Before the Premier League clash on Super Sunday Dean Smith highlighted how talented Manchester City’s squad are and what would be required of his team in order to earn a result:
They have a world-class coach and world-class players; they can afford to spend £50 million on a right back, so we know the test.
They have had some off days this season – they got beat at Norwich and Wolves – so we must have belief in ourselves, as well as concentration.
Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas demonstrated his full confidence in Pep Guardiola’s men before their away trip to Villa Park. The former Arsenal player focused on the importance of City’s attacking talents:
I don’t see any real issues for Manchester City in this one. They were strong at Old Trafford, and that was without Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Agüero in the starting line-up. Just watching Raheem Sterling, he could have had a hat-trick against Man United. Someone is going to take a thumping and get hurt soon, and I have a feeling it is going to be this weekend for Aston Villa. They may be back in the groove — Aymeric Laporte is back in training and Sergio Agüero is fit and ready, so they are starting to look like they will kick on.
The Villans failed to score in eight of the last ten meetings between the teams, winning only once in that time. Yet after an impressive League Cup performance against Leicester, many wondered if Aston Villa could deny City from moving to second place.
Riyad Mahrez opened the scoring in the 18th minute after the Algerian waltzed through Villa’s defence and powerfully struck the ball into the bottom right hand corner. Six minutes later he doubled City’s lead after sliding the ball into the same spot, prompting jubilant scenes in the away end.
Sergio Agüero scored his first in the 28th minute to make it 3–0, exquisitely striking the ball into the top left hand corner, then Gabriel Jesus made it 4–0 before half time with the Brazilian tapping the ball in from close range.
Agüero doubled his tally in the 57th minute after linking up with skipper David Silva to intricately slot the ball into the bottom right hand corner before securing his hat trick in the 81st minute.
Anwar El Ghazi reduced the insurmountable deficit by scoring a penalty late in the match. But it was too little, too late as the Citizens rode their 6–1 tally to second place, leaving Villa to slip into the relegation zone.
The absences of Tom Heaton, John McGinn and Wesley proved critical, helping ensure a woeful performance from Villa. The side bowed down before City, playing too defensively even after going behind. The cohesion so prevalent against Leicester City was entirely absent from the side that appeared cowed by the visitors before the match even started. Given the individual and team performances by Aston Villa, no player is worthy to hold the title of “Man of the Match”.
A passive display left the boys in claret and blue looking like eleven individuals tossed on a pitch rather than a team united in one mission. Villa’s backline struggled under constant pressure while offering almost nothing going forward. Birmingham Live writer James Rushton showed his displeasure with the home side’s performance:
It was as poor as a performance as you’d expect from a depleted team, playing an unfit new starter and a high fullback line against the champions. Manchester City were brilliant and despatched Villa with ease. Villa will be looking in the mirror for a long time after that — but will hopefully be in a mood to bounce back in a big way next week against Brighton. Time to see what this team and Dean Smith are made of.
That time will come against Brighton in the Premier League next Saturday, while Villa fans refresh the transfer news constantly, wishing and hoping for the urgent reinforcements their side needs.