Aston Villa vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
Manchester City figure to have all they can handle against defending title holder Bayern Munich in Champions League play later this week.
A calling card of most great teams is the ability to focus strictly on the task at hand. Within a match, only the next play matters. On the schedule, only the next match matters.
City's schedule mandated a visit to Villa Park to take on an Aston Villa side hamstrung by a hip injury to Christian Benteke. As City proved again, though, there are no easy points to be had on the road in the Premier League.
This match was a terrible watch in the first half and a thrilling watch in the second half, especially for the Villa partisans.
Squad Rotation Is Not Really an Option in the Premier League
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini surely wants all of his best players to be fit and ready for the upcoming encounter with Bayern Munich.
But other than Sergio Aguero's absence from the XI, City's starting lineup was of a quality fit for Champions League play.
Pellegrini apparently believes that the Premier League title race may run as deep as five or six sides with legitimate aspirations. As such, he could not afford to run out anything less than an excellent team even for a routine September Saturday visit to Villa Park.
Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo all started for City. Pellegrini could have been forgiven for sitting them in favor of players like Jack Rodwell, Joleon Lescott and Stevan Jovetic.
That is clearly not an option given the league's quality at the top of the table. There are just no points to give away.
A Tale of Two Halves
Without injured forward Christian Benteke, Aston Villa's XI seemed utterly bereft of scoring threat.
The halftime statistics were therefore quite gruesome for Villa fans. City had possession for 68 percent of the first half. They had eight corner kicks against one for Villa. City outshot Villa 10-3.
Villa's approach to this match in the first half may have made sense at the Etihad. The paying customers at Villa Park, though, had to be wondering what they came out to see.
Then, in the second half, Villa took the match straight to City, who had few answers. All of City's possession (they finished with 67 percent) mattered little, as they eschewed the good chances they created.
Meanwhile, every time Villa were presented with a scoring opportunity, they converted like they were the big-money, big-name side.
As always, you turn off a Premier League match at halftime at your own risk.
Yaya Toure Is Laying Claim to Being the Premier League's Best Midfielder
Yaya Toure scored Manchester City's first goal of the match near the end of the first half at Aston Villa. In truth, he could have had two or three goals if the ball had bounced City's way. Regardless, that makes four goals in four matches for the massive Ivorian.
He has been an elite footballer for years, but toward the end of Roberto Mancini's tenure at the Etihad, some of the gleam on Toure's game had dulled.
City's new signings, particularly Fernandinho, and the resurgence of Samir Nasri have reignited Toure.
On present form, it is hard to argue otherwise.
Small Errors Often Translate to Big Trouble in the Premier League
Manchester City ran rampant over Aston Villa for 50 minutes. Then City ceded possession cheaply at midfield, and Villa wound up with a harmless looking throw-in from the left sideline.
That is, until the ball was worked to the right side of the 18-yard box and City's normally stout defense came apart at the wrong time.
Television replays did indicate that Karim El Ahmadi was offside by a short distance, but the flag stayed down and Villa leveled.
El Ahmadi would not have gotten the shot away at all, though, if Aleksandar Kolarov, Matija Nastasic and Samir Nasri had not all been caught flat-footed and ball-watching within a few feet of each other as the through ball found El Ahmadi.
Then later, Nastasic needlessly tripped Andreas Weimann just outside the 18-yard box. Leandro Bacuna's resulting free kick was pounded past Joe Hart.
No matter how talented your side might be, these sorts of defensive lapses normally end up in your net.
Edin Dzeko Is Still a Significant Cog in City's Scoring Machine
Edin Dzeko is back. He would probably argue that he never went away in the first place.
After seemingly losing his place in the XI after the Cardiff City loss, Dzeko looked to be in for another season of trying to make his mark during 20-minute cameos at the end of matches.
He has responded brightly to the setback, though, scoring at Viktoria Plzen in Champions League play and now again today against Aston Villa.
His goal at Villa Park, a quality headed ball past a helpless Brad Guzan, is the sort of work City need to see more of from the towering Dzeko. Especially against less physically imposing sides like Villa, Dzeko should have his way with the ball in the air.
It will be interesting to see whether Pellegrini tabs Dzeko or Alvaro Negredo to run with Sergio Aguero against Bayern Munich at the Etihad at midweek.
City Were Ultimately Betrayed by Their Three Best Defenders
Andreas Weimann's match winner was the result of a spectacular gaffe from City's putative best central defense pairing and their embattled keeper.
Brad Guzan's innocuous punt in the 75th minute ended up slotting between Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic straight to Weimann.
So Weimann had what could best be called a semi-breakaway on Joe Hart. Except Hart panicked and left his line, allowing Weimann to tap past him into the empty net.
Either Kompany or Nastasic had to take either the ball or Weimann. Instead, they both looked at each other as if to say "you have this, right?"
As for Hart, he might have been better served staying on his line and hoping for Nastasic or Kompany to close down or for Weimann to hit one at him.
City's small errors cost them Villa's first two goals. Their biggest blunder cost them the match.