Manchester City moved to just two points behind league leaders Arsenal on Saturday evening following their 4-1 win over Bournemouth. Pep Guardiola’s side dominated proceedings in a sensational display that will have struck fear into the hearts of their title rivals.
City set the tone for the evening in the 15th minute when they opened the scoring through Julian Alvarez. The Argentina international was on hand to tap home from close range after a goalmouth scramble saw Erling Haaland’s strike rattle off of the crossbar and into his midriff.
Haaland then couldn’t resist getting himself on the scoresheet, firing a low effort beneath Neto after the goalkeeper managed to keep out Phil Foden’s volley following a swift counter-attack down the left. Foden then marked his return to Guardiola’s starting eleven with a well-deserved goal, latching onto a loose pass from Philip Billing and tucking the ball into the near post.
Bournemouth defender Chris Mepham then deflected a wayward shot from Alvarez into the back of his own net in the 51st minute before Jefferson Lerma scored a late consolation goal. Although many expected City to run riot at the Vitality Stadium before kick-off, there was plenty to learn from their performance. Express Sport takes a closer look…
Four at the back returns
Guardiola appears to have admitted defeat in his plans to implement a back-three at City, with the Spaniard trusting his 4-2-3-1 to do the business against the Cherries. Lining up with four natural defenders certainly proved to be the right decision, with Rico Lewis showing that he is capable of being the inverted fullback that allows City to click.
The back-three that has been deployed by Guardiola previously has removed his side’s defensive security, relying on attacking Players – such as Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker -to go against their instincts and sit deep rahter than roaming forward. If City are to close the gap on Arsenal, they must stick to what they know.
Guardiola discovers key to Haaland
As well as learning that he should not overthink his formations, Guardiola also discovered how to get the very best out of Haaland against Bournemouth. The decision to play World Cup hero Alvarez behind the Norwegian saw both Players thrive, with the presence of two forwards in the final third bearing fruit.
Haaland has found himself crowded out against teams content to sit deep over the past few months and therefore struggled to influence play as much as he would have liked, but the boisterous nature of Alvarez gave the Bournemouth defence someone else to think about. The duo linked up well throughout the match and could quickly form an unstoppable partnership if Guardiola allows the pair time to build that connection.
Ilkay Gundogan's contract becomes a priority
Germany international Ilkay Gundogan is out of contract at the end of the season and talks to extend his deal are ongoing, though retaining his services should be made a priority following his display against Bournemouth. Lewis’ desire to cut into midfield and cause overloads allowed Gundogan to push forward, and his neat passing and intelligence created several openings in the first half and was rewarded with the Player of the Match award. The 32-year-old will prove incredibly difficult to replace if he decides to leave over the summer, with his versatility to play in numerous midfield roles hard to find elsewhere.
Foden sends a clear message
Having struggled for minutes over the past few weeks, Foden proved why he should be one of the first names on the teamsheet at the Etihad Stadium. The England international ran the show on the right wing, with his influence prompting his City teammates to naturally try and force the ball out to his flank, much to the frustration of left-winger Jack Grealish. Foden marked his return to the starting eleven with a goal and assist, and it will be somewhat impossible to drop the 22-year-old for upcoming Premier League matches as a result.
Sergio Gamos proves he's an option
Sergio Gomez came off of the bench in the 55th minute to replace Gundogan, and he obscurely slotted into the heart of the City midfield. Despite being signed from Anderlecht to be an option at left-back, the Spaniard found himself playing as a No 10 against Bournemouth – and he didn’t look out of place in his newfound role.
Guardiola is keen for both of his fullbacks to be able to cut inside and influence play from midfield – as Joao Cancelo used to – so trialling the 22-year-old directly in that area of the pitch will have given him a lot of experience. With City consistently rotating their squad, Gomez being an option in midfield will give his manager something else to think about in cup competitions.