City run riot and gain direct entry into the Champions League courtesy of complete Aguero performance.
As captain Vinnie suggested post-game, it is meaningful to end the season as you intend to begin the next one.
Indeed, that was the philosophy Pep drilled into the players pre-game as we witnessed one of the best first half team displays of this season. In spite of Mazzari’s Watford seemingly resigning the game from the off, nothing can be taken away from a complete and stylish City showing that sealed 3rd place and an automatic position in the Champions League group stages.
Quite fittingly, the first goal of the City riot was converted by the man that has provided City with late-season success and the consistency we have been yearning for all season – Vincent Kompany. We all know how prolific the front line of the City side can be, but the questions have always been at the other end of the pitch. Once again, Vinnie was the stabiliser and answerer of those questions. His nostalgic leadership on the pitch – with Otamendi and the whole back line as beneficiaries – has reminded us all of the rare, world class ability this man shows when at his physical peak. It seemed obligatory to mention the impact of Vinnie in spite of an impeccable attacking performance from the Blues – his significance highlighted with the away fans’ tuneful appreciation after the final whistle.
Particularly in the first 45 minutes, Watford could barely take the ball out of their own half. I saw the term “front-foot defending” used on Twitter last week, and that was personified against Watford. Kompany and Otamendi excel at being tight on forwards and winning the ball back early. In fact, the choke method on the opposition inspired possessional dominance.
After the captain scored, a win seemed inevitable. Aguero added two goals to make it 20 for the season (as many goals as league-winner Diego Costa with four less appearances), then Brazilian pair Fernandinho and Gabby Jesus rounded off the 5-0 rout. With 67% possession and a goal produced in every three shots taken, there is real promise for Pep after suggesting the team will need to score more next season.
Willy Caballero – 7/10
Although Watford’s team press was virtually non-existent, Willy showed significant improvement in terms of distribution, highlighted by starting the move which led to Aguero’s second goal. He produced a good save in the early moments of the second half off a strong Okaka effort but largely had nothing to do.
Fernandinho – 8/10
A fantastic, assured performance from the makeshift right back capped off with a goal. Often playing in an inverted role, Fernandinho stepped into the midfield when Yaya advanced in possession and made occasional under-lapping runs to provide options for Jesus. Defensively stable and exceptionally confident.
Kompany – 8/10
As well as a relatively straightforward goal, Vinnie led the defence by example and was realistically the most significant reason we came away with a clean sheet. As usual, his distribution into the midfield was effective. Just another game of brilliance in City colours since he returned from injury.
Otamendi – 7/10
Nico was involved in a typically tenacious block to prevent Watford from scoring and was his usual self when asked to clear a mess at the back. At times Otamendi could be better on the ball and starting attacking play, but he was extremely dependable as a ball-winner and has certainly improved regardless of Kompany’s return.
Clichy – 6/10
A lack of threat from Watford’s right side led to a quiet Clichy display. Had few moments of impact on the ball but was rarely needed on the left. When called upon, Clichy was able to move the ball forward, particularly to Silva.
Yaya Toure – 7/10
It was a typical Yaya performance against opposing teams of this quality. Yaya largely moved the ball along to City’s more advanced central players in De Bruyne and Silva, but once again showed signs of being a problem-causing deep-lying playmaker. Another performance that warrants contract discussions now the season has ended. Perhaps more light will be gleamed on the extended hug between he and Pep after he came off in the second half.
De Bruyne – 9/10
The ‘almost man of the match’ put in yet another vintage display next to Silva in an advanced role. He provided two assists and continued to be the epicentre of most of City’s forward moves. Particularly, his assist to Aguero showed precision that very few possess both in the Premier League and Europe. His significance to the team is back to its height after a mid-season drop off versus teams such as Monaco.
Silva – 9/10
Many people would argue De Bruyne was the better playmaker with the assists, but David Silva proved the title of the pre-assist general of Europe. His weight of pass was at the usual world class standard. Some of the attacking moves orchestrated by Silva – such as the ball through to Sane for Aguero’s second – confirmed to me that there isn’t really a player like him with such attributes. No exaggeration.
Jesus – 7/10
Scored a goal of pure technique and composure, reminding us all of what is to come next year and beyond. It probably wasn’t one of the best games Gabby has had in a blue shirt, and there were times where he could have done better in front of goal and around the box, but it was a real hard-working display that told Pep he can ameliorate some of the depth issues in wide areas.
Sane – 7/10
His goals haven’t been as prevalent in recent times but his significance is no less. Sane obliterated Janmaat before feeding Aguero to score and was a general nuisance in the wide left area. His agility and speed means defending is often not really an option when he finds space. Leroy put in a good shift and reassured us fans of what a tremendous Pep signing he has been.
Aguero – 9/10
My man of the match for the goals and greater involvement in build up play with the surrounding creative players. On the day, he probably could have scored four goals instead of his two but for slight lapses in concentration. The last two games have finally shown Sergio is learning from Pep and the required style, being a creator as well as a finisher. Perhaps the inclusion of Jesus on the right, and the fact that he can instinctively move to central areas when Aguero roams, has aided Sergio’s creative link-up play and has allowed for more complete and selfless performances.
Sagna 6/10 – Stepped in with ease and showed a usual solid display
Navas 6/10 – Classic Navas appearance. Motivated and hard-working even with a comfortable lead.
Kelechi – Didn’t really have enough time to get himself into the game. His link-up play at times is promising and has always had intelligent movement. I hate to say it though, but I think that may well be the last we see him in City blue.