Manchester City prevailed in a tight contest against Newcastle United in an opening day win that held resemblance to the first game of last season as David Silva scored the opening goal again after being set up by Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero got the second goal like he did in City’s 4-0 win at the Etihad one year ago.
City weren’t at their fluent best but did enough to secure their third consecutive two-goal win away at St James’ Park though they were troubled by Newcastle who threatened with their new signings but ultimately their inability to find the target even once cost them dear despite their spirited performance. It was the first time since August 2013 when they played West Ham that Newcastle failed to register a shot on target and the third time in a row for City in the Premier League that they restricted their opposition to zero shots on target after their wins against Aston Villa and West Ham United in the final two games of last season.
Newcastle started with a three man midfield with Vurnon Anita sitting deeper with debutant Jack Colback and Moussa Sissoko starting further upfield. New signing Remy Cabella and Yoan Gouffran tucked in when their side were out of possession. Daryl Janmaat was making his debut on the right back position vacated by the departure of Mathieu Debuchy to Arsenal along with Emmanuel Riviere who was the lone man upfront.
For City, Fernando made his Premier League debut as the midfield anchor while Clichy continued in the right back position he occupied last Sunday. Samir Nasri started wide right with David Silva on the left and Stevan Jovetic playing just off Dzeko.
Pattern of play
Newcastle started off with immense pace and desire, closing down City with their midfield trio of Anita, Colback and Sissoko despite the pressing not being in tandem. They looked to hit City on the break with quick players out wide as Cabella and Gouffran staying narrow to stop City’s full backs before making direct runs once they received the ball in City’s half.
In total, Newcastle took on City’s players on 24 occasions during the 90 minutes, being successful on 15. City meanwhile completed just five take ons in the entire match, (only one in the first half) Clichy with three and Kolarov with two as City put emphasis on their passing game. Indeed Yaya Toure, David Silva and Fernando completed more passes than any other player on the pitch.
City continued with their approach from last season of retain possession patiently, despite looking a bit rusty and Newcastle’s plan was to take advantage of the fact that City weren’t fully fit. Manuel Pellegrini had admitted after the defeat against Arsenal that his side were indeed not fully fit and it will take a couple of weeks for City to hit their stride. Jovetic dropped off into deeper positions and found Dzeko very early on for a very good chance which the Bosnian couldn’t get on the end of.
Subsequently, City were busy defending out wide with most of their tackles and interceptions coming on the flanks, especially with the threat of Cabella who impressed with some silky skills in his first Premier League outing. Newcastle meanwhile had to be more careful of City’s threat down the middle with most of their tackles and interceptions coming on the middle of the pitch
Cabella and Gouffran making the most tackles for the Magpies with 4 apiece.
City are at their most threatening when their fullbacks overlap after linking up with the wide players, usually Nasri and Silva and get in behind the opposition defence. With Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna not match fit; it was Clichy who was assigned the task. Surprisingly the Frenchman saw more of the ball than Kolarov for most of the first half of the game before the Serb was given the license to roam forward in the second half, linking up with Silva and Dzeko as is the norm. By the end of the first half, Clichy had made the highest tackles with four and the most interceptions with five.
Gouffran helped in the centre of the pitch during the initial period when Colback and Sissoko pressed higher up the pitch. As a result, Silva and Nasri had to come deep to receive the ball but mainly the ball was spread wide by City to their fullbacks and Clichy had the most touches of all players in the first half as City dominated possession. After that the Magpies settled into a five man midfield when out of possession. Colback made five interceptions and committed three fouls looking to break up play in the first half.
The opening goal of the game originated from the midfield as Toure found himself under no pressure at all. He had all the time in the world to pick out Dzeko’s who’s clever back heel did the rest. The man nicknamed ‘Octopus’ had a fine debut making four tackles and completing 91% of his 57 passes. Toure meanwhile made the match highest 86 passes with an accuracy of 92%.
Impact of David Silva
What City lacked in their Community Shield defeat against Arsenal in the first half was lack of creativity from the midfield. David Silva was brought on at half time but by that time they were already 2-0 down and despite having their best spell of the game upon Silva’s introduction with Dzeko and Jovetic coming close, the game was sealed by Giroud’s speculative strike.
On Sunday, Silva got on the score sheet but his role in the side over the past three years deserves much accolade. He drifts into pocket of spaces in between the lines and exchanges quick passes with the strikers, the marauding fullbacks and even Yaya Toure who likes to fizz in passes into the Spaniard’s feet before bombing forward.
He attempted the second highest passes for the club from Manchester with an accuracy of 88% playing two key passes and creating two chances in the process and took his goal well after Dzeko did brilliantly to back heel Toure’s cross into his path.
Difference in quality of the two strike forces
Newcastle were shambolic in front of goal with new signing Rivière having three atrocious attempts at goal. He shot from 40 yards once while running at full speed, and then shanked a volley closer to the corner flag and nowhere near goal. Cabella, by far Newcastle’s best player on the day drifted inside from the left on a couple of occasions though he couldn’t hit the target.
Dzeko meanwhile was brilliant all over the pitch. He took turns with Jovetic to drop deep and hold up the ball and had a good chance when Jovetic found him with a lofted ball over the top. They pressed the Newcastle defenders when pushing higher up the field and even though neither got on the scoresheet, they worked the left channel well combining with Silva.
Cabella’s impact on debut
Starting on the right before moving over to the left after around the 15 minute mark, Cabella had a much freer role towards the end of the game as he set up two good chances. He had the most touches of any Newcastle player and £12 million was very promising in his debut constantly troubling City with his mazy runs and close control. The Frenchman had the most touches of any Newcastle players and set up three good chances for his teammates as he displayed his creative side.
Clichy and Demichelis solid at the back
Clichy is naturally right footed, so him playing at right back wasn’t a strange decision after all. Statistically he had a fine game. Completing all eight of his tackles, of which four were on danger man Cabella, he also made five interceptions and seven clearances despite not offering much in his restricted role in the second half.
Demichelis continued with his good work at the back as he made five tackles and nine clearances as City looked as he didn’t give Reviere much change in the box as only two of Newcastle’s 20 crosses were successful.
Newcastle had started off the second half much brightly as they looked to bounce back into the game. They saw more of the ball as City conceded two freekicks in dangerous positions before Williamson had a great chance to equalise from a corner. Kolarov was becoming City’s outlet on the left as Jovetic had a couple of shots blocked.
The first change of the match was Gabriel Obertan coming on for Anita around the hour mark as Colback and Sissoko formed a two man midfield. This allowed Cabella to have a free role in front of the two and shortly thereafter, 18-year-old Rolando Aarons replaced Gouffran while Pellegrini decided to stem Newcastle’s attack with the introduction of first Fernandinho for Jovetic and then James Milner for Nasri.
Toure moved to the tip of the triangle in the midfield in front of the Brazilian duo. The final change by both the managers was to replace their main striker. Sergio Aguero came on for Dzeko while another debutant Ayoze Perez replaced Riviere. It was Newcastle’s 6th debutant who had their best chance of the game after being played in by Cabella’s over the top ball, but his shot which might have been going off target anyway was expertly deflected wide by Fernando.
City were dropping deeper as Newcastle were having their best spell of the day in a frenetic finale. Obertan threatened with a cross from the right for Aarons even as Toure was charging forward during the turn-overs and Sissoko blazed over the Magpies last chance with his weaker foot after Cabella pulled back for his compatriot from the left byline.
It was during one such break that Fernandinho threaded it to Aguero during injury time who beat Coloccini for pace before shooting with his left foot and despite Tim Krul saving his first shot, the Argentine was able to keep his balance and more importantly his composure to seal the three points for his side.