Man City 5-1 Huddersfield Five Things: Terriers naive?

Aguero celebrates with Sane –

After an early scare in their FA Cup fifth round tie with Huddersfield, Manchester City hit back with five fine goals helped by a sublime performance from Sergio Aguero – but what have we learnt from the game?

Huddersfield exploited Bravo’s frailties

It was an open start with both sides threatening, Leroy Sane’s tight-angled shot striking the far post, but it was Huddersfield who scored first. After a good run from Jack Payne, the composed Phillip Billing touched the ball on for former Man City academy graduate Harry Bunn, who slotted the ball home. Claudio Bravo let the ball go through his legs and did little to dispel fears over his questionable displays, having kept just four clean sheets in 21 games. Huddersfield then looked well-structured in the first 15 minutes, pressing with energy to force City into misplaced passes.

Tactical naivety from the visitors

As energy levels dropped, Huddersfield’s high pressing was not always to their benefit. There were occasions when City encouraged them to close down, as it allowed them to play through their forwards quickly and find gaps in behind the midfield. Part of the reason midfielder Dean Whitehead, 35 and centre-back Mark Hudson, 34 and versatile defender Martin Cranie, 30, have not played regularly this season is a lack of pace. They featured more under previous boss Chris Powell, who favoured more cautious tactics that did not require pace in defensive areas. Picking those players and others who have had limited game time whilst asking for a high-press would always lead to problems at the back.

City’s growing dominance paid off

From the 15th minute onwards, City took control, even if it took them another quarter of an hour to capitalize. Appeals for a handball by Jon Stankovic were waved away by the referee while other openings came City’s way, before Sane got the equalizer. Tareiq Holmes-Dennis was too slow to challenge Raheem Sterling, who teased the full-back before crossing through his legs and Sane, who showed good movement to escape the clutches of a sluggish Cranie, tapped home. That goal kick-started an eight-minute treble from the hosts.

Aguero’s cage rattled

Doubters of Sergio Aguero, this blog included, have pointed out his lack of pace and work rate, questioning whether he has the qualities required to lead the line. Perhaps motivated by the pre-injury rise of Gabriel Jesus, there was something different about him on Wednesday night. The Argentine converted his 35th minute penalty with consummate ease and scored the team’s fourth goal in the second half with a deft, near-post finish. The most symbolic moment of his performance though was his assist for Pablo Zabaleta just before the break. After Aguero’s initial effort was parried by Joel Coleman, he showed a unique drive to react and get to the ball first, before squaring it for his compatriot. Replacement Kelechi Iheanacho marked his 11-minute cameo with an injury-time goal, but Aguero was not to be upstaged.

Wagner’s controversial selection

The fact Manchester City have scored 13 goals in four FA Cup games against reasonable opposition should make them favourites to win this competition. Their intent is evidenced by Pep Guardiola’s decision to play a full-strength team, while Terriers boss David Wagner made nine changes, Saturday’s encounter with Newcastle in mind. The prudence of their decisions are not defined just by Wednesday night’s result, but by the performances of both teams this weekend.