Manchester City 6-1 Huddersfield Town: Aguero stars as City coast to victory
Pep Guardiola may have rested a few of his star players but the result showed the depth of the City squad as they sent an ominous warning to rivals.
On Sunday, Sergio Aguero scored his ninth Premier League hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed a hapless Huddersfield Town to reinforce their status as favourites for this season’s Premier League title.
Thirty-one years after they put ten goals past Huddersfield Town at Maine road, City could — and possibly should — have repeated the feat.
Pep Guardiola had gambled with an experimental line-up but it made little difference to the expected outcome. Leaving out almost all of his wide players, Manchester City could boast one of the Premier League’s most valuable benches ever.
Adopting what appeared to be a 3-5-2 formation with Vincent Kompany drafted into the back line alongside John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus were partnered up front.
Whilst this was the first game since the news that Kevin De Bruyne would miss at least a couple of months with a knee injury, there were few signs that City will suffer in his absence.
The Joy of Six
Manchester City were dominant from the moment the match kicked off. Within minutes, Steve Mounie sliced an attempted clearance onto the top of his own crossbar and Gabriel Jesus spurned two excellent opportunities as City looked to put the game to bed early.
The close calls for the visitors only delayed the inevitable, however, and it will disappoint Huddersfield goalkeeper Ben Hamer when he revisits the three goals that followed in the first half.
The opening goal owed much to Hamer’s opposite number, Ederson, whose superb kick found the run of Aguero. With a covering defender, Hamer did not need to rush out of his area to clear the danger. Aguero cut inside, found a yard of space and scored with a delightful chip into the empty net from the edge of the area.
After that, the floodgates opened. David Silva, who proudly paraded his son before kick-off, was virtually unplayable at times. The second goal owed more to Benjamin Mendy, though: a forward surge and interplay with Gabriel Jesus ended with Jesus firing home from the left of the area. Hamer got his fingertips to the shot but it was not enough.
It was 3-0 soon after: in the 35th minute, City treated their guests to a third goal in 10 minutes. Once again, it was a moment the Huddersfield keeper will want to forget. Another low cross from Mendy was into the hands of Hamer but he spilled it and Aguero needed no second invitation, prodding the ball home for his second goal of the game. Hamer kicked the post in frustration.
When Huddersfield finally did venture forward, a goal followed. It was simple too: a throw-in headed on by Mounie for Jon Gorenc Stankovic to poke home from two yards out on his Premier League debut two minutes before half-time.
Any hopes the visitors may have had of a stirring comeback were put to bed within three minutes of the re-start: David Silva curling in a beautiful free kick that left Hamer motionless. That was game over and, from then on, City were comfortable.
Soon after, Aguero struck the post with a brilliant fizzing shot. It wasn’t until the 75th minute that the next goal came, though: another Mendy cross brilliantly prodded home by Aguero to complete his 13th hat-trick in City colours.
The rout was complete six minutes from time when substitute Leroy Sane burst past the Huddersfield defence. His shot was saved by Hamer but the rebound bounced off the unfortunate Kongolo and into the back of the net.
There were more chances as City flooded forward. Jesus was guilty of a bad miss when through on goal. But the hosts will be happy with the performance. For David Wagner, he will know that there will be no tougher test than this all season.
Wagner’s plans wasted
David Wagner had probably spent the past week working out how to combat the attacking intent of Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez from wide areas with Sergio Aguero in the middle. Those plans went out of the window an hour before kick-off.
With a line-up from Pep Guardiola that even Manchester City fans could not fathom, Wagner now had to work out how to combat a winger-less opposition and work out what formation Guardiola intended.
As always for a Guardiola side, it was fluid during the match with no apparent right wing back and Bernardo Silva allowed the luxury of operating in an attacking position as the hosts dominated possession as expected. Mendy had a similar luxury afforded to him.
With the Huddersfield players unable to keep hold of the ball for more than a few seconds at a time, the experimental line-up destroyed any hopes Wagner might have had of deploying a deep block and frustrating the hosts with some dogged defending as seen in both league games last season.
Whilst they defended deep and with purpose, their occasional high press was bypassed easily by City’s players and cost them dearly. City ended the game with 77% possession, but it felt like more.
In addition, Aaron Mooy’s wife went into labour before the game and the Australian’s absence hampered Wagner’s plans further.
Mendy: the fantasy football player’s dream
Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have not lined up together in a Manchester City side many times: partly due to Guardiola’s preference for a 4-3-3 formation during his time at the club, partly due to injuries.
However, the injury of a different player might well have played its part too. Benjamin Mendy missed most of last season with a cruciate ligament injury, altering Guardiola’s tactical intentions.
Now Mendy is back fit, we may see more of the 3-5-2 formation and City’s two strikers playing together should take advantage of his deadly crossing.
Mendy has picked up four assists in the opening two games and his marauding runs down the left have added yet another dimension to this City side.
Guardiola admitted after the match that “we could not attack like this last season” because of his absence. His ability to fizz in low, hard shots early will cause havoc in opposition penalty boxes this season. Against Huddersfield, he put in 12 crosses in all.
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