Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Manchester City: 5 things we learned as Guardiola drops first points of the season

As Wolves deservedly held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw in a match full of incident and controversy, here are five things we learned from the match.

Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

In a scintillating game on Saturday, newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers deservedly held champions Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at a packed Molineux. 

Wolves scored in controversial circumstances, the ball flicking off the arm of Willy Boly. However, the hosts fully merited a point and would have had more if not for Aymeric Laporte’s debut goal for the visitors after 69 minutes.

Last season, Manchester City dropped points against Everton in the second gameweek before going on to win the next 18 fixtures. Pep Guardiola will be hoping that this is a trend that is repeated going forward into the new season.

Here are five things we learned from a fascinating match:

  1. 1 Manchester City are not invincible

    REUTERS/Andrew Yates

    They may remain undefeated at this early stage of the season but Manchester City showed they are fallible. 

    It’s easy to build a narrative off a couple of results and, whilst across the city there is supposedly a crisis at Old Trafford, two opening victories for Manchester City has triggered talk of them dominating the league for years to come. 

    This was rather presumptuous: an overreaction to a special season overseen by a special manager. Against Wolves, City’s defence showed that they can be got at and, with competitors strengthened over the summer in a league awash with money, no one team can expect to have everything their own way in the coming years.

    When a team drops 14 points all season, its fanbase can easily become spoiled and there should be no overreaction to dropping points. A hundred point haul is unlikely to be matched by any team in the foreseeable future and Guardiola’s team will have off-days. 

    Wolves’ relative success against City will give confidence to other managers when facing the champions, so don’t expect City to have everything their own way.

  2. 2 Nuno is sticking to his principles

    Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

    Pretty much everything Nuno Espírito Santo touched last season turned to gold. 

    It would be easy for a manager of a promoted club to retreat into his shell and play with an extra caution against some of the best players and teams in world football. Nuno Espirito Santo has refused to do that and whilst the league table does not suggest his principles have brought further success, Wolves’ point haul does not tell half the story. 

    Nuno’s team have been excellent for large swathes of all three league games so far this season and the performances should give great optimism for the season ahead.

    The running of the club and its links to agent Jorge Mendes have attracted plenty of criticism over the past year or so, but their fans won’t care in the slightest. 

    However, the team is playing some of its best football in a generation and has quality players scattered throughout. Their strength in depth will be severely tested over a long season but don’t expect Nuno to change his approach to matches anytime soon. 

    Against City his team pressed intelligently, knowing when to drop off and cede possession, whilst providing a constant threat on the counter-attack. A disciplined performance from the three central defenders and full backs limited the visitor's chances.

  3. 3 Sane's stock has fallen

     Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

    It’s easy to forget that Leroy Sane won the PFA Young Player of the Year towards the end of last season. It's also worth recalling that last season, Sane was a substitute for five of the first six games of the season, yet everything turned out well. 

    The last few months have not been great for the explosive young German, however. Surprisingly omitted from Germany’s 2018 World Cup finals squad, Sane seemed to have got over the disappointment and, with no summer football, he should have been raring to go this season in a City squad that had 16 players at the World Cup.

    Sadly, it has not worked out well. Guardiola substituted Sane at half-time in the Community Shield, supposedly with a knock but after a disappointing 45 minutes of football. 

    Since then he has had only cameo appearances during City’s opening three league games, and his 15 minutes of pitch-time against Wolves was disastrous, virtually everything he tried failing. 

    In some respects, Sane is a victim of the return of Benjamin Mendy as the Frenchman’s inclusion down the left has resulted in tactical switches from Pep Guardiola that leave no space for Sane, but he has shown little so far that he deserves his place back in the starting XI. 

    City need the swagger and the smile of Sane back as soon as possible as on form he adds an extra dimension to their play.

  4. 4 Costa can shine in the Premier League

    Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine 

    Helder Costa’s career has been a slow-burner. 

    Costa grew up alongside Bernardo Silva as the two moved through the club’s youth ranks. Moved on by Benfica, they loaned him to Deportivo La Coruna and Monaco but he was never a regular for either. 

    His next loan move was to Wolves, a home-from-home for many a Portuguese player and, six months later, he signed on a permanent deal for a then-club-record £13 million transfer fee.

    Having represented Portugal at all youth levels, at the age of 24, he is finally getting regular club football, playing 35 games in the 2016-17 season: the most in any season of his career. He followed that with 29 appearances last season as Wolves ran away with the league. 

    This season, he has started all of Wolves’ three games, though has failed to finish them and was sacrificed at half-time against Leicester City. As all eyes focused on what the likes of high profile players Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, it was Costa that often caught the eye, a constant threat down the right flank. 

    The only disappointment was that he did not cap off a good performance with a goal when he broke past the City backline but more performances like this could make him a key in establishing Wolves as a permanent fixture in the Premier League.

  5. 5 Stones and Laporte are the future

    REUTERS/Andrew Yates

    It’s been a special week for Vincent Kompany who celebrated ten years at the club at the weekend. Since his return to fitness, he started his 336th game for the club against Huddersfield Town last week and his 250th Premier League game against Wolves. 

    Against Huddersfield he was rarely tested, but this weekend he struggled for much of the early stages, seemingly ill-at-ease with the hosts’ pressing style and sloppy in possession.

    What surprised many when the team sheet was announced was that Kompany was favoured over John Stones as Pep Guardiola reverted to a back four. 

    Stones and Aymeric Laporte have been building a relationship together and have the grace on the ball and years left in the game to forge a great partnership. 

    Kompany has always had games where he has started shakily, as the away game at Leicester showed last season, whilst John Stones has had plenty of criticism for individual errors during his time at the club. 

    Nevertheless, whilst Guardiola will always rotate players over a gruelling nine months, there was little evidence at the weekend to alter the consensus that John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are the future for Manchester City, especially with Nicolas Otamendi yet to make an appearance this season.

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