After watching Liverpool drop points away at Goodison Park earlier in the day, Manchester City would have been desperate to widen their buffer over their main title rivals.
However, throwing away the lead and eventually having to settle for a 1-1 draw away at Aston Villa on Saturday evening, Pep Guardiola’s side also missed out on the chance to briefly climb to the top of the table.
While the red-hot Erling Haaland might have continued on his remarkable start to life in the Premier League, Leon Bailey’s wonderful strike 15 minutes from the end clinched a much-welcomed point for Steven Gerrard.
Two sides who opened this weekend’s fixtures battling it out at opposite ends of the table, what did we learn from Saturday’s affair at Villa Park?
Pep’s defensive headache continues
Storming their way to a stellar 6-0 romp against Premier League returners Nottingham Forest earlier in the week, Guardiola had made it clear that he wanted his side to build off of that defensive display.
However, while the English heavyweights might be tipped as a standout pick to once again defend their domestic crown this season, the ex-Barcelona boss will have somewhat of a headache over his side’s extended struggles on the back.
Despite mounting some of their trademark comebacks against both Crystal Palace and Newcastle over recent weeks, City are gaining a reputation for their defensive shortcomings.
With their recent struggles highlighted by that action-packed 3-3 draw away at St. James’ Park on August 21st, Saturday’s guests have now recorded just a single clean sheet from their previous four Premier League outings.
Although Guardiola might appear to have chosen Ruben Dias and John Stones as his first choice central defensive partnership, it is clear that the Sky Blues are seeking some much-needed stability at the back.
Gerrard gets the response he was desperate for
Eventually getting hit with a 2-1 loss away at a high-flying Arsenal earlier in the week, fans around Villa Park were certainly expecting the worst when Guardiola’s superstars arrived in town here.
Although Gerrard might find still find real pressure on his shoulders, the former Rangers boss should be boosted by a gritty display from his downbeat squad on Saturday evening.
At least briefly finding a route out of the bottom-three, Villa must find a way to prove that their display here was something that they can use as a platform to build off of.
With the ex-Liverpool icon once again making the call to alter his XI following Wednesday’s 2-1 loss against the Gunners in north London, there is no doubt that Saturday’s display has brought Gerrard some time.
However, although Villa might have been more than deserving of their 1-1 draw here, they have still managed to muster just a single Premier League victory from their opening six appearances.
It’s Haaland’s Golden Boot to lose
Although Guardiola might have growing concerns over his side’s recent struggles at the back, fans around the Etihad will be boosted by Haaland’s remarkable start to life in the Premier League.
Making waves over the summer as it was announced that the Norweigan superstar would be making the move from Borussia Dortmund, the 22-year-old has only cemented his spot as Europe’s hottest young property.
Considered to be a real bargain after City activated his £51.5million release clause with the German club, Haaland has only set the Premier League alight over his first month.
Handing Guardiola’s side the lead here after finishing from close range following Kevin De Bruyne’s wonderful cross, the 21-cap international has already notched 10 top-flight strikes from his opening six appearances.
In fact, only continuing to break a string of domestic arrivals, City’s new attacking icon is averaging a Premier League goal every 49 minutes and has a goal conversion rate of 42%.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne, Luiz, Kamara, McGinn, Bailey, Ramsey, Watkins
Subs: Buendia, Young, Coutinho
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo, De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan, Foden, Haaland, Silva
Subs: Ake, Mahrez
Goals: Aston Villa: Bailey (74′) – Manchester City: Haaland (50′)
Yellow Cards: Cash, Digne
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Simon Hooper
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