David Silva and Raheem Sterling were both missing for Manchester City this weekend, and were joined off the pitch by an injured Sergio Aguero after 25 minutes, which handed Kevin De Bruyne his debut off the bench.
It was certainly notable that with these absentees City weren’t quite the attacking force they were in the opening four games of the season, and against Crystal Palace was the first time this season City scored less than twice.
Although the Citizens were facing tough opposition, a Palace side who were second in the league ahead of the game, City had failed to score in just one of 27 away games in the league going into the game.
Manchester City dominated possession but despite all the successful passes of Samir Nasri (8), Fernandinho (25), De Bruyne (17), Toure (42) and Navas (15), only a handful were played into Crystal Palace’s area.
This is perhaps an impact of the absence of David Silva in the Manchester City side, with the diminutive Spanish playmaker often seen as key to the Manchester City attack, and had already provided 4 assists in his first 4 games for City this season.
The debut of the club’s record signing De Bruyne did provide somewhat of a silver lining for the City attack however.
Once introduced just before the half hour mark, De Bruyne soon took creative responsibility, and created five chances during the game, more than anyone else on the pitch.
De Bruyne also showed some of the pace which City perhaps lacked without Sterling in the side, and the Belgian was clocked as City’s fastest player, according to the Premier League tracking data
It is interesting to note that to start the game Manuel Pellegrini had switched from the usual 4-2-3-1 formation to 4-4-2, which he has been known to use on many occasions during his time at City, with Wilfried Bony accompanying Aguero up front.
But City’s creativity was remarkably more stifled this game, both before and after Aguero’s departure through injury, and without the Argentine on the field, City struggled to create many clear-cut chances despite dominating possession, until Kelechi Iheanacho’s late intervention.
It is perhaps revealing that in the 89th minute, with City needing a goal to secure a win, Bony was removed for the 18-year-old Nigerian striker, indicating the difference in quality between Bony and Aguero.
Iheanacho had previously played just three minutes and 49 seconds for City, against Watford last time out, and upon grabbing the winner he became the 125th player to score for City in the Premier League.
City’s defence again provided a consistent strong point however, as the Sky Blues managed to secure their sixth successive clean sheet on Saturday to set a new club record, ensuring the side has now won five away League games in a row for the first time since 1912.
Image courtesy of Manchester City FC via YouTube, with thanks.