In Josep Guardiola’s first season as Manchester City manager, the Blues have produced breathtaking second-half displays to beat illustrious teams like Barcelona and Arsenal, with both of those victories coming at the Etihad Stadium, where they have lost just once so far this season, across all competitions. Against Monaco in the first leg of their R-16 clash at the Etihad, Guardiola’s men had to produce another brilliant second-half display to keep themselves in a tie which the French side threatened to run away with.
But Manchester City repeated their second-half displays from meetings with Barcelona and Arsenal, and beat a magnificent Monaco side 5-3.
Manchester City vs Monaco, R-16 UCL 2016/17 Season
Here are three standout aspects of the Blues’ win over the French Ligue 1 leaders:
Personality and mental strength
Manchester City’s collective and individual errors in the first 45′, had left them with a mountain to climb. Leonardo Jardim’s side had scored two away goals and the ball was firmly in City’s court. Many a City player had let the team, the manager and the fans down, and albeit the hosts had a reason or two to feel hard done by, they were in serious danger of being knocked out of this competition at the R-16 stage for the third time in four years.
But, almost every City player—except the likes of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and David Silva, who had to repeat their first half showings—raised his game by a notch or two and this improvement was pivotal in achieving the end result. Look, Manchester City could so easily have imploded like Arsenal did against Bayern Munich.
Instead, Willy Caballero and Sergio Aguero responded strongly, with saves from the penalty spot and open play and goals and assists, respectively, after their lapses in the first half. And collectively, City responded well to almost every setback they suffered.
And the personality shown by City was arguably the most striking aspect of their 5-3 win.
Can you believe it, seriously?
While the back four (Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Bacary Sagna, Fernandinho, and Pablo Zabaleta) for Manchester City won a mere 36.36% (8) of their attempted tackles (22), the front five (Aguero, Sane, Sterling, Silva, and Kevin de Bruyne) won a whopping 52.6% (10) of their attempted tackles (19). This, mind you, was 45% more than what the Monaco midfielders and attackers (Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, Radamel Falcao, Thomas Lemar, and Kylian Mbappe) managed (8%).
For City, the likes of de Bruyne, Sane, Sterling, and Aguero tracking back and coming away with the ball, more often than not, were extremely important, because Monaco carried an attacking threat to such an extent that City’s calamitous defenders just couldn’t deal with and the visitors’ attacks were quite frequent too.
A team effort all the way
Manchester City are blessed with so much of individual quality, that they do not always have to play as a team. The likes of Aguero, Yaya Toure and Kevin de Bruyne, of all other players, are capable of winning matches on their own.
But against Monaco, one of the standout aspects, from a Manchester City perspective, was the team working together in and out of possession. As aforementioned, the attackers won a huge share of their attempted tackles; tracked back when needed; from the defenders’ point of view, Stones contributed with a hugely crucial goal which put City in the lead for the second time on the night; and Caballero redeemed himself extremely well after a poor first half.
Although Manchester City have to strengthen defensively, their bounce back ability and free-scoring forwards will stand them in good stead in the upcoming months of this season. The Manchester City vs Monaco UEFA Champions League R-16 tie isn’t over yet, and City will have to produce another good attacking display in the second leg at Stade Louis II on 15 March, to progress.
What, according to you, stood out in Manchester City’s 5-3 victory for Guardiola’s side?