1) De Bruyne's importance is quickly escalating
Manchester City's spine hasn't really changed since the Roberto Mancini days, with David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart all still integral to Manuel Pellegrini's side. With the exception of Hart, all of City's key players have had issues with injuries and fitness in recent seasons, however, which makes it harder to rely on them.
The signings of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne have certainly altered the team's outlook going forward, and at 24 years old, Belgian De Bruyne is more consistent than the former Liverpool winger and is already staking a claim for Silva and Aguero-like importance.
It wasn't just the fact he won the game with a superb left-footed finish; he was the one constant threat to Sevilla and Man City’s only real chance of a making something happen, with limited options on the bench. “I think it’s very important for him [to score],” said Pellegrini after the match. “We tried to make some changes because we weren’t arriving into their box or creating chances, which is why we put Kevin up front and fortunately we created the play that produced the goal.”
2) Navas still needs better end product
The extra attacking additions in the summer have meant that Jesus Navas will likely play a lesser role as the season progresses. However, injuries to Silva and Samir Nasri at present ensures he has a place in the starting XI for the foreseeable future.
The Spaniard was eager to impress against his former club early on, although he quickly faded as Sevilla gained a grip on the match. His work rate is always impressive, as he tracks opposing full-backs and assists his own defenders. Navas looked to utilise his speed in the attacking third, but often checked back and played the simple pass. His crossing can be a little wayward at times too, and it's this lack of confidence which affects his final delivery.
Navas beat an opponent twice, made 7 ball recoveries and completed 2 tackles, but only 1 of his crosses made it to a team-mate. He either doesn't look up to see the movement in front of him or he over-hits the service. More of that, and you have to wonder what kind of role he'll enjoy when other squad members return.
3) Konoplyanka will continue to attract attention
Reports suggest that Jose Mourinho is keen on Yevhen Konoplyanka, after the Chelsea coach was spotted in Kiev last week. Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu confirmed the suspicions. “Mourinho is interested in Konoplyanka,” the experienced Romanian revealed. “I was at Ukraine vs Spain with Mourinho and he is interested in some players.”
It’s no surprise on this evidence, as the Ukrainian winger gave Pablo Zabaleta a torrid time. The right-back has only just returned from a spell out and was substituted on the hour mark, with Bacary Sagna moving across from the left into his more familiar position. Konoplyanka combined extremely well with his own full-back Benoit Tremoulinas and the two players exchanged 24 passes between them. The wide man has tremendous power to accompany his pace, and he had the highest pass-completion rate of any player who started the game (23/24, 96%).
Liverpool matched his buyout clause in January 2014, but Dnipro president Ihor Kolomoyskyi refused the transfer. Tottenham and Stoke have both made admiring glances in his direction previously.
The 26-year-old has only just arrived in Andalusia and has yet to start a match in La Liga, although he now has two goals in the Champions League. The Ukrainian will need to show this level on a consistent basis if he’s to impress Mourinho and secure a move to the Premier League champions.
4) City letting themselves down defensively
Pellegrini’s decision not to start Kompany was a shock, although it will have much stronger ramifications should it happen again at Old Trafford this weekend.
“I think that Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala are playing very well,” Pellegrini said. “They played well against Bournemouth and Newcastle, when we won 5-1 and 6-1. Vincent is coming back from a long injury after a month out so it was a risk to give him this responsibility in an important game.”
Otamendi and Mangala didn’t look overly assured when dealing with Sevilla striker Kevin Gameiro, though they weren’t helped by those around them. Hart’s distribution was dreadful and almost cost City in stoppage time, while Fernandinho had his worst game of the season. In the full-back areas, City looked shaky and failed to deal with routine defending adequately. Their problems shouldn’t persist once both Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov obtain a run of matches.
Kompany has returned back to something near his best during this campaign, but it’s his sheer presence and communication skills that City miss the most when he isn’t there. Unfortunately his injury concerns mean that Pellegrini has to learn to cope without the club captain.
5) They're not acting like aspirational winners
City have come an incredibly long way since the days of the old Second Division, with state-of-the-art facilities and clever strategies designed to make them the best team in the world.
However, they will continue to fall short unless they change their attitude throughout the club. From back to front on the pitch they were poor, but it's not just the players who are to blame for a substandard performance. The fans have to accept their responsibility for the miserable atmosphere, with numerous empty seats, a lack of singing and booing of the Champions League anthem which has earned them a slap on the wrists from UEFA.
Their displeasure over Financial Fair Play infringements is understandable to some extent when you consider the ease with which the governing body have relaxed the rules, although the stipulations were the same for everyone at the time.
The basic organisation for supporters at the Etihad Stadium is still amateurish, meanwhile, with some unable to access the ground due to faulty machinery at kick-off. Even the public address system was bizarrely loud and woke some of the fans up who were dozing as their team registered only a fourth home win in 10 matches in the competition.
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