Manchester City’s new Manuel Pellegrini era began with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Newcastle United tonight. The Blues created chance after chance throughout the match, which is nothing new for City against the Magpies. Newcastle has fared worse against City for the last several years than any other current Premier League side so it unwise to read too much into this result. However, the play of Jesus Navas really stood out for City.
The Spanish international who has proven time and time again to be a game changer for the European and World Champions showed his pace, quality and creativity today. Navas showed an ability to push inside and take on defenders, play great crosses from the flank and track back to break up play in wide areas tonight.
Navas’s pace on the wing gave City a different option for outlet balls than the side had last season when everything was narrow and slow even on the counter. My biggest critique of last year’s side managed by Roberto Mancini was the inability of the team to take plays, broken up in midfield by the likes of Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry, forward quickly. The buildup on counter attacks for Manchester City last season was slow, and painfully predictable and often the last ball would go wanting.
Under Mancini, Manchester City lacked width. Often times Manchester City would lineup last season without any natural wingers, or would try to force width using a 3-5-2 formation where Aleksandar Kolarov and James Milner would feature as wing backs. Both would put in decent shifts in that role, particularly the workmanlike Milner but both lacked the pace and final product to really make the formation effective.
Today’s 4-0 victory against Newcastle is just one match albeit against a side City has dominated in recent years, but you can already see the stylistic differences Pellegrini is seeking to implement as well as the potential game changing ability of Jesus Navas. The width and quick ball movement/countering ability was dramatically different than anything Manchester City provided last season on a consistent basis.