Manchester City 7 (Foden 8, Grealish 13, De Bruyne 32, 62, Mahrez 49, Stones 74, Ake 78)
Leeds United 0
Well, we got a bit of a lesson there didn’t we? After the strong performance we put in at the weekend at Stamford Bridge, I thought we’d go to the Etihad full of confidence and spirit and I hadn’t discounted completely the possibility of getting something out of Citeh. How wrong could I have been? Leeds were truly hammered by Citeh and, with them getting 31 goal attempts, 15 of which hit the target, I guess we are lucky to have only conceded the seven!
I don’t really know where to start on this one, so I’m going to return to Stamford Bridge first and relate something a good friend of mine, a Chelsea season ticket holder, told me before our game in London. He said that the Blues (relatively) poor results recently had coincided with the loss from their midfield of Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kante. In hindsight, I feel that we may not have run them quite so close had those two been in the Chelsea side and I’d expect Chelsea to start beating all before them again once those two return.
If we then think about the Citeh side, well, looking at their squad I reckon they could have picked two totally different XI’s out of their squad and either would have beaten us – certainly the way we played today. These top teams are simply on another level. It is what we thought was the case in the lead up to these four games against big-six sides, but that performance at Chelsea got us probably too optimistic. There is also maybe a case for suggesting that the huge effort we had to put in to stay with Chelsea on Saturday possibly cost us in a lack of energy against City. Lady Luck didn’t help much either; I’m sure Stuart Dallas didn’t intentionally miss the ball for the first City goal that opened the floodgates and the opening goal in the second half was a horrible deflection off Firpo that no goalkeeper could have stopped.
Having said all that, for me, the performance offered by too many of our players was just not good enough and I can only feel that the second half of the season is going to be a struggle every bit as tough as the first. City seemed to be quicker to every loose ball, quicker to close us down than we were in getting to them, and the touch and movement of City was different class. Defensively we looked all over the place at times too and the fact that the likes of Grealish and Ake beat our defenders so easily in the air is unacceptable. Illan Meslier probably won’t be happy when he sees the replay of the first De Bruyne goal either beating him at his near post. Going forward, too many of our regular failings were apparent; our final ball just isn’t good enough often enough so, when we did breakthrough, we more often than not wasted the opportunity.
There seemed to be a degree of friction amongst our players too, friction that got more apparent as more City goals registered on the scoreboard. Stuart Dallas was clearly trying to offer some advice to Raphinha at one point but, just as obviously, Raphinha didn’t want to listen and waved Dallas away. It was maybe a sign of how frustrated our Brazilian superstar felt that he disappeared straight down the tunnel at the end of the game while the rest of his teammates came over to salute our efforts in the stands – which incidentally, by reports I’m getting from folk who watched on TV, were pretty damn good. Seeing Marcelo standing motionless on the touchline at the end of the game, waiting for the last of his players to leave the pitch before he did, smacked of the captain knowing his ship was terminally damaged. Let’s hope Bielsa can get over the disappointment of tonight quickly and not take it too much to heart. He must know that tonight was just a matter of City being too good for the squad he has to work with, particularly shorn of the likes of Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips.
I don’t think there were any positives for Leeds tonight; no one played well in my opinion even accepting that City were fantastic. We looked very second rate judged by our own standards, never mind those of City. Even Raphinha is of little use to us when we are under the cosh like this, he just didn’t have enough to work with. Even a magician needs props. Elsewhere, I’d question again some of the positioning of Junior Firpo and some of the final balls from Jack Harrison. Jack was frequently in the game but seldom came up with that telling final ball or often even a quality one.
At the end of the day there is not too much to be gained though from analysing this one, we just have to wait now until Saturday evening and see how we perform against Arsenal. The Gunners are no City and neither, in my opinion, are they as good as a full-strength Chelsea. If, at the end of the Arsenal game, we all come away from Elland Road having seen us compete and play as we know our boys can, then we can bury tonight’s result and rightly claim it’s more to do with City than ourselves. Another thrashing though and any defensive gaffs and I for one will start to feel we are losing our way. Confidence is everything in this game and we need to find ours again before the games come next year against those teams we must compete with to ensure we survive in the Premier League. The likes of Chelsea, City and Liverpool are not in our league but the likes of Villa, Burnley, Newcastle and Everton are and those are the teams we must beat and they are all coming up again in the New Year.
Man City Leeds United
Possession 64% 36%
Shots 31 6
On Target 15 3
Corners 6 2
Fouls Committed 5 9