Two managers who had tremendous abilities during their heydays went face to face in what was touted as perhaps the undercard for the bigger and the more ravening Manchester versus Merseyside clash that’s going to take place on Monday night. Ronald Koeman’s impressive Everton side took on Pep Guardiola’s league topping Manchester City.
The game turned out to be a portrayal of the two gaffers in the end. Everton defended staunchly, at times they were lucky, but that was the sort of defending that will take the club forward. While Manchester City probed patiently but simply couldn’t find the winning goal. Pep’s side were favourites for the clash, but a point against a team who are just four points behind you isn’t the end of the world.
The game showed that Manchester City’s honeymoon period is well and truly over and the quality the top half teams in Premier League possess. Barring the win against Manchester United, City’s positive results have come against teams who were in the bottom half of the table before the match day began. Of course, as the cliché goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you, but Pep has probably realised by now that the quality in the Premier League is far more than that of the Bundesliga or the Spanish League.
The team has managed just one clean sheet so far in the league. Bayern, last season under Pep, had four by this time and were yet to drop a single point, which shows how tough it is going to be when the fixtures start piling up.
Not so long ago, Pep’s Bayern, who were outplayed by Wolfsburg – one of the top half sides in the Bundesliga and a title challenge in the previous year – came back storming to win the game in the second half. There have been quite a few cases where Pep’s side won games despite being profligate in front of goal, which won’t be the case in the Premier League. Manchester United showed that in the second half of the derby and Spurs certainly emboldened it with an impressive win at White Hart Lane. Today, Everton had minimal clearcut chances but were ahead thanks to Lukaku’s neat finish.
City have some favourable fixtures coming up as they face the likes of West Brom, Middlesbrough and Burnley in the coming weeks and that’ll be a welcome respite for them as they have now gone three games without a win in all competitions. However, they can’t let their performance levels dip as Barcelona wait in the wings.
The first eight game weeks have given us an indication that City definitely won’t run away with it as many presumed after their win against Bournemouth. Pep still has a lot of issues to deal with and considering that the top six teams are separated by just four points, it’s going to be an intriguing season.