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Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa: 5 talking points as Guardiola’s men take over the top spot in the table | Premier League 2020-21

Vaibhav Joshi
ANALYST
Modified 21 Jan 2021
Feature

#3 The Aston Villa defense deserves a lot of praise

Villa
Villa's backline was on top form and kept City at bay for most of the game.

Coming into this game, the defensive unit in the spotlight was that of Manchester City, with the duo of John Stones and Ruben Dias having completely transformed a leaky backline into a virtually impregnable barrier.

However, Aston Villa gave almost as good as they got to Manchester City in this encounter. Their entire backline and goalkeeper put in huge shifts that kept the hosts at bay for almost the entire game.

While Martinez showcased his assured handling in goal, there were important tackles and vital interceptions galore from Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, and Matt Targett. Manchester City played some lovely football to reach the Villa goal but were almost always rebuffed at the final hurdle.

In fact, both of Manchester City’s goals ultimately came down to luck. Rodri’s positioning for the opener and Cash’s unfortunate handball could easily have resulted in both decisions going the other way on another day.

And so, while Manchester City’s defenders were also at their most efficient as they registered yet another shutout, the grit and determination shown by the Aston Villa rearguard was extremely praiseworthy.


#4 The lack of a quality striker in the Manchester City squad is quite evident 

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Manchester City passed up a number of presentable chances against Villa.
Manchester City passed up a number of presentable chances against Villa.

While Pep Guardiola is no stranger to using a midfielder as a striker in the ‘false 9’ formation, he has had to rely on that tactic heavily this season in the continued absence of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

Over the course of the season, the position has been filled by Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, and Riyad Mahrez, with the Portuguese starting in that role against Villa.

And while the results achieved by Guardiola’s side this season cannot be argued with, his tactics were given an extremely stern examination by Aston Villa’s resolute defensive unit.

The hosts had the upper hand throughout the contest and spent most of the game camped in and around the Aston Villa penalty area. However, the lack of a proven goal-scorer and instinctive finisher was quite evident.

As good as the Villa defense was, Manchester City carved out a number of extremely presentable opportunities. But in the absence of Aguero and Jesus (in the first half), they fell to the likes of Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo.

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While Silva ultimately broke the deadlock, the goal finally came after Manchester City had had more than 25 attempts at goal. And it required an extremely clinical finish from the Portuguese international.

Had a fully-fit Aguero or Jesus been involved from the start, the movement and link-up play of a bonafide striker might have led to one of the chances being taken much earlier. This is something that Manchester City could possibly regret when facing a superior defensive unit further down the line.


#5 It’s extremely tight at the top of the Premier League table

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola's men are very much back in a hotly-contested title race

The headline-grabbing tie in the extended round of fixtures in this game week had been a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

Even as that tie ended in an underwhelming 0-0 draw, Leicester City emerged as the unlikely beneficiaries of recent results. They first overhauled Liverpool with a win at the weekend and followed that up by climbing to the top of the table by beating Chelsea in midweek.

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Their reign atop the Premier League standings would be a short one, however, as Manchester City took over the top spot with this hard-fought win over Villa, pipping the Foxes on goal difference.

However, with Manchester United slated to play Fulham immediately after the Manchester City game, there is still potential for the lead to change hands for the third time in less than 48 hours. The Red Devils could reclaim the top spot with a win at Craven Cottage.

With Liverpool very much still in the title mix and just six points separating first place from seventh-placed West Ham United, this season’s title race looks to be significantly more tightly contested at the halfway stage than it was last season.

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Published 21 Jan 2021, 02:46 IST
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