Manchester City played out a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, September 3.
Aston Villa came into this game on the back of a dismal run of games. They managed a win and four losses in their opening five games, earning three points in the process. Their only win was against fellow strugglers Everton. Steven Gerrard‘s men were keen to put in a strong performance against the defending champions.
Manchester City, on the other hand, entered this contest as one of only three sides in the league with an unbeaten record. Their record read the opposite of the hosts’, having won four and drawn one game prior to this one. Pep Guardiola fielded an unchanged lineup as he looked to extend their run. All eyes were on Erling Haaland, who has scored two hat-tricks in his last two games.
Aston Villa made a composed start to the game, defending in numbers and preventing Manchester City an easy run at goal. They tried to compact the central areas of the pitch in a bid to force the visitors wide. However, Joao Cancelo and Kevin De Bruyne‘s passing range was too much for the Villans to contain.
The hosts suffered a moment of worry as Matty Cash went down injured and had to be replaced by Ashley Young. The veteran rolled back the years and showcased his experience as he made a strong start to give his teammates and the crowd a boost. Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa did well to contain Haaland in the first period.
Kyle Walker had a glorious opportunity to tee up the Norwegian, but went for goal himself in what turned out to be the biggest chance for Manchester City. The game stayed deadlocked at 0-0 as the sides went into the break.
The game burst into action in the second period as both sides took a more offensive approach and space opened up. However, Manchester City struck first.
De Bruyne provided a classy assist for Haaland to score from just five minutes after the restart. It was his 10th goal in just six league appearances. Despite conceding, Aston Villa refused to back down and continued playing good football.
The hosts were rewarded for their persistence despite chasing the game for most of the time. They scored against the run of play as Jacob Ramsey played a sweet pass into Leon Bailey‘s path, who scored with a perfectly-timed shot to make it 1-1. Manchester City had a couple of chances late on as Rodri came close to firing them ahead.
Despite the second half ending with a flurry of chances for either side, neither were able to snatch the win as Aston Villa held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw. That said, let’s take a look at the five major talking points from the game.
#5. Aston Villa have the personnel to be in the top half of the Premier League table
Aston Villa are one of the lucky sides in the Premier League that have a blend of homegrown talent and players from abroad. Players like Tyrone Mings and Jacob Ramsey have come through the ranks at the academy and know what it means to represent the club.
In addition, they have Leon Bailey and Philippe Coutinho, two players who have showcased their talents in some of Europe’s top leagues. Captain John McGinn is a regular in the Scotland national team and his midfield partners Douglas Luiz and Boubacar Kamara are experienced players as well.
Their manager, Steven Gerrard, is a legend of the game and knows how to build a squad that plays as a unit. However, his team have been unable to display consistency and quality at the same time. It will be interesting to see how much time the club’s owners give Gerrard.
#4. Kevin De Bruyne is the heartbeat of this Manchester City side
Kevin De Bruyne has been Pep Guardiola’s main offensive weapon since the Spaniard took over in 2016. His ability to spot a run and pick a man out is second to none in the Premier League. Despite operating in deeper areas as his career progressed, De Bruyne has been able to win games for Manchester City single-handedly.
The Belgian passed the ball with 79% accuracy, including six key passes, four long balls and two crosses. He created two big chances for City, one of which was an assist for Erling Haaland to score from. He also hit the woodwork once. De Bruyne also won four of his seven duels in a commanding display.
However, credit goes to Aston Villa, who refused to let the champions snatch a late victory.
#3. Age is catching up to Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker is now 32 years of age and has been a mainstay in Manchester City’s first team for the better part of a decade now. Although he still has a few years left in him, his ability to make explosive runs and track back has diminished consistently.
Walker was a key member of the upcoming Tottenham Hotspur side in the early 2010s, known for his explosive sprints and tank-like build. Due to his role, the number of sprints he makes per game is one of the highest on the pitch. He continues to put in the same effort as he always did, but his ability to recover has suffered.
This has taken a toll on him, with no real backup option available as Joao Cancelo has predominantly featured on the left.
#2. Aston Villa manage to score goals out of nothing
Aston Villa have created very few clear-cut chances this season barring their win against Everton. Incidentally, it remains their only win of the campaign so far. In their last game against Arsenal, midfielder Douglas Luiz produced a moment of pure brilliance. He scored directly from a corner-kick to send the traveling Villa fans into raptures right behind him.
In the game against Manchester City as well, Villa scored from a chance that was afforded to them as a result of shoddy defending from the visitors. However, they took that opportunity and ended up scoring with their first shot on target, which came after 74 minutes.
#1. Erling Haaland
No, the sub-heading is not incomplete. Erling Haaland is simply phenomenal. He set a record for being the most goals scored after five games following his hat-trick against Nottingham Forest in City’s previous game. He added to that tally to make it 10 for the season in just six games played.
For both of his hat-tricks so far, Haaland had just 16 touches in both those games. It shows his ability to create a goal for himself once the ball is played into the his feet in the box. At times when Manchester City have struggled to dominate possession, Guardiola has remained adamant that Haaland will take up a position higher up the pitch and stick to their gameplan.
He is currently 22 goals away from Mohamed Salah’s league record of 32 goals in a season, with 32 games still to be played.
Paul Merson predicts Man Utd vs Arsenal, Everton vs Liverpool and other GW 6 matches! Click here