Manchester City are vulnerable to bad luck after all: 3 things we learned

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City looks on following the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on August 12, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tom Flathers/Man City via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City looks on following the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on August 12, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tom Flathers/Man City via Getty Images) /

Wolves get a well earned draw against defending champs Manchester City, but the focus will be on two moments of controversy which decided the match.

The first 60 minutes seemed like it was leading to the inevitable Manchester City win. But lady luck had other ideas. Two controversial calls and an outstanding overall match from Wolves created a thrilling draw, but City certainly will feel hard done by the refs. Here’s what we learned.

EPL needs VAR yesterday

I’ll admit that last season I was very skeptical of how well the Video Assistant Referee would be integrated into the Premier League. It was an unmitigated disaster in the FA Cup and just made the game slower and frankly confusing to watch. The World Cup proved replay can actually be used in a competent way, but it still didn’t seem like it was an absolute necessity in the EPL. Then the 57th minute hit and everything changed.

In the span of two minutes, two match changing plays occurred that desperately needed replay review. The first was Willy Boly’s headed goal to put Wolves up a goal. The biggest problem is the ball didn’t go off Boly’s head. Replay showed clearly the ball whizzed past his head and onto his hand before splashing in the back of the net. Furthermore there’s an argument to be made for an offside call on the play. Either would’ve been incredibly tough calls to make in real time, so I don’t blame the ref, but there’s technology we can use so that goal doesn’t happen.

The issues were compounded literally seconds later when David Silva found himself seemingly clear for a shot at point blank range when Ruben Neves closed in on him from behind. It ended with no shot being taken and Silva going to ground. Replays made it clear Neves had caught Silva’s right foot, and review would have made a strong case for a penalty to be given.

So in the span of a minute, reviewable match changing plays swung the score by two goals. Sure review might not have changed a thing. But it might have. After the World Cup showed us how easily VAR can be integrated when stakes are at their highest, the Premier League needs to follow suit.

Wolves will stay committed to attacking soccer no matter who they play

No one would have blamed Nuno’s squad if they’d sat back and tried to keep Manchester City in front of them. For a newly promoted club – even one with as impressive of a summer window as Wolves – any big six club is a tall task. Manchester City isn’t just any big six club, they’re a soccer machine disguised in sky blue. Still, there was no bus-parking to be seen by Wolves, and if its not going to happen against Manchester City, then Wolves are primed to attack all season long.

This mindset served Wolverhampton well in the Championship last season as they ran away with the league and earned promotion. Its one thing to bring that same mentality in the most competitive league in world. But so far they’ve shown a proclivity and a willingness to play open, attacking soccer.

Even in the first half when City was peppering Wolves with shots, Wolves were able to possess the ball and mount credible attacks time after time. Nuno has given his squad a fearless attitude, and this style of play is going to be a headache for every side in the Premier League, big six clubs included. Its certain to bite them a time or two, as it did last weekend against Leicester, but its refreshing to see a side that just game up play such an exciting brand of soccer.

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Without KDB, City’s margin for error is significantly slimmer

Its really easy to say that losing a player of Kevin De Bruyne’s ability will change the way you play. He’s a singular talent who is the best player on the pitch every time he steps on it. However, Manchester City is uniquely equipped to deal his absence by filling his role with multiple other world class players. Must be nice.

Nevertheless, his loss can be seen in some subtle changes in Manchester City’s style. Pep’s system is built on a lot of positional fluidity in attack, so there’s no real like-for-like replacement when KDB is out. Some combination of David Silva, Bernardo Silva, and Ilkay Gundogan took on his responsibilities in this match. What City was lacking was the pin point passes from the deeper play-making position that unlock staunch defenses. David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are more likely to pass back and recycle possession than drop a pinpoint pass in behind the way De Bruyne is wont to do.

Its not like Manchester City are toothless without De Bruyne, but their margins are definitely slimmer without his presence. In a match like today’s – with two questionable calls and some unlucky finishing from Aguero, Sterling, and the rest of the City attack – the slight change is enough to cost the three points and force City to settle for an away draw.