Manchester City vs. Everton: 6 Things We Learned
City shook off the bad memories of last Wednesday's horror show against Bayern Munich with a comfortable 3-1 win over Everton on Saturday.
It didn't all go according to plan. Romelu Lukaku put the visitors ahead, only for the impressive Alvaro Negredo to draw City level within a couple of minutes.
Sergio Aguero's superb strike gave City the lead before half-time, and the Argentine's spot kick went in off the unlucky Tim Howard to put the game beyond Everton's reach.
So, a good day at the office for Manuel Pellegrini's side. Here are a few salient points from the day.
Hart's Doubters Will Remain
It seemed like the world and his wife were waiting for Joe Hart to make a mistake against Everton following his mistakes against Bayern. Unfortunately, the City goalkeeper obliged them all-too-early when Lukaku's shot squeezed in off of him.
But from there on Hart had one of his quieter days, dealing with just three more on-target shots as the 10 players in front of him gradually put a stranglehold on the match.
The doubts will remain for some and the spotlight will remain on Hart as England's final World Cup qualifiers dominate the landscape over the next couple of weeks.
Pellegrini admitted he considered dropping Hart, but was right to stick by his main man. Roy Hodgson has given the 26-year-old the dreaded vote of confidence for England. Hart needs an eye-catching performance of the positive kind to re-establish his undoubted credentials.
Nastasic Steps Up
Pellegrini changed three of his back four from the Bayern game. He was forced into another alteration when Vincent Kompany limped off in the first half.
But what a difference a change makes, with Matija Nastasic helping extinguish Everton's threat after replacing his talismanic skipper and looking like he had taken on the lessons from Wednesday's humiliation.
The Serb has been quietly effective since his arrival in August 2012 and his inclusion never raises any fears—compare and contrast with Stefan Savic—so once Kompany is fit you can expect to see the Belgian partnering Nastasic on a regular basis again, based on Saturday's assured showing.
Yet to See the Best of Fernandinho
Considering the £30m or so spent on him, City fans may have expected to see a bit more from Fernandinho since his summer arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk.
That's still the case, despite the result against Everton, and while the Brazilian did not make any mistakes like the glaring one that led to Bayern's second goal on Wednesday, he didn't rip up any trees either.
I thought Fernandinho may have been dropped following the Bayern defeat. Kudos to Pellegrini for sticking by his most expensive signing. But so far Fernandinho does not compare well with a previous occupant of the holding role, Nigel De Jong, in terms of adding bite.
In terms of distribution, Gareth Barry's displays since his loan move to Everton have made a few wonder why he was allowed to leave City on loan. He was ineligible to play against his parent club on Saturday, preventing a compare and contrast job with Fernandinho.
Probably just as well. This is no great issue, but like Hart, Fernandinho needs to demonstrably show off his assets a touch more.
Welcome Back Silva!
David Silva's performance as a substitute was one of very few bright spots in City's display against Bayern Munich. Against Everton, he ran the show.
Rightly made man-of-the-match by Michael Owen on BT Sport, the Spain international was in sublime form and was crucial in City wresting control back on what could have been another difficult afternoon.
Completing 41 out of 46 passes in the attacking third and creating six chances, per Four Four Two's stats, Silva will be in pole position for a lot more starts, following his recent thigh injury, after the international break.
Negredo at Home in England
The lowest-profile of City's summer signings, Alvaro Negredo has had the biggest impact of the players brought in since the departure of Roberto Mancini.
His goal on Saturday proved to be the perfect way of easing City nerves just 94 seconds after Lukaku's opener, and followed hot on the heels of his excellent strike against Bayern Munich.
There's been no awkward bedding-in period for the Spain striker. He should be one of the first names on Pellegrini's team sheet from now on. Edin Dzeko's supporters will disagree—their guy can do no wrong in their eyes—but they should take a look how Negredo makes a nuisance of himself and delivers when needed.
City Keep the Pressure on
There was a telling moment late in the match that bodes well for City fans.
Their side toyed with Everton and kept possession for what seemed like an eternity around 83 minutes, but the move broke down following some dithering from Fernandinho.
The reactions from several players, including Yaya Toure and James Milner, showed how annoyed they were that a chance to add another and truly put the game to bed had slipped away.
There are high standards to be maintained with so much at stake, and with margins likely to be tight in this year's title race the Blues will need to maintain the high levels of professionalism that saw them bounce back from a galling defeat so effectively on Saturday.