Manchester City won on the opening day of the new Premier League season against a spirited Brighton and Hove Albion side. It is never easy to go away from home to a newly-promoted team during the opening weekend and Pep Guardiola’s men found the Seagulls hard to break down on Saturday.
They started with a 3-5-2 formation and they managed to monopolise the ball, but struggled to create clear-cut chances until late in the match. Here are three things that we learnt from the match at the Amex Stadium:
The new Manchester City full-backs improved the team
There have been a lot of laughs had at the expense of City’s recruitment this summer, as they have spent an incredible amount on full-backs. However, they were the two weakest positions in the squad and it was crucial that they sorted them out during the summer. Pep Guardiola ignored them last summer and that error in judgement may have cost the club a serious title challenge.
It was clear on Saturday that City would be a more balanced and dangerous team this season with the additions of quality players in the full-back positions. Guardiola opted to use them as wing-backs and it worked, as they stretched the play and created space for the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to influence the game. Kyle Walker was excellent on debut and Danilo was tidy in possession. One problem on Saturday was the lack of a left-footed player on that side of the pitch. Danilo kept having to cut inside and that did make life easier for Brighton. Benjamin Mendy will make this team even better when he is fit.
Brighton will be tough to beat this season
The Premier League is a tough league and Brighton are among the favourites to be relegated, but they showed enough on Saturday to show they can compete at this level. Chris Hughton had them well drilled and difficult to break down. The defending this weekend in the league has been shocking, but the Seagulls performed well in that department.
Although they conceded two goals, Hughton will be happy that they came from individual errors rather than a systematic flaw. Manchester City will be one of the best teams in the league this year, but Brighton managed to restrict them to few clear-cut chances. It was always going to be difficult to maintain concentration levels for the entire match considering City had 78% possession, but there were positives to take from the match. The atmosphere was great and no team will look forward to visiting the Amex Stadium this season. If they continue to deliver committed performances such as this one, they will have a chance of survival.
David Silva remains a joy to watch
The Spaniard is no longer the centre of attention at Manchester City, as there are several other exciting attackers in the squad. However, he is still a crucial player for the team and he reminded the world of his talent on Saturday. Silva was sporting a new look after shaving his head during the summer, but he remains the same player that is exciting to watch.
The 31-year-old played in one of the central midfield roles and ran the game from the first whistle. He had a passing accuracy of 93% and completed five key passes during the match, which was more than any other player on the pitch. The Spanish international contributed the assist for the opening goal with a perfectly executed ball into Sergio Aguero. It was good vision to spot the Argentine, but an even better piece of skill to find him.
Connor Goldson desperate for trophies at Rangers in near future
The new Rangers man is keen to bring the glory days back to Ibrox.
Fans were jubilant last week after securing the signing of impressive defender Connor Goldson from Brighton & Hove Albion last week, and the 25-year-old is bringing the mentality required to bring “revolution” to Ibrox in the near future.
Goldson has revealed his desire to win trophies with the Scottish giants, in quotes via the official club website, and sees the new manager Steven Gerrard as a major turning point in the club’s fortunes.
The Gers have failed to win silverware since their return to the Scottish top-flight in 2016, and have chopped and changed managers regularly, with Gerrard now the third manager to take the reins following Mark Warburton’s dismissal in March of last year.
But Goldson is undeterred by previous seasons and believes the club will re-establish themselves as contenders on all fronts in Scotland next term.
“It is more team targets that interest me. I want to win things and I have always been in teams that have won things,” the Englishman revealed.
“That is a reason for coming here. I’ve said to the manager – I don’t want to come here and just play good football and not win things. I want to come here and win trophies, and I think that’s what the fans are craving. They’re craving success and we need to build a team is able to give them that.”
The Wolverhampton-born defender claims the arrival of Gerrard was a major factor in his decision to join Rangers, and believes he will instil a winning mentality at Ibrox that players will buy into, while revealing he is also keen to become a leader on that front.
“He [Gerrard] wants to bring a winning mentality to the football club, and I am all for that. I have been lucky to have been in winning teams, being promoted a couple of times, and that is what I want to do here.”
Gerrard is coming into an extremely demanding job and will need to have the courage to well and truly shake things up at the club, because bitter rivals Celtic are showing no signs of faltering in recent times – having won the unprecedented ‘double-treble’ this term.
The Hoops have dominated everyone in the Scottish Premiership since Gerrard’s former boss Brendan Rodgers took over at Parkhead two-years back, and if Rangers can secure silverware in their first season under new management it would indicate a very successful year, and the club could build on it in the near future.
After explosive U-23 form can Viktor Gyokeres have a breakout Brighton season?
Brighton signed the Swede in January and he has looked worth the investment.
It was a deal that probably slipped by many a Brighton and Hove Albion fan, but in September last year, the Seagulls agreed on a deal to sign Swedish talent Viktor Gyokeres.
One reason why it might have slipped Brighton fans by is that he did not join the club immediately. The young forward stayed with Brommapojkarna until the end of the Swedish second division season. At the time of the deal going through he had already scored 10 goals for the club. He ended the campaign with 13 league goals, helping his side win promotion back to the Swedish top-flight.
In January he finally arrived at Brighton and, judging by his form for the under-23 side, the Seagulls have an absolute talent on their hands.
Gyokeres ended up playing nine times for Brighton’s youngsters, scoring an impressive seven goals. It included a run of six goals in five games and the question must now be asked, could he be ready for the first-team?
Of course, it would be a massive gamble of Chris Hughton’s to throw Gyokeres into the Premier League starting XI from August.
But the Swede definitely deserves a chance to impress during pre-season. If he can do that, then seeing him in action during one of the cup competitions next season should feel like a foreign concept.
He is certainly a name for Brighton fans to remember. Because, next season, he might be their surprise package.
Rangers should play the waiting game to seal Connor Goldson deal
The calendar hasn’t even turned over from May to June and already Rangers’ transfer business is beginning to look like a saga as reports indicate that the Ibrox club could make a third improved bid for Brighton & Hove Albion defender Connor Goldson.
According to the Daily Record, a third bid will be made this week to add incentives and other add-ons to the £2 million fee which was rejected by the Seagulls on Friday.
It’s undeniable that Goldson must be one of the first names on Steven Gerrard’s shortlist of players to add to his squad before he arrives in Glasgow and Rangers are clearly intent on getting their man, but patience could prove fruitful in this case.
To date, Rangers are the only club to be seriously linked with the former Shrewsbury Town man and his future at the American Express Community Stadium is on the edge. Having this week signed defender Leon Balogun from Mainz as cover for Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, Goldson could expect even less game time than the eight appearances he got in 2017/18.
With the Gers pushing so hard, you would expect that they know that the player is keen on the move too and there are still three months remaining in the transfer window for which the club can wait and negotiate.
A statement signing is important to go alongside the appointment of Gerrard and keep him happy right from the off, but those in charge of negotiations should be cautious not to rush into a deal which costs them more than it needs to when that money could be spent elsewhere.
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