Dez Richardson analyses yesterday’s game between Manchester City and Sunderland
Champions Manchester City recorded their first clean sheet of the season with a comfortable win over Sunderland.
Mancini made a number of changes from his starting line-up in the Champions League against Dortmund. Kolarov, Richards and Lescott came into the back four, with only Zabaleta surviving. Milner, Barry, Balotelli, and Tevez also came into the side, with Toure moving into a more advanced role.
Sunderland made only one change with Cuellar replacing Bramble. Other than that, it was the same side that were currently unbeaten in the Premier League.
Both teams practically started with the same formation, but totally different game plan’s. Sunderland’s game plan was to have nine men in front of Mignolet, to protect his goal, and look to hit City on the break. Mancini’s side looked to completely dictate the pace of the game, and break down Sunderland’s deep laying defensive unit.
City’s game plan worked out a treat, as they had 60% of the game’s possession. That being said, that was to be expected with Sunderland sitting deep. O’Neill’s side did a decent job at keeping City at bay in the first half, after Kolarov had struck a fantastic free-kick very early into the game.
Gardner vs Balotelli
Sunderland have had problem’s at full-back this season. With Bardsley out for a lengthy period, Craig Gardner has been filling in at right back, a position he was asked to play a few times last season. Colback has also operated at left back this season, and moved their in the second half when Danny Rose was brought off by his manager.
For me, this is were Mancini tried exploiting Sunderland. However, he got incredibly frustrated with Mario Balotelli, and replaced him with Aguero early on in the second half. Like most team’s that play against Mario Balotelli, his opponent’s are constantly trying to wind him up, and make him react, Gardner was no different. Soon enough, Mario started having a strop and it effected his game massively. With Sunderland looking to hit City on the break, Mancini wanted his wide players to track back. Mario continued to stroll back whilst his team wasn’t in possession. The City gaffer wasn’t happy with this, and replaced him.
Sunderland lacked full-back protection
Various times throughout the match, Sunderland’s full-backs were exploited due to Johnson and McClean not doing their job’s properly, and Sunderland failed to keep their shape. This was highlighted when Aguero got City’s second.
Above shows the build up for City’s second goal. Silva has the ball just inside the left flank, and Kolarov is about to make a surging run around the outside of him. Before Kolarov set’s off, McClean is actually closer to his goal than the Serbian is. When the City left back get’s on his bike, McClean just fail’s to react. He finally realizes and tries to track him, but it was too little too late. It was a typical Kolarov cross to the near post, and Aguero bagged.
Difference’s from last season’s game at the Etihad
In last season’s 3-3 draw, the sides both fielded the same formation’s. Funnily enough, Kolarov had a fantastic performance that day too. I think the major difference was Bendtner and Cattermole. Last season, I feel they held the ball up top a lot better with Bendtner, who brought other’s into play. I don’t think Fletcher is that player. Fletcher is a goal scorer, but he’s no link man. I thought he was rather forgettable in this game, due to him having no service. With Cattermole missing, I felt that Sunderland lacked that bite in midfield that they usually have. With Colback and Larsson in the middle, I think everyone expected Sunderland to keep the ball a bit better than they actually did.
I think City will be delighted with this result. A comfortable home win, against a side that usually causes them problem’s. Joe Hart keeping his first clean sheet of the season will certainly breed confidence. Martin O’Neill’s side did a decent job at keeping City out. However, a fantastic free-kick from Kolarov, a mistake from McClean and a deflection for the third goal essentially lost them the game. That being said, City easily deserved their win.