This was a match of two contrasting halves. There was frustration on one side and it was followed by great joy at the end. The second half felt like you were taken on a thrilling ride where every moment gave you goosebumps. It was just a wonderful experience that cannot be described in words at all
Haaland is here for his footballing education
The reason why Haaland chose City is becoming more clear with every passing day. He is learning and adapting to play against tight defenses and narrow blocks with much more confidence. Patience is the key word here. He had to wait a lot in order to get on the ball yesterday. But, he relentlessly made run after run onto that far post and that is where he got one of his goals from.
Each of his goals were different and it conveyed a unique message about Haaland’s qualities. The first goal was about his ever improving heading ability. There was no pace on the cross from Foden. When the ball loops up in the air, it is often times difficult to head it. But, Haaland just thumped into the corner. The second goal was an example of patiently waiting on that far post and anticipating the ball to some how get there. You cannot teach that instinct. The third goal was a signature Haaland goal. We must not forget that he was dealing with 2 physically strong center backs and they could not even shake him off. The crazy thing was that the center backs were even trying to foul him, but it was just an exercise that went in vain.
The tactical system might be the problem
The inverted full back system just doesn’t seem to work against counter attacking teams. Teams are now having their pacy wingers high and wide. This means that both our full backs are struggling to get back from that central midfield sort of a role and deal with the opposition forwards. If Kyle Walker can’t recover in time, then i think we might be looking at an impossible situation here. Also, with this system, our center backs are having to face so many one on ones that you are bound to concede at some point.
Also, my problem with the inverted full back system is that Walker might not be best suited to it. Teams are leaving Walker with time and space to put the ball in from that inverted midfield role. The problem is that Walker is not the most efficient crosser. I think that, if a Cancelo plays there then we could get more out of this system. You could unlock Cancelo’s best abilities as well. To be fair, Cancelo seems to be struggling down that left hand side.
The problem of taking out Walker would be the lack of recovery pace in the team. We are winning right now, but I think there are issues that Pep is still battling against. I am not quite sure if Pep understands his best system and the right personnel to play in it. I know that with the arrival of Haaland, Pep needed to make some sweeping tactical changes to shift towards playing with a striker. Pep is still working it out and the great thing is that we are still not dropping our quality in this transition phase.
Stones needs to get his act right
The case of John Stones is always curious for me. There have been times in his City career when he has looked an absolute world beater and a defensive leader. But, there have also been times when he looked like he is not even capable of getting into our EDS squad. The Newcastle match was an absolute shambles, Barcelona match wasn’t better either and it just seemed to get worst for him against Palace with that own goal.
My only defense of Stones will be that he is a confidence player and right now he is very low on confidence. I am not quite sure what the issue is, but he just doesn’t seem to be in the right space of mind. I would just give him the benefit of doubt here, and watch him closely in the next match. The next match could be an important one to redeem himself and ensure that he doesn’t fall down the pecking order. With Ake and Laporte set to return, there is a possibility that Stones could find it very difficult to force his way back
Julian Alvarez the unsung hero
I know that Bernardo had an outstanding game and he was unplayable. Foden looked bright in the second half and Gundogan seems to be on absolute fire right now. But, I firmly think that Alvarez was the player who gave the base for the other attacking players to go and do their job. His pressing was relentless and he suffocated the Palace players. The most important aspect of his game was the way he controlled the tempo on the wings and brought players like Foden into the game. Pep was talking about this quality of controlling the tempo and how Foden failed at it against Newcastle. Alvarez showed how it is done.
Also, the rotation of Alvarez with Foden was just outstanding. This was the response of Pep to Palace doubling on our wingers. The Palace defense found it almost impossible to deal with the movement of Alvarez. I feel that the time has come for Pep to start Alvarez and play him in that second striker role behind Haaland