Manchester City: 5 Points of Interest from the Aston Villa Game
Manchester City dominated the channels and the center of midfield, as they completely stifled the Villains. Naturally, this dominance was also reflected in the possession statistics. A comprehensive victory, and I'm sure you would agree.
However, the hegemonic nature of the victory brings to the fore another cause for concern. The City lineup lacked Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez, the club's perceived "linchpins," and yet, they still cruised to victory. It appears that Manchester City's strength in depth allows it to dispatch a mid-table team with ease, while fielding their "second-string."
Nevertheless, these worries should not overshadow the fact that City was brilliant—in every sense of the word. Mario Balotelli's opener (an overhead kick) was brilliance exemplified. James Milner's goal was a long-ranger worthy of winning any game. Even though City were brilliant individuals, their brilliance extended to their team dynamic. Their mesmerizing runs and intricate patterns of passing made for pleasurable viewing to City fans and Neutrals.
To provide some context to the situation, City were languishing in the Third Division just over 13 years ago. Scary stuff.
City's Domination of the Wings
City fielded four wide players, their full-backs and their wingers, Clichy and Richards, as well as Milner and Johnson, respectively. Villa matched City's width man for man, at least in terms of bodies.
Agbonlahor and Heskey were complemented defensively by Warnock and Hutton, respectively. Manchester City monopolized wing play, and from there came City's chances.
Villa's Midfield Lineup: Effective?
The Villa midfield consisted of Fabian Delph, Stilyan Petrov and Stephen Ireland. Ireland was the creative midfielder, fulfilling what resembled a free role, but, in reality, was just a more advanced passer, in the Danny Murphy mould. His role can be compared to a junction at a train station, directing passes to the right place while being stationary.
Delph was vibrant. The young Villan bounced around and tackled everything that moved. He was also the source of many a Villa chance. He had a box-to-box role and played his heart out. Stilyan Petrov was the most inconspicuous of the three and played a deep-lying playmaker role, distributing balls all over the pitch. He was ineffective, and that was amplified by the inconspicuous nature of his role.
The width in the midfield came from Gabriel Agbonlahor, playing an inside forward role, aiming to get behind Manchester City's high offside line with his pace, and Emile Heskey, who played a slightly withdrawn "Target Man" role behind the two other forwards/wingers. Therefore, the plan was to launch high balls to Heskey, who would win the ball in the air and feed it to Agbonlahor and Bent running on.
Manchester City's Midfield
Manchester City played a 4-4-1-1, with a midfield four and a trequartista (Yaya Toure) behind Mario Balotelli. Barry and De Jong played their usual roles, that of a deep lying midfielder and of a deep lying destroyer. Toure played ahead of them, zipping around, connecting the midfield to the attack.
However, it was the winger Adam Johnson, through whom most of the play went. Johnson played a standard winger role as opposed to his counterpart Milner, who played a more defensive wing role.
Set Pieces Key
It was a scrappy game in which Villa defended really well in open play against a team who dominated possession and attacked with style. Their no-holds-barred defensive style produced no goals inside the box from open play.
The difference was made by the set pieces such as Balotelli's wonder overhead kick, putting City ahead and giving them confidence. A second set-piece goal occured, as Kompany headed one in from another corner. Villa, however, was not able to convert any of their set pieces.
Owen Hargreaves's New Role?
Hargreaves usually plays as a midfield destroyer, in the role that Nigel De Jong occupies for club and country. He has been excellent, winning two Champions League titles with Bayern Munich and Manchester United.
Today, however, he came on to find himself as the most advanced in a midfield-3, technically in the playmaking position but playing more like an Essien or a Gerrard.