In our new feature for this season, we are returning for a post match chat with the opposition. Here are the view from the guys at the Blue Moon Podcast.
1. What did you make of the game at Selhurst?
I thought it was a terrific game. Both teams had their dangerous spells, though I would say I thought City did more than enough to win the game and probably should have put away a couple of other chances. If City are to have any hope of chasing down Liverpool, then they had to win come-what-may, so it was good to see them take control of the game and generally keep what could have been a tricky Palace side at arm’s length for long spells.
2. Interesting choice by Pep for the centre back pairing?
It was a delightfully bonkers team and if Palace had scored early on and put City under pressure then he’d have been criticised for over-thinking the problem. But, in fairness to him, it was the right choice and it helped City control the play. Rodri and Fernandinho, while neither are centre-backs, both understood where they needed to be and when – and it helped David Silva to have Ilkay Gundogan sitting a little deeper, too.
3. This was a very good performance by City even though not at full strength but does that give you confidence with plenty of football left to play?
I think so – especially with Liverpool then dropping points at Old Trafford. City’s wobbles against Norwich and Wolves were beginning to show a pattern, so it was more important for there to be a good performance rather than a big win. Palace, even though they’re a bit light on goals this season, showed some threat, so it was good that City could keep them under control for large spells. You can’t expect to control some games from start to finish – and I’d say going away to Selhurst Park is one of them.
4. Which player shone for City?
He’s always known for his role in City’s build-up play and his ability on the ball, but it’s not often you get to see the goalkeeping side of Ederson, so it’s worth highlighting his saves. The one from Christian Benteke’s header was brilliant and at a crucial time, too. There should be honourable mentions for Raheem Sterling for that assist and Gabriel Jesus, who is quietly having a brilliant start to the season.
5. Who caught your eye from the Palace line up?
I’ve always thought Wayne Hennessey was a bit dodgy, but he pulled off some excellent saves to keep Palace in the game. He didn’t have much chance with either goal, but pretty much everything else City had that was dangerous he was either out to get it clear or he was able to get hands or feet to it to keep it out.
6. Were the tactics just about right for this one or do you think Pepe could have done something different?
He got it spot on. David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan side-by-side hasn’t worked in recent games, especially against Norwich and Wolves when City lost, so with Rodri dropping deeper it meant that Gundogan could play a more box-to-box role. It completely strangled Palace of any possession in the middle for long spells and kept City on the front foot – where, in previous weeks, the opposition has been able to get a foothold.
7. Were Palace as you expected in the game or did you expect more/less?
I thought they were always dangerous and can see why they are where they are – but also why they’re likely to even-out to a midtable position. The defensive work was good and they’ll frustrate a lot of teams, but there’s just not enough goals in the team at the moment.
8. Based on this performance, how do think Palace will fair this season?
I’d be surprised if they were anywhere near the relegation zone by the end of the season, but I also don’t think they’ve the firepower to trouble the European places either, unfortunately. A solid mid-table finish should await, with perhaps a good cup run, and maybe a couple of top-team scalps along the way. (Any chance you could beat Liverpool for us?)
9. Ahead of the January transfer window, which areas do you think each side need to concentrate on?
Get a forward in!
10. Good luck for the rest of the season – are you confident in being able to bridge the gap to Liverpool?
Good luck, too! It’s now back in City’s hands with the gap at six points and two matches against Liverpool – but City haven’t beaten Liverpool home and away in the same season for 80-odd years, so it’ll probably need favours from elsewhere. There’s a long way to go, so there should be enough football left to make up the difference… ask me again in March!