Despite the loss, it was great to see the effort and attacking intent from us against Manchester City last night.
We had less than 18% possession, but we still had 11 shots to their 15, with it anything but the procession that many believed it would be and we can take a lot of positives from the game.
In recent memory, it was similar to the 3-2 home defeat to Liverpool during Rafa Benitez’s last season. Let’s hope this attacking intent continues in the final two matches.
Below we rate each player’s performance:
Martin Dubravka – 5 – It wasn’t a night to remember for Martin Dubravka, as he conceded four times and made only two saves. Although it would be unfair to put the blame at his door, he will be disappointed that he didn’t have a better evening.
Jacob Murphy – 7 – He continues his good form at wing-back. This was another impressive showing, especially on the ball, as he got into their penalty area and got shots away on a few occasions. His decision making on when to move up the field continues to improve and he made six tackles. This was more than any other player on the pitch. Joao Cancelo got a goal and it was his shot that led to the winning goal. Murphy will be disappointed he couldn’t do more to stop the Portuguese full-back and this loses him half a mark.
Emil Krafth – 5.5 – In a performance where the team concedes four times, the defenders can’t be given a high mark. This is an area we can improve on in the summer. It was great to see Krafth score his first goal for the club with an excellent header. In this short run in the team, he hasn’t been the liability that many believed him to be. He has a role to play, but not as a regular starter.
Federico Fernandez – 4 – The Argentine did okay in the first half, but he struggled badly with the pace and dynamism of the City attackers. It is clear that he needs to have quicker defenders around him to get the best from him in big matches. He will be disappointed with his positioning on a couple of the goals.
Paul Dummett – 5 – His last ditch defending did help keep City out at times, with four successful aerial duels and six clearances. However, his passing was poor and often put more pressure on the back line. Dummett has a role to play, but he played in a defence that conceded four times, showing his and our defence’s limitations.
Matt Ritchie – 7 – It seems like everyone is repeating themselves when they talk about the positive impact that Ritchie has had since coming into the team. He was excellent again on Friday night with his passing and crossing into the area. Ritchie brings an intensity to the team and he has proven his value since the international break.
Joe Willock – 8* – Another goal for Joe Willock. He is a relentless machine at the moment. The loanee was very good against Manchester City, as he showed his quality carrying the ball, incredible athleticism – he left Sterling for dead at one point – and positive movement in the final third. His penalty was poor, but he did well to put in the rebound and his movement to win the spot kick was very smart. Three tackles in the game showed his aggression without the ball.
Jonjo Shelvey – 6 – It would have been great to see him score the free kick when he struck the bar. Shelvey has been criticised recently, but he still adds value with his set piece delivery and passing range. His corner for the opening goal was very good, but his defensive work rate was disappointing again.
Miguel Almiron – 5 – This was a performance that summed up the good and bad of Miguel Almiron. He carried the ball forward with pace on several occasions, but his final ball regularly let him down. A pass success rate of 81% against a quality team like City is impressive, but he will be disappointed he didn’t impact the game more.
Allan Saint-Maximin – 6 – It was another good performance from the Frenchman, even if he did look like a player trying too hard at times. One thing I’ve noticed is that he is now more willing to run behind defences, as shown in the build-up for the first penalty. This is a developing part of his game, which increases the threat he carries. He made two key passes in the final third and was a danger throughout.
Joelinton – 7.5 – Callum Wilson’s injury has opened up another opportunity for Joelinton and he performed well in a difficult situation last night, He rarely got the ball, but he was effective when he did have it. The Brazilian forced the corner for our opener, did well to win the first penalty and took it excellently. Many would have been concerned when he stepped up to take it, but it was a top class spot kick. His movement is a lot more positive as he does now try to get between the posts as often as possible. Let’s hope he performs well in the final two matches.
Jamal Lewis – N/A – It was great to see him back on the pitch. I’d like to see him get at least one start in the final two matches.
Sean Longstaff – N/A
Dwight Gayle – N/A