Pep Guardiola's Manchester City: Five talking points from win over Sunderland
By Gerard Brand and Peter Smith
Last Updated: 13/08/16 11:06pm
From John Stones' debut to Joe Hart's absence, we look at five talking points from Pep Guardiola's first game in charge of Manchester City.
It was a victorious start for the Spaniard - but City did it the hard way.
Guardiola's reign started in style, with Sergio Aguero putting City ahead after just four minutes from the penalty spot. But Jermain Defoe levelled and the home side needed a late Paddy McNair own goal to take all three points.
Here are the talking points from the encounter...
Hart second choice… for now
Despite making 35 Premier League appearances for Manuel Pellegrini last season, Joe Hart has immediately been replaced by Argentine Willy Caballero in Pep Guardiola's starting line-up. Hart made several high-profile errors in an England shirt at Euro 2016, but Guardiola has hinted it's his distribution which is the issue.
Discussing how he likes his goalkeepers to play out from the back, Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference: "'Joe has quality and he can do that... with time. But his time is now - it's not about what happens in six months, seven months. Now he is a player for us."
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Statistically, Caballero produced an 80 per cent pass completion rate against Sunderland - Hart averaged 52.6 per cent in the 2015/16 Premier League season. But Guardiola's focus would also have been on the type of passes Caballero was aiming to make.
Caballero showed he is a capable shot-stopper, too, denying Defoe from close range - although he was later beaten in a one-on-one by the Sunderland striker.
Hart will hope Guardiola opts for rotation for Tuesday night's Champions League play-off against Steaua Bucharest and for a chance to remind the Spaniard of his own qualities.
Mixed night for Stones
With a £47.5m price tag on his head, John Stones was under the spotlight on his Manchester City debut.
He coped well in the first half, performing the odd trademark run over the halfway line, and dealing with everything that came alongside makeshift centre-half Aleksandar Kolarov.
Stones, sometimes criticised for his eagerness to step out of defence, was arguably at fault for Sunderland's equaliser, however.
Charging out to close down Jack Rodwell, the 22-year-old left a gap behind him for Defoe to run into, and, after Rodwell's pass went through his legs, the striker finished up. A reminder he isn't the finished article just yet...
Sterling very much in Pep's plans
When Nolito arrived at the Etihad last month, many assumed the Spaniard would be fighting Raheem Sterling for his left-wing berth, but as both started on Saturday evening, it was the England man who shone.
After a summer to forget, the 21-year-old threw himself into the contest by winning a penalty after four minutes, swiftly turning 180 degrees and going over Patrick van Aantholt's trailing leg.
Van Aanholt struggled all game with Sterling's quick feet and direct running from the right, and his man of the match showing was a pleasant surprise on Guardiola's competitive debut.
One area of his game that still needs improving is his delivery - Sterling didn't complete any of his three attempted crosses - but judging by his first 90 minutes under Guardiola, he'll be given a good chance to live up to his £49m price tag.
Guardiola not shy on the touchline
Manuel Pellegrini was not one to exert himself in the technical area too often, but Guardiola's touchline antics would have entertained a few in the Colin Bell Stand at the Etihad.
In fact, Guardiola ignored the technical area boundaries all together, placing himself as close to the pitch as possible for near-on 90 minutes.
Arms flailing and voice bellowing, he didn't appear entirely satisfied with what he saw in periods of both halves as City laboured to a win, but if action is ever lacking on the pitch, the Spaniard is sure to provide it near the dugouts.
Aguero remains key
If Manchester City are to be successful in Guardiola's first season in charge they will need star striker Sergio Aguero fit and firing. Against Sunderland he made the perfect start to his campaign, expertly tucking away a penalty four minutes in.
The surprise was the Argentina international was unable to double his tally later in the game, finding the target with just one of his next five shots. His failure from 10 yards out just after the hour mark was a particularly poor miss and City paid the price when Defoe tucked in an equaliser 10 minutes later.
But regardless of that error, Aguero remained a thorn in Sunderland's side throughout, a focal point for City's play and a constant threat. He looks set for another impressive season.