Manchester City dropped points for the first time in the Premier League since August, as they were held to a goalless draw by Crystal Palace. The home side had a great opportunity to end the league leaders’ unbeaten run as they were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes, but Luka Milivojevic’s tame strike was saved by Ederson.
This is the second home match this season that Palace have missed a late penalty to win the game and it could come back to haunt them at the end of the season. Regardless of that, it was a great performance by the relegation-threatened team and they can take a great deal of confidence into their next run of fixtures. Here are three talking points from the match…
The injuries suffered by Manchester City
Despite dropping points against Crystal Palace, Pep Guardiola’s side remain clear at the top of the table by 14 points and it is looking increasingly likely that they will win their third Premier League title. However, one big blow to come from the draw was the injuries suffered by Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne. The former has been ruled out for two months, while the latter was stretchered off in stoppage time. The extent of the Belgian international’s injury isn’t known, but it didn’t look good.
The Premier League looks to be a foregone conclusion for the league leaders, but they will have ambitions of winning the other competitions that they are in. The Champions League is a huge target for both Guardiola and the City board, with the bookmaker’s currently pricing them as favourites to lift the famous trophy. If both of these players are going to be missing for a sustained period, it could hurt their chances in Europe’s premier competition.
A look at Manchester City’s bench shows that there isn’t a huge amount of depth below the first-team and a few injuries could hurt them. Phil Foden, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Brahim Diaz are all highly rated young players, but it would be a huge ask for them to come into the first team in a big Champions League tie. The striker position will be a worry for Guardiola, as Aguero’s body can’t be relied upon to start every match in all competitions in Jesus’ absence. The City manager may be forced into the transfer market in January.
Crystal Palace are in a false position
Roy Hodgson took over a team that hadn’t won a match or scored a single goal in the Premier League. It was a perilous situation, but he has done a great job and led them outside of the relegation zone heading into the new year. They remain in the fight at the bottom of the table, but it would take a brave man to back them to stay there for much longer.
Newcastle United were unfairly criticised for their approach against Manchester City during the week. Rafa Benitez has a limited squad at his disposal and the tactics were correct for what he had available. Palace were a lot more aggressive in their pressing and played higher up the pitch. It worked well, but comparisons between the two shouldn’t be made. The Eagles have a much better squad then they team they are currently one place below in the table.
Although they didn’t take the three points at the end, this performance showed that Manchester City find themselves in a false position. They should be much higher in the league table and they should be aiming for a top-half finish in this campaign. That seemed impossible at one point, but they are now only six points behind Watford in 10th. It is a realistic aim for them heading into 2018.
David Silva has been missed
During the last two matches, Manchester City have only scored one goal away from home and a major reason for that has been the absence of David Silva. The diminutive Spaniard is excellent at unlocking an opposition defence and without him, teams can focus on shutting down Kevin de Bruyne. The league leaders are much more effective when they have both players operating in the same team.
The injury to De Bruyne has enhanced the need for a quick Silva return. Without one of them, City are not as good. Without both of them, they may need to change their style of play completely. Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are great players, but neither have the vision or creativity to effectively replace either midfielder.
Silva’s status is unknown and he could also be missing for the start of January. If so, this is going to be the most intense test of Manchester City in months. It is time for others to step up to the plate and show the squad aren’t reliant on a few key players. Although it seems churlish to suggest that, the next few matches will show us how sustainable this form is without key individuals.