Erling Haaland returned to the scoresheet for the first time in 77 days to give Manchester City a 2-0 win over Everton and top spot temporarily in the Premier League table.
The win gave Manchester City a momentary one point lead over Liverpool, however after wins for both Jurgen Klopp’s side and Arsenal, the Premier League top three continue to be separated by just two points.
Saturday’s late win was the first of three successive home Premier League matches for Manchester City, with an Erling Haaland brace extending the Blues’ current winning streak to 10 games.
It was a sluggish first-half for Manchester City, who struggled to create chances for much of the opening 45 minutes.
There were multiple instances in the first-half where Guardiola was seen to be shouting at his team during the build-up, before eventually retreating to the bench to speak with his assistants.
Less than 10 minutes into the second-half Guardiola had seen enough and signalled for Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne to get ready.
Walker was brought on to replace Manuel Akanji, while De Bruyne replaced Mattheus Nunes.
Following the substitutions, Manchester City continued to grow into the game and finally were able to break the deadlock.
City got their chance in the 70th minute when Haaland volleyed in his 50th Premier League goal.
It came off a corner kick where Everton were unable to clear the ball away, after a few attempts it bounced to Haaland, who fired in a weak footed effort that Pickford was unable to parry away.
In the closing minutes Everton were forced to come out of their shell and attack, but their push for an equaliser opened themselves up for Haaland to double the lead.
De Bruyne received the ball just short of the halfway line and played an inch-perfect ball to Haaland in behind the Everton defence. The Norwegian only had Jarrad Branthwaite to beat and he easily shrugged off the centre-back’s tackle to put himself through on goal.
While the City squad celebrated the insurance goal, Guardiola was seen frantically calling for Jack Grealish to get ready to come onto the pitch. The former Villa winger replaced Jeremy Doku, to ensure control in the final minutes and see out the victory.
Here are the Five Things Learned from Manchester City’s win against Everton!
Erling Haaland has shaken off the rust
While De Bruyne has had a monumental impact since returning, the same cannot be said for Haaland. After missing a few chances over the past few matches, he made sure to take full advantage of the two opportunities that came his way against Everton.
Haaland is the last member of the squad who’s yet to snap into form with a title run-in brewing. However, today’s performance shows that he is on his way.
Slow starts are still a trend
Manchester City have only scored in the first-half once in three out of their last four matches. With the lone first-half goal coming three minutes in stoppage time against Brentford last week. Expanding further out, City have either failed to score entirely or have scored even later than that in six out of their past 11 matches dating back to the loss away at Villa.
There’s two ways to look at the trend: Guardiola has been able to consistently make tweaks to his City side to carve out difficult wins, or the squad’s inconsistent performances will come back to bite them against tougher competition.
I’m an optimist and think it’s the former, but the March slate is filled with title deciding games. If these slow starts continue over the next several weeks, it could cost Manchester City the title.
Foden is wasted on the right wing
There was a brief period in the second-half when Foden was allowed to play in the central areas and it was the best Manchester City looked all match. It was during that time where the 23-year-old created the chance that led to the corner kick for the opening goal.
However, once Bernardo was brought on Foden was once again pushed out wide, and Manchester City were not as creative.
At times, Foden’s positional flexibility has been his biggest strength. However, it was the opposite on Saturday and it has been proven time and time throughout the season that the more involved Foden is throughout the game, the better the team plays.
Doku’s final ball has yet to improve
Jeremy Doku was Manchester City’s best player in the first-half. The Belgian routinely drove past Ben Godfrey and carried it into the penalty area. Despite his continuous attacks into Everton’s box, his final ball was never good enough to give Alvarez, Haalaand or Foden a good chance to convert.
It’s still only a little over halfway through his first season, and he still has more than enough time to develop. However, it still frustrating how consistent this issue has been all season.
Nunes shouldn’t feature against defensive sides
Matheus Nunes’ pace and dribbling ability have been vital at times this season. But that is a skillset that can only be taken advantage of in certain circumstances. It’s why he’s faired well in the Champions League and against clubs like Burnley.
If there isn’t space for him to exploit, he rarely makes an impact. There were multiple times in the first-half where both Rodri and Foden expressed frustrations at his decision making.
Similar to Doku, it’s still a little over halfway through his first season and he will learn and improve, but soon this will not be the time of the season for that.
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