Manchester City has been missing something in recent weeks. A kind of domineering, edgy supremacy that is associated with Pep Guardiola’s best teams. He’s not surprising considering this team has won four of the last five Premier League titles. As Liverpool have shown this season, a period of success is often followed by a dramatic downturn. But against Bournemouth this afternoon, a 4-1 win proved that City can still kill the old-fashioned way.
City’s first goal could have been ripped from Guardiola’s textbook. Rico Lewis’ forceful tackle deep into the Bournemouth half was a testament to the high-pressing the Spaniard has made famous. This set off a lightning-quick move in which Phil Foden ghosted into the box, the ball falling into the path of Erling Haaland, who messed up his lines before Julian Alvarez pinned him to the top of the net. It was brilliant material and a reminder of City’s quality.
Bournemouth had its moments. Most of them emanated from Jordan Zemura, a whirling dervish in the rear. His crosses were dealt with by City, but at least he threatened. But the closest the Cherries got was through Adam Smith. He traded passes with Dango Outtara before unleashing a powerful shot that was blocked by Ruben Dias.
But the Premier League champions couldn’t be stopped, at least not by their opposition here. Ilkay Gundogan fired a precise cross towards Foden, which Zemura did well to deflect away. But the clearance from him could only reach Haaland, who made up for his earlier mistake by finding the net. He hasn’t been at his imperious best recently, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that we don’t judge him by normal human standards. He still has 33 goals in as many games this campaign.
Foden marked his 200th City appearance with an own goal. He was his first since the World Cup and a good reaffirmation of his quality. Foden looked alive as Bournemouth went to sleep, a loose pass selling Jack Stephens shortly before the Stockport boy snuck in.
27 AND COUNTING! 🔥
ERLING HAALAND DOES IT TWO!!
The second part was not a breather for Gary O’Neil’s men. As they were pushed closer and closer to his own box, some pinball broke out in the area. Álvarez reacted quicker and fired his shot past Neto into the Cherries net. It was a natural progression from how the game had gone, but the fact that he collided with Chris Mepham and got credited was a sickening bonus.
The tactical trick that O’Neil tried to play by lining up in an uncharacteristic 5-4-1 had little impact. The chants of “Erling Haaland, he’s scored more than you” from roaming City fans were on point and a clue as to why they thought defensive football was the way to go.
Bournemouth restored some belated pride through Jefferson Lerma. A well-timed run sent Dias off and the Colombian found himself with a setback to finish calmly. It was a very well crafted goal, although it will provide only a little salve for the wounds City inflicted here.
City have shown flashes of their former brilliance recently, such as their 3-1 win over Arsenal. They have also looked away from that exalted level, such as in their 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest. This performance fits firmly into the first category. But the key element missing this season has been consistency. Guardiola will need to instill that vital ingredient if his team is to rise to the challenge of the Gunners and overcome them to take the title.