Man City beat Newcastle 1-0, open 15-point lead atop Premier League
NEWCASTLE, England -- Three points from Man City's 1-0 win at Newcastle in Wednesday's Premier League clash.
1. Man City make it 18 straight league wins
Raheem Sterling took his goal tally to 17 in all competitions for Manchester City this season to seal the club's 18th successive Premier League victory, against Newcastle, opening up a 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League in the process.
Sterling's first-half goal was enough to clinch a 1-0 victory, but the narrow winning margin did nothing to reflect City's dominance at St James' Park. With Newcastle setting out to frustrate City, often conceding possession to sit with 11 men behind the ball in their own half, Rafael Benitez's team were able to hold firm until Sterling struck on the half-hour.
But once ahead, City were rarely troubled by the hosts, with Nicolas Otamendi clearing their only real effort, from Rolando Aarons, off the line in the first half. Substitute Dwight Gayle was booked for diving in a forlorn attempt to win a second-half penalty as Newcastle chased a late equaliser, but City ultimately coasted to the win.
Pep Guardiola's men can now equal Bayern Munich's run of 19 successive Bundesliga wins -- the best in any of Europe's major leagues -- when they face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday. And if that game brings up another victory, the home game against Watford next Tuesday will offer the chance of City making it 20 in a row to set their own record and write Guardiola's Bayern out of the record books.
2. Newcastle take defensive tactics to a new low
Benitez has always been a manager with a plan, but at Newcastle he does not have the players to succeed as he did at Liverpool. Even though there's a lack of resources at his disposal, Benitez's tactical approach for this game took negativity to a new level.
Newcastle were abject in the first half, sitting completely behind the ball and not even bothering to venture into the City half when Guardiola's players had possession in their own territory. With City seemingly steamrollering every opponent in recent months, Newcastle's lack of ambition and defensive mindset was perhaps understandable, but when teams play with such a lack of attacking intent, they only invite the opposition to press them into submission. Once Sterling put City ahead, it seemed an inevitable outcome.
Newcastle were in dreamland if they really believed they could hold out for 90 minutes against the Premier League leaders. The home side did come out of their shell after going behind, but by then it was too late and their attacking was half-hearted at best, anyway, until the final moments.
Is this what the 2017-18 season has come to? Are teams now so scared of Manchester City that they will only set out to defend and hope for the best?
For Newcastle, a club steeped in the attacking traditions of Kevin Keegan, David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla and Alan Shearer, this was a desperately poor effort against City. Don't be surprised if other teams now try the same tactic.
3. Kompany injury highlights need for defensive reinforcements
Vincent Kompany lasted just 10 minutes of this game before limping out of the action with his latest injury. Indeed, the game was only two minutes old when Kyle Walker went across to Guardiola, urging him to prepare a substitute because of the captain's setback.
On the day when Liverpool beat City to the signing of Virgil van Dijk for £75 million from Southampton, the loss of Kompany showed just how severely City need defensive reinforcements in January.
John Stones, sidelined for over a month with a hamstring injury, is due back soon, but Kompany's injury layoffs are rarely brief, and, with Guardiola so reluctant to start Eliaquim Mangala, the failure to sign Van Dijk might return to haunt City. Jonny Evans remains an option, having missed out on a move to the Etihad in August, with Real Sociedad's Inigo Martinez another potential target.
Against Newcastle, Fernandinho dropped into the central defensive position for an hour alongside Otamendi, but City will need the Brazil international's experience in midfield, rather than at the back, if they go deep into the Champions League in the second half of the campaign. Therefore, a new centre-half has become a priority for Guardiola because he simply cannot rely on Kompany to stay fit.
City will be tested at some point this season, and they will need a reliable central defensive pairing when that time comes.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_