Lewis offers an enticing case.
Pep Guardiola must be enticed by the thought of Rico Lewis + 10 when he selects his Manchester City lineup for Arsenal. The City manager promoted Lewis to the first squad quickly because he noticed how his involvement improved the team, and Lewis has since gone from strength to strength.
The tactical awareness and intellect to absorb all of Guardiola’s demands and carry them out flawlessly is remarkable for a young kid who won’t turn 19 until next month, and a player who came into the team as a right-back but has already demonstrated he can operate as a No.8. He dropped in beside Rodri at times and drove forward at others; the initial goal came from a gradual one-two with Bernardo Silva followed by a precise cutback for Phil Foden.
Rodri will not be available on Sunday, but Lewis made a far stronger case to start than Mateo Kovacic or Matheus Nunes did at Wolves last Saturday. Lewis would be very unlucky to be benched for the Arsenal game after his nerveless effort in the Champions League.
Foden seizes his opportunity.
Last year, the same lineup would have seen Bernardo Silva start in the centre and Phil Foden out wide. A forward line that included Erling Haaland and Jack Grealish proved deadly anytime they lined up together.
It’s a sign of the times that Foden was in the midfield, given a rare opportunity to be a No.8 in a more traditional system since Julian Alvarez was benched. Guardiola still believes the 23-year-old can grow, so being trusted to play the job in a game that was regarded extremely seriously was significant.
Foden’s finishing needs work, but the fact that he took half of City’s shots in the first half, including the game-winning goal, demonstrated how important he was in the game. If Gareth Southgate was watching, he might have noticed something late.
They have now gone four games without a clean sheet, and they have already let up far too many cheap goals this season. After completely dominating the first half but only scoring one goal, all of Manu Akanji’s hard work was undone within the first three minutes of the second half as Lois Openda shot home.
Aside from John Stones, City haven’t been short of defenders, so there’s no reason for them to be so irresponsible, even if it is early in the season. The foundation of success remains defence.
Haaland is a squanderer.
Again, Erling Haaland was close but not quite. The Norwegian has already scored several goals this season, but it could have been double if he had taken the chances that were presented to him.
Guardiola seemed unconcerned about his lost opportunities before of this game, despite the fact that the clinical Haaland who took the Premier League by storm last season has yet to appear this season. Several more chances to score against Leipzig went unnoticed as Haaland’s slow start to the season continues.
Fortunately for City, Foden, Julian Alvarez, and Jeremy Doku rose to the occasion. Whereas Haaland handled the scoring load for much of last season, his teammates are now assisting him.