Written by Neil Dawson
For those not obsessed with points there are poor wins and there are good defeats and today was one of the latter. Ours (and most peoples) perennial toughest game of the season came and went but this time we didn’t either 1) attack and capitulate or 2)turn up for a defensive training exercise and keep it respectable. We did something in between and while the result was familiar the performance was very encouraging. In fact – had a couple of key moments been met with better composure we could have been talking about a memorable afternoon instead of a pleasant one.
Eddie made one change to his starting line up, an odd one for me – dropping Harry Wilson to bring back Mepham and the back five that never makes us as defensively sound as it should – but gives us fewer options up the pitch. The start was solid – City had a lot of possession but our midfield being more athletic and the pace of King and Fraser on the break meant we wrestled it back more than usual in this fixture and broke at pace. In fact, King shot on target this way achieving in the first minute’s something that didn’t happen at all in the corresponding fixture last year!
At the other end, City’s bewitching triangles were causing their normal problem, particularly down the right where Mepham and Smith were exposed far more than Ake, Cook and Daniels when City came through the centre or the left. Silvas shot was deflected inches wide and Ramsdale beat out shots from Aguero and Bernardo. Referee Marriner was having an interesting game, letting a lot go and then penalising things much less. He chose to yellow card Ederson for taking out Wilson, probably because the ‘last man’ rule is debatable when the centre forward is by the corner flag. Walker also got a yellow for going over the top on Ake as City showed they could rough it as well as play it.
City took the lead on the quarter of an hour. A ball behind the exposed right-hand side eventually falling for Aguero to trademark turn and find the bottom corner. Eddie was disappointed with the goals afterwards and while the movement from City is notoriously difficult to track one side of his defence managed it all game. Bournemouth started to gain a foothold thanks to the aggression of Lerma and Billing and enjoyed some possession for a spell. Daniels worryingly departed on a stretcher having collapsed attempting a cross and Rico will have been embarrassed when Eddie brought on Harry Wilson and moved wee-man to left-back.
A huge chance to equalise then came and went when from a rebounded Harry cross the ball fell to Smith six yards out but he somehow opted to blast high rather than place low and the ball flicked off an unknowing Ederson’s head and over the crossbar with the whole crowd in mid-air. As ever with these things the team were rueing that miss when City broke and STERLING again exposed space behind Mepham to prod home his traditional goal v Bournemouth.
It looked like a two-goal disadvantage going into the break but a moment of glorious skill and a victory for practice brought the game to life. When a free-kick was won 22 yards out the crowd all knew who would take it. My little lad said ‘it’s going in’. I said ‘ love your optimism but he doesn’t score every free-kick you know’. He does in my lad’s eyes – HARRY WILSON contorting his body shape Beckham-esque as all great free-kick takers seem to be able to do and whipping a curling dipping howitzer into the top right corner. Ederson, a world-class keeper, stood to that side as well to tempt H the other way got a full stretch on his arm and would have kept it out had it not already have gone past him and in off the post at an incredible lick.
HT Bournemouth 1 Man C 2
The second half saw Bournemouth really go for it. Aggression, pace and Harry’s invention from midfield all testing Man City hugely. It was great to watch. A chance was always going to come and when the two Wilsons brilliantly combined to put Calum through one on one we thought we had it. The striker was slightly pushed though and his finish hit the on-rushing Ederson and the moment was gone.
Bournemouth continued to press but the long chasing periods of the first half were stretching them and they were starting to lose a little bit of shape. De Bruyne should have capitalised but fired into the side netting. Ake was having a great game as well – perhaps cementing a move in Guardiola’s mind and made many last-ditch blocks. You sensed the momentum was going though and when City broke from a Bournemouth throw – again down the right into the gap between Mepham and Smith Ake blocked Sterlings run but AGUERO was on hand to toe-poke home.
Eddie threw on Ibe (who in a mini cameo of his career produced the games’ best run and worst cross) and Solanke who had two chances but didn’t take them – again a lack of shot power seems to be his Achilles heel. There were brief flurries in the middle of City’s game management expertise but everything was wasted by poor corners – all that height advantage but Fraser and Harry hit the first man three times with Eddie fuming.
FT Bournemouth 1 City 3
Ramsdale 6 – Solid enough, good distribution – parries too often?
Smith 5 – Ok going forwards but either doesn’t get w/b role or struggled to concentrate
Mepham 5 – Caught behind so easily with a slight lack of ten-yard pace.
Ake 7 – Outstanding defending especially last-ditch and controlled football
Cook 7 – Good blocking with one outstanding one from Sterling
Daniels 6 – Looking bright and safe. Not a great exit though – fingers crossed.
(H Wilson 7 ) – Visionary and what a goal.
Fraser 6 – Hard-working but up against it.
Lerma 8 – Thought he looked as good as their players – controlled aggression and calm on the ball.
Billing 7 – Hard-working performance and some good skill close up.
King 5 – Some barnstorming runs but so often caught in possession.
Wilson 5 – Not in stride yet – quiet and missed a great strikers chance at a crucial time.
An encouraging show against stellar opposition. We reduced it to some marginal events – had we scored our two gilt-edged chances it would have been very interesting. We normally don’t get that close. We also got at them in midfield, again something we haven’t in the Gosling/Surman sit off them days. We don’t normally come out of these games thinking ‘what if’ so that’s great progress.
The frustrating thing was the ease we were carved out at the back. I worry about Mepham when he is up against the Premier League’s finest mobile speedsters. We saw it at Arsenal when he looked like a cruise ship in a yacht race and we saw it again today. I was praying we would stay with four at the back and put Wilson in midfield before the game but knew we wouldn’t. City exposed him and Smith’s positional uncertainty ruthlessly for three goals. One from our own throw-in. I think we are another top-class centre half away from being able to play three of them and also we lack the coaching expertise in this formation to get the full-backs understanding what they do. Hopefully, that’s the last of it until the next City game. It also cost us, Harry Wilson, starting which is madness and hopefully we have learned that today as well.
Positives were Lerma and Billing looking every inch like a class Premier League centre midfield, something we have rarely seen since Arter and Wilshere had a great spell. Harry Wilson has to start as he complements them – it looks like 4-4-2 if that is to happen as King, Fraser and Wilson’s names are pre-printed on the team sheet.
That said – whatever formation you pick City normally find a solution so today was about could we put in the effort and bravery and could we make the key moments count. Two out of three ain’t bad and a lot of positives to take into training this week.
Thanks for the report, it does show that viewing things on TV and in the stadium can give different perspectives though!
You could have had two Ederson’s and that free-kick wasn’t being stopped. One of the best you can ever see, technique-wise.
I thought Mepham was ok overall, he did indeed get caught a few times early on but on the other hand, so did Smith….and Mepham on the ball was very solid. In fact, I thought we defended well overall and he has to be a 7 in my opinion.
Smithy’s chance was also hugely unlucky, although, at the first time look, I also thought it was a bad miss. All he wanted to do, was keep the ball down and on target, it was basically six inches from going in and Ederson knew nothing about it.
I do actually agree with you on King….a 5 or a 6….not doing enough for me still….he would suddenly burst into action and get the ball but for the skill and pace he possesses, it’s not enough. Wee Man was poor until Charlie’s unfortunate injury, then I thought he did well from wing-back. Callum…..not up to pace yet this season….his chance goes in, who knows what would have happened. He has to lift it slightly higher than knee level for the keeper. City would have scored that one.
Walker should have been off for two yellows.
Ederson was right with the yellow.
Lerma lucky to not concede a penalty, not a deliberate foul but he did stand on Silva’s foot, so surprised VAR didn’t give it.
I think we did fine in the first half, let them have the ball for long periods….but not too many clear chances for them in reality. The game was in doubt until the third goal and the introduction of Rodri was needed for them as well.
I’d like Solanke to get a few starts now, to be honest, he’s never going to fully shine as a sub….and has shown enough so far to make me think he will be a success. Think Harry has to start too. Reckon Josh is at threat and so would Wee Man if Danjuma was fit. – Join the conversation, click here.