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Dominated both on AND off the ball, and put away without a whimper: Talking Tactics - Man City (H)

Dull. Mind numbing. Soulless. Perhaps it wasn’t as bad as the meek surrender against Everton and for around 40 minutes there was something which resembled a genuine threat to Manchester City, but it still wasn’t good enough. Sunderland need to pull off shocks at the moment and they need a Gus Poyet sized miracle.

Dan Abbott | Roker Report

Our form in 2017 is dreadful, despite some decent results such as draws against Liverpool and Spurs and the sensational victory away to Crystal Palace. There have been too many collapses such as against West Brom, Stoke, Southampton and Everton.

The game on Sunday may have been a game where you expected The Lads to come away with nothing but the way City turned the closing half hour into a training exercise showed just how easy it was for them.

That isn’t to totally dismiss the early stages of the fixture, where Sunderland pressed well and looked like they did have a decent plan. It was almost like the team was split in two - Defoe, Borini, Januzaj and Ndong were based high up the field, doing the job of not allowing Man City to play out comfortably, while Larsson and Gibson stayed back with the defence to keep an eye on any potential, incisive breakaways.

Match statistics from BBC Sport
BBC.co.uk

We tackled well (Darron Gibson leading the way with 5 in the first half) and it meant that Guardiola’s side were finding it difficult to make their way into the Sunderland box. Ball retention was an issue for Sunderland though and it prevented them from fully taking advantage of their decent tackling - no sooner was the ball won than it was back at the feet of a player in sky blue.

By giving the ball away so cheaply, Sunderland never got the chance to exploit the number of players they’d committed up the field. Fabio Borini’s first half pass completion of 46% sums it up rather well.

Things were frustrating for City though, who enjoyed over 60% of possession in the first 40 minutes but only managed three shots, where as Sunderland had 6 attempts down at the other end. They were decent attempts as well - with Jermain Defoe striking the post with a well hit effort from outside the penalty area (where after Fabio Borini should have nodded home the rebound) and Billy Jones got his head to a couple of corners, one of which was saved and another which flew wide. Looking bright on right, Adnan Januzaj was a handful as he jinked his way through on a few occasions - at least Sunderland were still managing to threaten, despite the woeful passing.

Man City (blue) made 718 passes, compared to Sunderland's (orange) 287.
WhoScored.com

Just like Sunderland were given a lesson on counter attacking by Everton last week, Manchester City also showed them how it was done when they took the lead. It only took one piece to move out of our team's shape for City to take full advantage.

As previously mentioned, Sebastian Larsson was staying back with Darron Gibson to shield the defence but when Yaya Toure started the move for their first goal, Larsson was caught out in the City half due to a break down in play.

Unable to keep up with Toure’s pace, Larsson wasn't able to help prevent the move from breaking down, which lead to Gibson having to come across to try and stop Toure. This freed up the space in front of David Silva, where Toure immediately played the pass (so that’s Gibson as well as Larsson now completely out of the move) and by the time Raheem Sterling was fed the ball, it was already too late. A clever bit of movement from Sergio Aguero allowed him to get ahead of Lamine Kone and then stab the ball past Jordan Pickford.

It’s a small thing but it shows just how well drilled you need to be against sides with such quality. Make one little mistake or move one chess piece slightly out of place and they’ll punish you.

Billy Jones won 8 aerial duels, which was far more than any other player on the pitch.
WhoScored.com

From there, the game just seemed to meander along. The impetus had gone from Sunderland, they didn’t seem capable of keeping up their high press, and Man City went from looking frustrated to confused as to how easy it had become.

City's second goal was of real quality, with Silva, Sterling and Sane all alliteratively combining to put the game to bed. Again though, both Gibson and Larsson were missing from protecting the defence and allowing David Silva that much space to run into was always going to spell trouble. It presented the player Pep Guardiola described as “one of the best players I’ve ever trained in my life” with the perfect opportunity to release Sane, who used his pace to blitz past Billy Jones and rifle the ball in via the post.

From a Sunderland perspective, watching the closing thirty minutes was like watching tumbleweeds drift by. The Nokia 3310 is being relaunched soon and I think I’d have had more enjoyment playing Snake 2 on one of those than I would have watching the remainder of the match.

A disallowed Jermain Defoe header briefly had the crowd on their feet and Khazri’s well delivered corner saw him do more in five minutes than Fabio Borini did all afternoon. With any luck, that will give the manager something to think about and maybe freshen up the team - though I wouldn’t hold my breath for that.

Sunderland lacked energy and they laboured around the pitch as Man City enjoyed over 70% of the possession, barely wasting a pass and even though they saw far more of the ball they were matching Sunderland’s tackles, robbing them of the ball with ease and were stronger in the air. Anything The Lads had done well in the game was now a distant memory.

This game probably summed up Sunderland in 2017 - It started with a lot of promise and there were traces of hope. Unfortunately though, they ran out of ideas and went down with a whimper.