored before the break.
Guardiola virtually issued a rallying call in his press conference on Friday and it seemed to pay off with the fans even booing the Premier League anthem prior to kick-off. The Spaniard created us vs the world feeling around the Etihad.
The players reacted and took the lead after just four minutes. Riyad Mahrez sent over a cross from a corner and Rodri was the quickest to react with a thumping header at the nearside post.
The onslaught continued, firstly Rodri slid İlkay Gündoğan through but Emi Martinez was equal to the effort.
Villa were lucky not to concede moments later when Gündoğan had the ball in the back of the net but it was disallowed as Erling Haaland was judged to have fouled Martinez in the build-up.
City continued to cause a Villa defence missing Tyrone Mings through injury as Haaland, Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish were all denied.
Villa looked to have somehow got to half-time at 1-0 until they fell apart with 6 minutes left in the half. Callum Chambers misdirected a header backwards towards Martinez and Haaland was able to seize possession to set up a tap-in for Gündoğan.
And just when you think it couldn’t get worse, Man City were awarded a penalty when Grealish was judged to have been fouled by Jacob Ramsey. Gary Neville said it was clever while Roy Keane described the former Villan as Olympic diver Tom Daley.
Mahrez stepped up and send Martinez the wrong way to make it 3-0 at the break.
Villa were better in the second half although some would argue the damage was done and City returned to first gear.
The visitors pulled one back through Ollie Watkins when Douglas Luiz robbed Silva and played through the striker who slotted past Ederson with a low shot.
Substitutes Phillipe Coutinho and Jhon Duran came close late on with long-range efforts but in fairness, the better team won comfortably on the day.
Not many teams would be able to cope with City when they are on this form but once again we are left looking back at cheap goals being conceded. This is something each of our last three managers has had to witness.
That is 7 poor goals conceded in 180 minutes of football. It isn’t good enough.
Emery spoke about the mistakes: “We spoke about being competitive, stopping mistakes and trying to get a goal but it was difficult after going three down to do more in the second half.
“We have to be positive when we are winning, and we have to learn how to respond and although the result was bad we tried to show our mentality in the second half. It was a bad result, but we have to learn and use it in the next matches.”
Too often in the past Villa has struggled to bounce back from performances like this. That’s two poor defensive performances in two games and it doesn’t get any easier with City’s title rivals, Arsenal next up at Villa Park.