Manchester City further strengthened their grip on second thanks to a comprehensive 5-0 win over Burnley on Monday night.
Braces for Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez were joined by a David Silva strike as Man City brushed past their visitors, continuing their 100% record following the Premier League’s return and keeping their slim hopes of Premier League glory alive.
Here are five things we learned from the exciting match at the Etihad.
1. Foden makes his case as Silva’s replacement
When David Silva announced in the summer that he would be leaving Manchester City at the end of the season, immediately questions were raised on how the club would replace a player of his stature and ability. Would it require a new signing, or could someone already at the club step up? It’s still early doors but, against Burnley, Phil Foden staked his claim for the job.
The 20-year-old started on the left wing as one of a number of changes from the team that beat Arsenal – although more on that later – joining Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez in the front three, a role Silva has played before in his career, including for Man City although, like the Spaniard, Foden is a lot more comfortable in the middle.
Phil Foden's game by numbers vs. Burnley:
100% take-ons completed (2/2)
1 chance created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 22, 2020
It was no surprise that Foden’s opening goal, his second in as many games, came with the Englishman in a central position. Receiving the ball on the edge of the Burnley area from a corner, Foden was calm under the perceived pressure of Josh Brownhill and hit a good low strike past Nick Pope. He also played a big role in David Silva’s goal from a central position, again from a corner, putting a lovely disguised ball into Bernardo Silva who, in turn, crossed to the Spaniard.
Foden was also able to have a positive impact on the game from out wide, cutting infield and trying to test a Burnley defence that didn’t look up to the task of stopping him. And it’s from there that he got his second goal of the game, tapping in from close range after Bernardo Silva’s testing ball across the area, via Gabriel Jesus’ foot.
2. Defensive set up costs Burnley
It’s understandable that Burnley would set up at the Etihad to defend, after all, they had conceded 10 goals in their past three league matches against Man City. But while these tactics sometimes work, for Burnley it was their undoing.
Starting the game with two very flat lines of four camped in the middle of their own half, Burnley invited the pressure from Man City’s attackers, trying to catch them on the counter at times. However, their very set up prevented them from doing so, with Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra isolated up front – like two men behind enemy lines with no hope of a return.
When Burnley tried moving the ball forward through short passes, there was no one to do anything on the rare occasion they did make it into the Man City half. The Clarets either lost the ball in the middle of the pitch or were forced to go long, presenting the ball back to their hosts – for which Man City should be praised.
Dwight McNeil had some bright moments on the left, trying to get crosses into the box, but again there was only Rodriguez and Vydra to aim for, both of whom were easily crowded out.
Even when Burnley moved slightly more attack, with the gap between defence and midfield widening, as shown in the image above, the team were still too close together. It’s no surprise Burnley took until the 63rd minute to have their first shot, a free-kick from Dwight McNeil that was more suited to Twickenham than the Etihad.
3. Man City’s strength in depth shines
There isn’t a squad more filled with stars than Man City’s and on Monday night it showed. During his time in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola has made a name for himself as being happy to rotate his teams, much to the chagrin of Fantasy Football players everywhere. And it was the same again on Monday.
The former Barcelona manager made eight changes from the team that started their 3-0 win over Arsenal last weekend, including a completely new backline – with the exception of Ederson in goal. The changes not only allowed Man City to name a fresh XI still full of stars, but it also let them have one of the most ridiculous benches the Premier League may ever see.
Man City's bench against Burnley:
❍ Scott Carson
❍ Aymeric Laporte
❍ Kyle Walker
❍ Benjamin Mendy
❍ İlkay Gündoğan
❍ Kevin De Bruyne
❍ Leroy Sané
❍ Raheem Sterling
❍ Gabriel Jesus
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) June 22, 2020
Thanks to clubs now being allowed nine players on the bench, something that has been criticised by certain managers as favouring the bigger teams, Man City were able to name a bench consisting of: Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, Aymeric Laporte, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Benjamin Mendy and Scott Carson.
Sergio Aguero picks up an injury just before half-time? No worries, just send on 10-goal Jesus. Need to freshen things up late on while still keeping full control of the game? On you go De Bruyne and Laporte.
In stark contrast, Burnley were only able to name seven substitutes on their bench, two of which were goalkeepers and five without a first-team appearance.
4. Mahrez proves City can manage without Sane
Man City fans were rocked last week as it was announced that Leroy Sane would not be signing a new contract, meaning he would either leave this summer for a fee or next year for free.
Sane hadn’t been involved in the league this season prior to Monday, after picking up a serious knee injury in the Community Shield in August, but there was excitement surrounding his return. The German, still only 24, is one of the most exciting talents in Europe right now and the hopes were that he would fulfil his potential at Man City amid links to Bayern Munich.
10 – Riyad Mahrez has now scored 10+ goals in five successive campaigns in all competitions (11 goals). Consistent. pic.twitter.com/FmWvq4Jd03
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 22, 2020
That will not be the case but, on Monday, Mahrez showed that he is more than capable enough of replacing Sane long-term. Yes, the Algerian does not have the years left that Sane does, but he is still performing at his best and gave Burnley’s left flank a night of horror.
Always ready to attack, whether it be through a pacy counter, or with his neat footwork, Mahrez scored Man City’s second of the night with a wonderful strike. Capping off a quick counter, following Fernandinho’s long ball, Mahrez turned Charlie Taylor inside and out before powerfully beating Pope in the Burnley goal. His second strike was slightly more straightforward, from the penalty spot, but still came with the added pressure given Man City’s record this season. Pope will have been closer to stopping it than Mahrez would have wanted, but it went in, and gave City a big cushion going into half-time.
5. Burnley on the beach
Normally at this time of the year, many footballers will be enjoying their beach breaks, from the Algarve to Dubai, letting their hair down after a hard-fought season. That’s not the case this year, due to the very extraordinary circumstances, but it appears no one told Burnley.
The Clarets went into Monday night’s game 11th in the table, safe from the relegation battle and on the periphery of the European fight. But they were completely useless at the Etihad, offering very little in way of opposition.
Even when excusing the role their tactics played in their downfall, the players did not look up for the task – perhaps a consequence of the three-month gap without playing or any real pre-season as they usually would at the start of a new campaign. It didn’t help that Sean Dyche had a threadbare squad to choose from, but the Clarets will need to improve massively ahead of their next game.