Manchester City fell even further back in the Premier League title race with a damaging defeat away to Aston Villa on Wednesday night.
Pep Guardiola’s side arrived at Villa Park having drawn their last three league games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham. The home side began on the front foot with Pau Torres testing Ederson and making the Brazilian pull off a fantastic save to keep the game goalless.
It was then Emiliano Martinez’s turn to provide some sensational stops as he twice denied Erling Haaland from breaking the deadlock. Villa carried on taking the game to Pep Guardiola’s side throughout the first half but surprisingly could not find an opener.
After Douglas Luiz thought he had given his team the lead, only to discover the ball had already gone out of play earlier on in the move, the two sides went down the tunnel goalless.
Manchester City improved at that start of the second period of play but still could not find the all-important goal, or even a shot for that matter. Pep Guardiola sensed a change was needed and took off Rico Lewis and Julian Alvarez for Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes.
The Catalan coach then followed this up with taking off Phil Foden for Oscar Bobb as his side continued to pursue the opener. Yet it was Villa who stormed into the lead through a deflected hit from Leon Bailey, who used his raw pace to get to the edge of the box before his strike smacked Ruben Dias and into the top corner.
The Jamaican had already scored in this fixture last season in a smash-and-grab 1-1 draw but had a better game this time around. Villa almost had a second as former City midfielder Luiz beat Ederson from distance but the Brazilian saw his shot strike the post.
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City second best
It is far from often in recent years, especially since the introduction of Pep Guardiola in the summer of 2016, that one could say Manchester City were outplayed.
Yet in Birmingham on Wednesday night that is exactly what happened as the Citizens found themselves looking at a very unwanted scoreline. Aston Villa to their credit were excellent throughout and looked every bit as good as their Treble-winning counterparts.
It was worrying to say the least to see Manchester City bested with such ease even with the absence of several big hitters for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Premier League woes continue
Manchester City arrived at Villa Park in troubled form having not recorded a domestic win in their last three games. The Treble winners made no sign of ending this unwanted record, not even finding the back of the net in their troublesome loss at Villa, or recording more than two shots on goal to their opponents’ 22 efforts.
Form such as this is worrying when Pep Guardiola’s side are going all out to win a potential fourth Premier League title in a row. Already falling behind Arsenal, City will have to buck up their ideas if they are to stay alive in this race heading into the relentless winter fixture list.
Ederson is him
Many keepers are always well respected and discussed in world’s best conversations but Manchester City’s Ederson is often left out of such discussions. This, given his fantastic 2022/23 Treble-winning season, is somewhat unfair and the Brazilian once again proved his worth on Wednesday night.
Faced with mounting Aston Villa pressure throughout, the keeper stood firm and made several impressive saves to keep his side in it. He is often praised for his fancy footwork on the ball but it was his shot stopping on the night which made him City’s man of the match.
Manchester City were without several midfield stalwarts for their venture to Villa Park and it showed. Without the likes of Rodri or Kevin De Bruyne, the home side were able to surge through the engine room time after time.
This meant a high level of pressure on the Premier League champions’ backline with Ederson being tested continuously. Many comment on Manchester City’s squad depth but with just a few midfielders out, the European champions look nowhere near the side they can be at times with everyone at their disposal.
Villa are contenders
With the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham battling it out at the top of the Premier League, it is easy to forget about the other teams. One side which has risen under the radar has been City’s opponents on the night Aston Villa, who find themselves right at the top with the rest.
This is by no means a fluke given their brilliant performance against Pep Guardiola’s side on Wednesday with high energy and pressing causing problems. If they manage to retain the majority of this squad for several years they can only go from strength to strength under Unai Emery.
Like Leicester City before them, the sky is the limit and this group of players, having finished seventh in the Premier League last year, can push on again and give the big boys something to worry about.
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