Stats Analysis: Otamendi impresses at both ends of the pitch as Pickford shows area for improvement
Despite a relatively comfortable 2-0 win at newly-promoted Brighton on the opening weekend of the season, Manchester City struggled to break down their opponents for long periods and often looked ponderous in possession.
This trend continued for much of Monday night’s home game against Everton, with 10-man City requiring a late equaliser from substitute Raheem Sterling to secure an ultimately deserved 1-1 draw.
City’s arch nemesis Wayne Rooney threatened to spoil the Blue’s first home game of the season when he steered home Dominic Calvert-Lewin pass after 35 minutes, before Kyle Walker was sent off less than 10 minutes later for a second bookable offence.
The introduction of Sterling and the decision to revert to a flat back four inspired Pep Guardiola’s men, who were much more of a creative force in the second half and finally got their rewards when the former Liverpool winger fired home after Danilo’s cross was only partially cleared.
Now that the dust has settled, here are four stats from the game and a look at what they tell us about each side.
4 – Sterling turns the tide
City looked devoid of ideas in the first half, with both strikers looking uncertain in Guardiola’s 3-5-2 system and none of the Blue’s midfielders willing to break beyond the opposition’s back line.
The introduction of Sterling changed this, with the winger willing to commit defenders and create space for this around him. While he completed only one dribble, he was ultimately responsible for four of City’s 19 attempts on goal, including the crucial strike that earned his club an invaluable point.
His pace and energy certainly added another dimension to City’s play, as he looked to operate behind Sergio Aguero provide a link between midfield and attack.
From deep, he also strived to penetrate the Toffees’ defence with direct movement off the ball, something which afforded Aguero, David Silva and fellow sub Bernardo Silva more room to operate in.
His performance will give his manager food for thought, as the Spaniard must be thinking about altering his shape and including Sterling from the start next time out.
91.7% – Gueye holds firm in the midfield
Everton struggled to keep the ball for long periods at the Etihad, with the team completing only 68% of their passes during the 90 minutes.
One man who did his level best to buck this trend was Idrissa Gueye, who was successful with 33 of 36 attempted passes and recorded an impressive completion rate of 91.7%. This introduced some much needed composure into Everton’s play at key times, while providing crucial service to Rooney and the outstanding Calvin-Lewin.
Gueye’s quality on the ball was also complimented by his aggressive tackling and superb reading of the game, with the tenacious midfielder also winning 100% of his aerial duels and completing two important interceptions.
Without his quality and presence in midfield, Everton may well have lost the game and succumbed to late City pressure after Morgan Schneiderlin’s untimely dismissal.
3 and 6 – Otamendi dominates at both ends of the pitch
While Guardiola’s preferred 3-5-2 system may have impacted negatively on City’s potency in attack, it has improved the defence while affording a new lease of life to Argentine centre-back Nicolás Otamendi.
The defender was simply outstanding on Monday, winning 100% of his tackles and 70% of his aerial duels while also making six important clearances in instances where Everton managed to attack the City rearguard.
Not only this, but Otamendi also strode forward with purpose from the back, looking to launch attacks in the final third and even attempting three strikes at goal.
While this is something that you would usually expect from Otamendi’s teammate John Stones, the Argentine was powerful in possession and more than comfortable when carrying the ball from deep.
32% – Pickford will need to improve his distribution
Apart from one superb delivery that landed perfectly on the instep of Wayne Rooney and launched an Everton counter-attack, young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s distribution was generally poor.
In fact, the £30 million signing from Sunderland managed to complete just 32% of his passes, making it difficult for Everton to maintain possession as the game wore on and inviting City to continue sustained and increasingly incisive attacks.
Of course, Pickford was not helped by playing the majority of balls long in order to bypass City’s packed midfield, but this is an area where he will need to improve if he is to fully justify manager Ronald Koeman’s investment.
Fortunately, Pickford redeemed himself by saving five of City’s six shots on target, including an outstanding low stop to keep out a fierce strike by Danilo as the Blues pressed during the second half.
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