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No Gundogan, No Problem: Man City March On As Foden And Bernardo Fill Midfield Void

The Premier League leaders made it 17 straight wins with victory over Everton despite being without their recent attacking talisman 

Match statistics: Everton 1-3 Manchester City

Manchester City have so many match-winners in their squad that right now they seem to be able to cope regardless of who is missing.

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero have both been on the sidelines for most of City’s current record-breaking run of victories, while at Everton on Wednesday the Premier League leaders had to do without recent talisman Ilkay Gundogan.

And yet Pep Guardiola’s current City iteration are able to find a way as they continue to cut a swathe through opposition teams with supreme confidence.

De Bruyne was actually back in the match-day squad at Goodison Park, but was restricted to a 12-minute cameo off the bench once the points had all but been secured.

Instead it was left to Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva to fill the creative midfield void, and they did so excellently as they pulled Everton all over the pitch while both ending up on the scoresheet in the 3-1 victory.

Germany international Gundogan missed out as he nursed a slight muscle strain picked up against Tottenham on Saturday, though he should be back against either Arsenal or Borussia Monchengladbach in the next week.

And with De Bruyne having now returned after a month out with a hamstring injury, Guardiola arguably has the most talented group of midfielders to pick from in world football.

In truth, Foden’s best moments this season have come playing out wide, but his long-term position is seen as being a No.10, so to be given the role for such a tricky assignment was another significant landmark in his burgeoning career.

He does not have the experience of Gundogan or De Bruyne, and certainly did not have everything his own way here as both Abdoulaye Doucoure and Tom Davies looked to rush the England international when he picked up possession.

Just before the half-hour mark he gave the ball away carelessly, leading to a severe reprimand from Guardiola on the sideline.

Two minutes later he had opened the scoring.

There was a touch of fortune about it, his low strike with his weaker right foot bouncing off Seamus Coleman and over Jordan Pickford, but it showed the impact he can have in attacking areas.

The only player younger than Foden in Europe’s top five leagues to have bettered his 11 goals in all competitions this season is Erling Haaland, and those who chose the Champions League over the Premier League on Wednesday know what the Borussia Dortmund star is all about.

For Foden to be keeping such company suggests that he might not be too far behind this week’s headline-grabbers Haaland and Kylian Mbappe when it comes to handing out future Ballons d’Or.

Back in the present, and generally a single goal would be enough for City given how tight they have been keeping things defensive in recent months, and as such Guardiola will have been furious with the way they were pegged back before half-time as Richarlison diverted the ball into the net after Lucas Digne’s shot came back off the post.

It proved, however, to only be a slight blip as City dominated throughout before finally re-establishing their lead through Riyad Mahrez’s stunning strike in the 63rd minute.

The Algeria international has cut inside onto his left foot enough times now for opposition defences to guard against it, but Everton had no answer to Mahrez as he expertly and powerfully curled a 20-yard drive past Pickford.

Bernardo, who grabbed an assist for Mahrez’s goal, then rounded out his impressive performance with an equally superb left-footed shot into the bottom corner to ensure City became the first team in English top-flight history to win their first 10 league games of a calendar year.

Portugal playmaker Bernardo has been back to his best this season and, in tandem with Foden, gives Guardiola yet another option in a number of attacking positions.

The Catalan coach will need his full squad if they are to attack the four competitions they remain in, and a tight fixture schedule means that any kind of deep run in the Champions League guarantees a challenging two-games-a-week calendar until the end of the season.

“Gundogan is an exceptional player but if you want to win titles or being there until the end we need all the squad,” Guardiola said post-match.

“What I am impressed again the most is the solidarity of the guys who didn’t’ play – Ben [Mendy], John [Stones], Oleks [Zinchenko], Fernandinho, everyone is an incredible part of this.

“We have a terrible schedule, we have an incredible schedule ahead. We have Wolves and Southampton when we expected long weeks. We don’t have a long week all season and everyone is going to be involved. We need everyone.”

In Premier League terms, though, they are now 10 points clear at the top. Even when not at full strength, there seems to be no way of stopping them.

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