No Gundogan, no problem: Man City march on as Foden and Bernardo fill midfield void

Foden Gundogan Bernardo Man City GFX

Match statistics: Everton 1-3 Manchester City

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero have both been on the sidelines for mostof City’s current record-breaking run of victories, while at Everton on Wednesday the Premier League leaders had to do without recent talisman Ilkay Gundogan.

And yet Pep Guardiola’s current City iteration are able to find a way as they continue to cut a swathethrough opposition teams with supreme confidence.

De Bruyne was actually back in the match-day squad at Goodison Park, but was restricted to a 12-minute cameo off the bench once the points had all but been secured.

Instead it was left to Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva to fill the creative midfield void, and they did so excellently as they pulled Everton all over the pitch while both ending up on the scoresheet in the 3-1 victory.

Germany international Gundogan missed out as he nurseda slight muscle strain picked up against Tottenham on Saturday, though he should be back against either Arsenal or Borussia Monchengladbach in the next week.

And with De Bruyne having now returnedafter a month out with a hamstring injury, Guardiola arguably has the most talented group of midfielders to pick from in world football.

In truth, Foden’s best moments this season have come playing out wide, but his long-term position is seen as being a No.10, so to be given the role for such a tricky assignment was another significant landmark in his burgeoning career.

He does nothave the experience of Gundogan or De Bruyne, and certainly did nothave everything his own way hereas both Abdoulaye Doucoure and Tom Davies looked to rush the England international when he picked up possession.

Just before the half-hour mark he gave the ball away carelessly, leading toa severe reprimand from Guardiola on the sideline.

Two minutes later he had opened the scoring.

There was a touch of fortune about it, his low strike with his weaker right foot bouncingoff Seamus Coleman and over Jordan Pickford, but it showed the impact he can have in attacking areas.

The only player younger than Fodenin Europe’s top five leagues to have bettered his 11 goals in all competitions this season is Erling Haaland, and those who chose the Champions League over the Premier League on Wednesday know what the Borussia Dortmund staris all about.

For Foden to be keeping such company suggests that he might not be too far behind this week’s headline-grabbers Haaland and Kylian Mbappe when it comes to handing out future Ballons d’Or.

Back in the present, and generally a single goal would be enough for City given how tight they have been keeping things defensive in recent months, and as such Guardiola will have been furious with the way they were pegged back before half-time as Richarlison diverted the ball into the net after Lucas Digne’s shot came back off the post.

It proved, however, to only be aslight blip as City dominated throughout before finally re-establishingtheir lead through RiyadMahrez’s stunning strike in the 63rd minute.

The Algeria international has cut inside onto his left foot enough times now for opposition defences to guard against it, but Everton had no answer to Mahrez as he expertly and powerfully curled a 20-yard drive past Pickford.

Bernardo, who grabbed an assist for Mahrez’s goal, then rounded out his impressive performance with an equally superb left-footed shot into the bottom corner to ensure City became the first team in English top-flight history to win their first 10 league games of a calendar year.

Portugalplaymaker Bernardo has been back to his best this season and, in tandem with Foden, gives Guardiola yet another option in a number of attacking positions.

The Catalan coach will need his full squad if they are toattack the four competitions they remain in, and a tight fixture schedule means that any kind of deep run in the Champions League guarantees a challenging two-games-a-week calendar until the end of the season.


Source : goal.com