After Southampton there was a certain amount of optimism going into a match vs a team that beat Chelsea 3-0 the previous week. Regardless of how much we want to be, we are nowhere near their level when they are on their game. Man City have gone though phases of inconsistency in the last few years and have rarely shown that top form, they did on Sunday.
Regardless of that, there were negatives and things to address. None of that was in the back four. Coleman was excellent. Jagielka and Stones were blameless and Galloway came through the toughest game of his life. This game should be a huge positive for him as regardless of how tough it was, he got through it until the point he got injured. Browning didn’t have to deal with the same threat in the second half, and may have been thankful Navas takes approximately 2 weeks to make any kind of footballing decision.
The big negative about the back four was Baines, we miss him badly. We had no threat from our left wing and his defensive experience was needed here. Garbutt would of been ideal but he’s on loan and injured and Oviedo is unfit so we did the best with what we had. Neither Galloway or Browning were to blame for conceding and will be better players for the experience.
The blame for the goals goes to McCarthy and Howard. McCarthy failed to track Nasri’s run for the second but it wasn’t a terrible error as Nasri was on the end of a world class pass from Toure, he probably wishes he did more but it was a very hard move to defend.
Howard on the other had did commit a terrible error. A top class keeper saves both of those goals. He seems to have been given credit for Aguero shooting at his feet and Navas at his face but the error for the first goal was inexcusable. I think goalkeepers being beaten at their front post is overstated at times but not when the angle is so tight. For the second he either needed to stay on his line or fully commit. He did neither and got lobbed on his 6 yard line. Just as he was getting some credit back with Evertonians, he costs us points again. He’s not been quite good enough for a long time, but never quite bad enough to justify millions of our precious money replacing him. We have to spend our money wisely and a goalkeeper markedly better than Howard would be hard to find.
Kone was coming into the night on the crest of a wave, booed on vs Watford then applauded off vs Southampton, he needed to show something in this game to justify a continued selection, he didn’t. His link-up play with Lukaku was non-existent mainly due to his defensive duties where he left Galloway and Browning often isolated, contrast that with Cleverley, who defended well whilst adding an attacking threat. The diamond may have run it’s course now with Deulofeu or Mirallas playing there in the next match.
People mention Cleverley playing out of position but i’d disagree. He was played many matches out wide and is equally comfortable there as he is in the centre. He’s a wonderful addition to the squad who has already shown his versatile worth. There is a place for him in all formations. Martinez likes playing with one attacking winger and a more defensively minded one so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on one side and a rotation between Mirallas and Deulofeu on the other. In this respect, Cleverley is a much better version of Leon Osman.
Most would be to happy to shrug off this result, Man City are by far the best team in the league when they are on top form and we ran into a juggernaut here. We didn’t do too much wrong. Neither did Barkley, he had another good game which is a huge positive. Not because it helped us too much in this particular match, but because he is offering signs of the holy grail that we need from him: consistency.
We move on to a huge game on Wednesday. A competition that can bring us silverware, a competition that could lead us back to Europe, a competition that I hope we take seriously for once.