One: City’s tactical approach prevented Everton from playing on the counter-attack. In last week’s victory over Southampton, Everton were electric on the counter-attack, with the Saints unable to live with the Blues pace and willingness to get forward. You would expect that against a team of City’s calibre with their ability to build pressure on the edge of the Blues’ box Everton would have numerous opportunities to play in a similar vein. However Pellegrini set up his City side in a manner which prevented Everton from finding space behind the City midfield and subsequently nullified Everton’s opportunity to play on the counter.
The heat maps for both Toure and Fernandinho show how deep City’s midfield remained despite the title favourites enjoying the majority of possession. Pellegrini stretched his side the full length of the pitch to deny Everton space and utilised the intelligence of David Silva to hold up play and bring the other City forwards into the game without the need for Toure and Fernandinho to heavily involve themselves in City’s forward play. On the two occasions the Everton midfield were able to break forward into dangerous positions they were quickly halted by cynical challenges, firstly on Ross Barkley and later in the first half on Tom Cleverley. Both tackles resulted in yellow cards, but with three points in the bag, City will not care one jot.
Two: Lack of width curtailed Everton’s attacking instincts. Everton’s passing was sharp on Sunday, certainly in the first half, with the Blues moving the ball crisply and decisively. However on several occasions the Everton attack broke down or slowed because of a lack of natural width. Tom Cleverley tried his hardest to provide width on the right, but on the left Everton were lacking, with Arouna Kone drifting into a central position all too often and Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning lacking confidence to push forward from full back into the empty spaces. The average position/player influence diagram shows how little Everton utilised the left flank throughout the 90 minutes.
Three: We are missing Leighton Baines. The point above is a clear indication of how much Everton are missing Leighton Baines but not only are Everton lacking width, particularly on the left, they are missing one of the team’s most creative and dynamic players in Leighton Baines. City’s right back, Bacary Sagna enjoyed a very comfortable day and Jesus Navas was able to push forward knowing that Everton possessed little threat going the other way. Everton’s inability to push forward down the flanks is evidenced by the lack of balls into the opposition box, with the Blues crossing the ball just five times from open play in the entire 90 minutes.
Four: Ross Barkley is a growing influence on the Everton team. Prior to Sunday, Barkley’s 2 goals from the opening 2 games had obviously filled the Wavertree born midfield player with confidence and in the first 45 minutes he buzzed around the pitch looking every bit the international class midfield player we have our hopes pinned on. Barkley was confident in possession, running past players, his first touch was secure, allowing him to twist and turn away from his marker and into space and his passing was crisp and sharp. Barkley was the only player who looked capable of unlocking the City defence and he was unfortunate not to create a goal for Lukaku, with the Belgium forward adjudged marginally offside after firing into the City net. Barkley had a quiet second half as City recognised he was Everton’s prime threat, but on this form, Barkley looks set to finally fulfill his promise and he has certainly been Everton’s star player in the opening month of the season.
Five: Tim Howard at fault for both City’s goals. After a solid first half, Tim Howard will be hugely disappointed with his involvement in Manchester City’s goals. The first, from Aleksandar Kolarov was a huge error on the part of the American stopper. With the angles closed, the Serbian should have stood no chance of scoring, however he drilled the ball into the tightest of gaps to leave Howard red faced and embarrassed.
The second City goal reflected Howard’s afternoon. Moments earlier he had denied Jesus Navas with a good save, only for City to push again and after a clever ball from Toure, Samir Nasri was able to comfortably lift the ball passed Howard and into the empty net. A well worked goal from City, but the USA keeper should have come off his line with more purpose and confidence and if he had done so, he would certainly have beaten the French international to the ball and at the very worst taken man and ball as one.