LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 5 – Manchester City cruised to an impressive 2-0 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.
Here AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the annual curtain raiser to the English top-flight season:
Foden shows his potential
Hailed as the ‘Stockport Iniesta’ for the way his smooth passing conjures memories of Barcelona great Andres Iniesta, Phil Foden’s composed display suggested the Manchester City midfielder could live up to the hype. Already tipped for stardom after inspiring England to Under-17 World Cup glory, the 18-year-old played 10 times for City last season, but this term promises to be his breakthrough year. City boss Pep Guardiola believes Foden is now mature enough to cope with the demands of the Premier League and, having already labelled him a “gift” to the club, the Spaniard gave him a start against Chelsea. Foden responded with a performance that belied his tender years, highlighted by an incisive run and pass that set up Sergio Aguero’s opener.
Billed as the pivot who would provide the foundation for Maurizio Sarri’s attacking gameplan, Italy midfielder Jorginho was completely out of sorts in his introduction to English football. Jorginho reportedly snubbed City to follow his Napoli boss Sarri to Stamford Bridge in a £57 million ($74 million, 64 million euros) deal. It’s too soon to say Guardiola had a lucky escape, but Jorginho didn’t earn many admirers among his new club’s fans with a sloppy display. The match was barely minutes old before he had twice surrendered possession in careless areas. And when Foden set up Aguero’s first goal, it was with a burst through an area left untended by Jorginho. He was only a little better as the match wore on and Sarri must hope it was just a case of first night nerves.
Red-hot Aguero heats up
Aguero has played a key role in all of City’s Premier League title triumphs and last season was no different as the Argentina striker became the club’s record goal-scorer en route to the trophy. Winning over Guardiola was arguably Aguero’s greatest achievement however as the Spaniard had doubts about his ability to fit into a style of play that demands mobile forwards. That initial concern has been banished by Aguero’s relentless appetite for goals and he became the first player in City’s history to score 200 times for the club when he opened the scoring in the 13th minute against Chelsea. It was a typically predatory finish and he netted again after the interval, prompting Guardiola to salute his star’s sharpness at a stage of the season when many of his peers are still rusty.
‘Sarri-ball’ a work in progress
Only three weeks into his reign, Sarri cut the kind of frustrated figure that was familiar to Chelsea fans who grew used to Antonio Conte’s touchline anguish when results went bad last season. Hired as an antidote to the acerbic Conte, former Napoli boss Sarri admits Chelsea are under-cooked following a hectic pre-season that has left him with little time to drill his players in the attacking philosophy that made his time in Italy so entertaining. Having changed Chelsea’s formation to a 4-3-3 system after Conte used a 3-4-2-1 plan, Sarri needs to work on a defence that looked completely disorganised, while also improving communication in midfield and reinvigorating moribund striker Alvaro Morata. Having Eden Hazard back after his post-World Cup break will be a major boost.
Slick City back in the groove
After their record-breaking title triumph last term, City showed they are still hungry as they seek to become the first team since Manchester United in 2009 to retain the crown. Amassing more points, wins and goals than any other Premier League team set sky-high standards at Eastlands. But with driven boss Guardiola at the helm, they seem certain to be back among the silverware this term. Winning is still a joy for Guardiola and his players, and despite a lack of fitness and practice time since the World Cup, the way they tore into Chelsea was ominous for their title rivals.