Many people thought that the match could be a bore fest with City having already confirmed the top position in the group. But, it was an entertaining spectacle of the highest quality. The movement and positional play of City was simply outstanding. The way both the full backs were tucking inside highlighted the mood of Pep Guardiola. He was flexing his tactical muscles in a way that amazed the Sevilla manager.
The academy stars displayed excellent tactical nous
Pep was not playing the usual inverted full back system today. He made a little bit of tweaks that ensured width in the formation. To put it in simple words, Pep wanted to ensure that Grealish and Mahrez had width all the time. So, whenever Grealish or Mahrez cut in, the inverted full backs had to provide the width. But, it doesn’t stop here. The twist was that the full backs sometimes had to swap positions with the midfielders and play central midfield.
This would have fazed most youngsters. But, Rico Lewis and Cole palmer displayed their tactical flexibility excellently well. In fact, there were balls over the top of Rico Lewis and he dealt with them very well defensively. Cole Palmer was also very disciplined in the midfield and he displayed maturity beyond his age. He recycled possession very well and was very quick in his thought process. He was not caught on the ball even once in a congested midfield. This tells you that we are seeing a special player develop in front of us.
Rico Lewis is Walker’s successor
I know this might seem like a statement made in the heat of the moment rather than thoughtfully. But, I have not decided on this based on his goal or dribbling ability. It is his maturity in reading and recognizing the state of the game that has compelled me to come up with this conclusion. I know there is a long way in the journey of Rico Lewis to take over the baton from Walker. But, the personality he has displayed in taking over the game when we were 1-0 down tells me that he has the character and desire to be the world’s best
There was a situation in the first half when Lewis did a mistake and gave the ball away. Most of the youngsters in that position would be dwelling over the mistake. They might even lose a bit of confidence. But, Rico Lewis sprinted and put in a challenge to get the ball back. This shows me that he has the character to quickly focus on the next moment rather than dwell on the previous one. This quality is even more important than all of the talent and ability in the world.
Alvarez is Pep’s perfect center forward
Alvarez did everything that Pep could have asked of a center forward. He was leading City’s press, was dropping into the midfield and also was making those runs behind the opposition defense. In simple words, Alvarez was a menace for the opposition. The cross from De Bruyne was out of this world. It was King Kevin at his supreme best. But the finish was also of the highest level. The way Alvarez rounded the goal keeper and smashed into the top corner gave me goosebumps.
This performance of Alvarez might be critical in shaping Pep’s mind for tactically difficult games. What we have seen from Alvarez is that he can implement tactically difficult instructions from Pep. Even when the game was going tough, Alvarez led the press and was often the one who demanded the ball in tight spaces. I see a special relationship developing between Alvarez and Pep Guardiola. He seems to be an other player who is capable of implementing Pep’s thoughts and ideologies in difficult situations.
The win was probably the smallest takeaway from today’s game. This tells you how much of an impact this game has had on the form and career of certain players. This game will surely be a springboard for Rico Lewis to jumpstart his career. On the other hand Cole Palmer showed us that he is absolutely versatile and can carry out tough tactical instructions in a variety of positions. Riyad Mahrez might have jump started his second coming with the goal. Overall, I feel this game can be a major impulse for us to move into a higher gear and crank up the heat.