Manchester City were in ruthless mode against Queens Park Rangers (QPR), putting six goals past Robert Green to register their fourth consecutive victory since their last Barclays Premier League defeat.
The hosts were clinical in everything they did last night, but were greatly helped by the sloppiness of a Rangers side that played like it had accepted relegation even before Mike Dean blew his whistle for kickoff.
Manuel Pellegrini struck with the same starting XI that played with great spunk to win against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane 8 days ago, and his personnel responded well to the situation.
Sergio Aguero, a player who is almost a certainty now to win the Premier League Golden Boot for this season, opened the scoring after just four minutes into the game and followed it up with two more goals in the second half, to complete his third hat-trick of the season.
Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva and James Milner scored the three other goals to hand the Londoners a humiliating defeat on their way into the Football League Championship next season.
The atmosphere inside the Etihad Stadium was rather muted, which, however, was not unexpected given that the home side was not fighting for any honors as such, but the players kept running about and made sure their performance levels didn’t dwindle because of the partisan crowd that turned up to watch them.
We got to learn a few things from a comprehensive City performance, and here are they.
City players’ energy levels were so invigorating to see
Ahead of the game, there were question marks over the mentality of the City players, and whether they would turn up for a game such as yesterday’s.
Over the last 3-4 seasons, we have seen City, as a unit, not turn up or be a little lethargic in their approach to these kinds of games, but there were no traces of complacency from each City player who played last night.
In fact, it was so good to see City players fighting for every ball, tackle hard and play as a unit while attacking or defending. It was as though Pellegrini’s men challenged themselves to be a better side, irrespective of how the visitors performed.
Overall, City attempted an impressive 34 tackles, made 22 interceptions and 34 clearances, which is a testament to their work-rate and commitment last night. And it was one of the marquee aspects of City’s victory over QPR.
Shambolic QPR allowed certain City players to gain some confidence
There has been no doubt that certain personnel in the City camp have struggled for form over the course of this season, which has had an inhibiting effect on their team as a whole.
The likes of Eliaquim Mangala, Fernando Reges and Kolarov would have expected better performances of themselves before the season began.
Yes, you could argue that Mangala and Fernando have come into a new league and taken the time to settle down, but let us not forget that they showed great potential during their times at FC Porto, which captured the attention of Txiki Begiristain who subsequently brought them to the Etihad.
But the duo’s performances have not been up to the expected standard and the confidence levels have surely been low for much of this season.
Same applies to the Serbian, who performed very well in Pellegrini’s first season in-charge of the club. But he has also struggled for form, suffered a calf injury prior to the first Manchester derby of the season, and only over the last month has he been able to get a run of games in the side.
The aforementioned trio performed well against Spurs, too, but yesterday’s game against the Rangers was a terrific opportunity to build more confidence and regain their form, even though the season is nearing its end.
Yesterday’s outing against a disillusioned QPR would have allowed the trio of Fernando, Mangala and Kolarov to reflect on themselves and the mistakes they have committed at various stages during this campaign.
City played with great rhythm and precision
By way of scoring six goals yesterday, City took their tally to 77 goals in the Premier League this season.
However, how often have we, this season, seen the Citizens play the brand of football they did yesterday? Not in many games, for sure.
Yes, QPR’s ineptitude allowed the hosts to play the game at their own pace, which they did with great aplomb, but it was definitely an attractive performance filled with some magical moments.
Silva, as is often the case, was at the heart of most City attacks, taking up positions in the center of the field and orchestrating the proceedings for his side. The Spaniard created 5 chances altogether, in addition to completing 3 of 5 attempted take-ons and 87% of his passes, and finally capped off his performance with a calmly taken goal.
The likes of Fernandinho and Frank Lampard were also in very good form, combining very well with Silva and doing their bit to not affect City’s attacking rhythm that we haven’t seen for much of this season.
Wilfried Bony, with his assist for Silva’s goal and second key pass for Milner’s goal from a corner delivered by Kolarov, also put in an eye-catching performance as a substitute.
It will definitely rank as one of City’s best performances, at least in an attacking sense, of the season.
It was a team performance, for sure
You can point to Aguero’s hat-trick and Silva’s all-round display, as the highlights of City’s win over QPR. But, in hindsight, it was a comprehensive City performance that had every player putting his hand up and playing his role to perfection: Joe Hart was flawless whenever he was called into action; Martin Demichelis and Mangala put in another good defensive performance; Pablo Zabaleta and Milner were dogged in their efforts at right-back and right-attacking-midfield, respectively; Kolarov, Fernandinho and Silva combined very well down the City left-hand-side; Lampard did his bit as a No.10, and we already have noted the classic Aguero.
Yesterday’s performance might well have arrived at an inconsequential stage of the season, but very few sides can cope with City when they play like they did yesterday.
We cannot read too much into it, even though it was a top drawer performance
The headline says it all, really.
However, the calibre of the City’s opponents meant that the home side wasn’t pushed or tested to their limits, which cannot be an ideal scenario to learn about yourself.Coming to the end of the season, with no silverware to fight for, it was good to see City players and Pellegrini motivate themselves and produce the kind of performance they did against Chris Ramsey’s side.
Also, with the season about to end, City getting into form cannot be significant. Can it?
Yesterday’s victory, in addition to Liverpool’s draw with Chelsea, assured City of a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, though they are still in need of two more points from their remaining two games in order to finish 2nd or 3rd on the table. Pellegrini and his troops would be satisfied with their performance last night and fettle they are in, going into two attractive fixtures against Swansea City (away) and Southampton (home) that will pull the curtains on the season. On the downside, it is a shame that such a beautiful performance has arrived so late on in the season, when City, barring a place in the Champions League, do not have much to play for.