The magic of De Bruyne and Onana in the corners

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Player of the week

It would have been difficult to write a better script. After missing five months with a hamstring injury, Kevin De Bruyne He came off the bench against Newcastle to turn a 2-1 defeat into a 3-2 victory, contributing a goal and an assist.

Seeing City in 2024 without De Bruyne is like watching golf in 2006 without Tiger Woods. It is De Bruyne who turns Pep Guardiola’s winning robotic machine into a spectacle. He injects a sense of chaos and disorder into Guardiola’s carefully conducted symphony.

We’ve reached that point in the year when the city typically goes into its freight train mode, launching into a race with results that leaves everyone around it in the dust. Eighteen wins in a row. Twenty undefeated games. Another record set. Another title raised.

Related: Kevin De Bruyne’s tactical vision tilts title race towards City | jonathan wilson

However, after a series of faltering performances and results over the last month, it looked like City might struggle to achieve that kind of form this season. But De Bruyne’s return changes the calculations. His goal was typical De Bruyne: cross the center of the field and finish from outside the area. His tee assist on Oscar Bobb’s game-winning goal was the kind only a handful of players in the world can see or execute. The assist was De Bruyne’s 104th in the Premier League, tying him with Wayne Rooney for third place in the competition’s all-time rankings.

Pep Guardiola still has Erling Haaland to reintroduce into his team when the striker returns from a foot injury. But it is the return of De Bruyne, as brilliant as ever, that has tilted the title race towards City.

Goal of the week

let’s continue with City. That’s why Guardiola’s team is aiming for four titles in a row: tied 2-2, they are capable of putting things at a pace that no one in the league can live with.

Hoo boy. It starts with De Bruyne’s ball. The City midfielder always thinks one or two steps ahead. De Bruyne sees every possible pass and, with his combination of intelligence and technique, every pass is possible. But Bobb still has a lot to do once he arrives. He calmly catches the ball and, with two sudden jerks, goes around the goalkeeper and throws the ball into the empty goal. Moments define seasons; Those four touches will likely define this one.

The performance of the week that made Nathan Fielder shudder

Did anyone catch the ending of The Curse? The Safdie-Fielder partnership was squirm-inducing television at its finest. Unless of course you’re looking André Onana v corners.

Goalkeepers are supposed to do more than save shots or help develop from the back. There is supposed to be some kind of presence and command. The best of the best inspire confidence in the entire team. Whatever happens, we know we have Alisson, Ederson or Vicario behind.

Onana is at the opposite end of the goalie confidence rating. His underlying numbers this season remain encouraging, but there’s a sense in his general way of doing things that another problem is brewing: his starting position is off; he misses the shots he should save; he fails in routine efforts; he sits, frozen on his goal line, instead of looking to attack and attack the ball; its distribution has been capricious.

That lack of confidence seeps into the entire United team in open play. But it is more noticeable in set pieces. There is Onana, stuck on his line, as if set pieces brought real death and terror. United have conceded an average of 6.2 corners per game, the third highest figure in the league. For other teams, that number wouldn’t be a big concern. They have the setup, goalkeeper and defenders to deal with a high volume of corners. United does not. They also concede the fourth most corner kicks per game.

The best goalkeepers dominate their area with a kind of macho arrogance. Even if they smell the ball, they know that they will most likely be rescued by a referee’s decision. Maybe Onana was scared by his mistake the first week against the Wolves. Perhaps it is a decision by the United manager: David de Gea was criticized last year for adopting a similar position on set pieces.

Opponents have noticed. There is nothing sophisticated about their plan of attack. They drop the ball on the penalty spot again and again, daring Onana to come and claim it.

Corners are usually a chess game between the kicker and the goalkeeper. The delivery has to be clear and precise: not so close that the guardian can come and claim it; not so far that any potential opportunity is too far from the goal.

Onana’s position tilts the odds in favor of the attacking side. They are able to drop the ball in the six-yard box without fear of the only player capable of using their hands getting in their way. Those attacking players waiting in the box for the shot can charge downhill knowing that any form of contact from four yards has a good chance of flying past the United goalkeeper. “It’s not like he has the reactions to save it anyway,” former United goalkeeper Ben Foster said this week.

And yet, United’s goalkeeper and coaching staff have not adapted. They rely on defenders to deal with every ball that enters the box and the second balls that flow from that first point of contact. As he passes a corner and the camera zooms in, you can almost see the entire United team pleading: “Can you take it easy once and short the next?” No. No, they won’t.

It’s a wonder United have only conceded five corners all season – Tottenham could have scored another two in Sunday’s 2-2 draw. Onana has had solid performances this season. But it is difficult to evaluate his first six months at the club and come to the conclusion that it is anything but obvious.

The mistake of the week on social networks

Ahh, you know that feeling. There’s nothing like preparing for a big game. The emotion. The nerves. The fear that you have forgotten yourself Game-specific NFT.

PR mistake of the week

In order not to be left behind in line, Chelsea brought the ignominy of #ModernGaming to the real world:

There’s nothing to see here, just a bunch of actors standing around mid-game reading a novel and brushing their teeth to promote the tragic new film Argylle, backed and financed by members of Chelsea’s ownership group. And we thought Todd Boehly had gone quiet.

The Adam Driver Award for Best Performance in a Powerful Film

On the field of Stamford Bridge, Cole Palmer He once again made the difference for Chelsea, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Fulham. In his last five league games, Palmer has four goals and two assists. In that span, only four players have posted a stronger xGChain than Palmer, a measure of a player’s creative impact. Everything great and good about Chelsea these days flows through Palmer. But Mauricio Pochettino’s team still spends long periods of play looking stilted and arrhythmic, like a collection of individual parts that cannot be integrated into a coherent team.

Missed opportunity of the week

Unai Emery He will be frustrated that Aston Villa were left with just one point on their trip to Goodison Park after a goalless draw. Fighting Sean Dyches made life difficult for Villa in a drab match. Villa had most of the ball, but failed to create many opportunities; Everton were often heavy on the ball but made the best of openings.

Emery’s team remain in third place, tied on points with Man City in second place, although City have a game in hand and a superior goal difference. But the Villa boss will be (slightly) concerned about the team’s away record this season. Villa have the best home record in the league (nine wins and one draw), but have struggled away from home, winning four, drawing three and losing four.

The performance at Everton was indicative of their problems away from home this season. At home, Villa plays with a feeling of control and security. They work the ball skillfully. Away from home, things are more hectic. Their “pace to goal” is the fifth slowest when playing at home this season, according to Statsbomb. Away from home they move the ball in the sixth faster speed.

It makes sense. At Villa Park, they rely on a stable midfield base by moving the ball slowly against defenders who sit in a deep block, before allowing the team’s front four to explode into quick combinations in the final third. Away from home, opponents are more likely to be in front, so Emery looks to exploit his team’s pace by cutting the ball in behind and letting Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey and Moussa Diaby get to work.

On paper, it’s a smart strategy. But it has not been as effective in practice. Emery tried to change him against Everton, but found it too difficult. Seeking more control, Emery was rewarded with the passivity of his players, and Villa too often bypassed midfield to try to attack the difference makers up front after playing with the ball at the back.

If Villa are to maintain a place in the top four or stay in the title race, Emery must find a compromise away from home that channels the energy of his forwards while maintaining the pace between the lines that has made his team be so impressive at home. .

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