Guardiola era begins: What we learned from Man City’s late win over Sunderland
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | August 13, 2016
The wait was finally over for Manchester City fans to at last see their newly-styled side under Pep Guardiola in Premier League action, but they would’ve felt more relief than joy after a late 2-1 victory over Sunderland.
A Paddy McNair own goal with just minutes to go ensured that the Spanish coach went away from his first game in charge with all three points, but what did we learn from the Citizens’ rather unconvincing showing?
Read on to find out Coral’s assessment of Man City’s display…
Caballero gets nod over Hart
The first thing we learned from Guardiola’s new men came before kick-off, as the Spaniard confirmed rumours by controversially leaving out keeper Joe Hart, who flopped with England at Euro 2016.
Willy Caballero was handed the gloves instead, and the Argentine didn’t really do anything wrong in the game, so has perhaps done enough to merit a second successive start against Steaua Bucuresti in City’s Champions League play-off on Tuesday.
The Argentine stopper made a good early save from a goal-bound free-kick, while also managed to palm away a point-blank effort from Jermain Defoe.
Meanwhile, at one stage, Caballero rushed out to brilliantly clear a ball, in similar style to Guardiola’s former keeper-sweeper Maunel Neuer at Bayern Munich.
He did allow Defoe to slot past him and through his legs for an equaliser, though he couldn’t be given full blame.
Possession play almost doesn’t pay off
Many had predicted that Guardiola would bring the same dominating and attacking style he imposed on Barcelona and Munich, and to a certain extent he did in his first City game.
However, it was with a far slower tempo which gave a seemingly fitter Sunderland time to adjust. The Black Cats had by far a more productive pre-season in terms of games played, with six in total and going undefeated.
Hosts Man City finished the match with a whopping 77 per cent possession, and also made 578 completed passes compared with Sunderland’s 102, but were barely able to make it count.
A Citizens player didn’t score in open play, as Sergio Aguero converted a penalty after Raheem Sterling was fouled in the box for their opener, while they only had four shots on target.
Perhaps as the season progresses and the City stars get to grips with the new Guardiola style, they can start producing big scorelines and wow their fans more. But one thing’s or certain, they can’t afford to play like that against other clubs and expect to live up to their title favourites tag.
Sterling does have future at Etihad
Reports this summer had suggested that Guardiola was considering selling young England attacker Sterling, but the Spaniard went against those rumours and started the former Liverpool player.
Sterling, picked ahead of the likes of Jesus Navas and Kelechi Iheanacho, made an immediate impact as he was fouled by Patrick van Aanholt in the area with just a couple minutes gone.
He also made decent runs with and without the ball, and was arguably one of the hosts’ standout players throughout an otherwise unexciting encounter.
Stones is Pep’s kind of player
Finally, another big talking point pre-match was recent big-money signing John Stones, and the Everton player certainly produced a performance worthy of much talk.
The former Everton defender was picked in the heart of defence, whether by default or merit due to City’s lack of available names, alongside Aleksandar Kolarov.
Yorkshireman Stones, who watched all of England’s miserable Euro 2016 campaign from the bench, began well and looked perfectly suited to Guardiola’s style of play, making runs from the back and finding teammates with passes.
However, he was arguably at fault for Sunderland’s goal, as he was drawn out of position in an attempt to tackle Jack Rodwell. From there, the former Citizen was able to pick out a free Defoe, who poked the ball past Caballero.
Despite that brief lapse, there were certainly plenty of positives in Stones’ display and for Guardiola to mull over.