Manchester City travelled to Vicarage Road last night and asserted complete and utter dominance over Watford, but there was, just for a fleeting moment, a feeling that perhaps the hosts could inject some uncertainty into a seemingly flawless side by somehow completing a late turnaround.
Outclassed, outsmarted and at times outfought, Watford were second best for 80 minutes last night. The relentlessly intense City machine continued to unleash a siege on Ben Foster’s goal for the majority of proceedings, but the former England international stood strong and restricted the champions to just two goals.
The first of which arrived courtesy of Leroy Sane, who was forced to improvise and cushion the ball through Foster’s legs using his chest.
It was an atypical finish that is incredibly rare to see on the football pitch, but the fact Sane was in the right place at the right time was the most pleasing aspect about the opening strike.
Raheem Sterling has developed from a traditional wide man, utilising speed and close control to dribble beyond opponents and influence the game from the byline, to a more direct attacker, who seeks to influence the game in the penalty area with goals and assists.
And, based on his goal against Watford and a detailed statistical analysis, Sky Sports pundit Adam Bate believes that Sane is following a similar path to the transformed England international.
‘In five of his previous appearances this season, Sane has had more shots than dribbles, something that happened only six times in 32 games last season. The emphasis has been tweaked in order to turn Sane into an effective as well as exhilarating performer.’
Now, that is not to say that Sane’s electric and often unplayable dribbling technique will take a back seat, far from it in fact, but what his rise in shooting implies is a conscious change to ensure that he is dribbling for the right reason: to find himself in dangerous situations from which to take a strike at goal, rather than for any superficial or egotistical reason.
As the end of a conflicted year for Sane draws to a close, it’s beginning to seem like the Germany international is rediscovering his electric best form, and Bate was eager to hammer that point in his closing remarks.
‘The signs are that Sane is increasingly more up than down. He is finding that consistency of performance — and that could eventually see him surpass just about every player in this Premier League.’
That’s quite the claim but, based on the unbelievable talent Sane has showcased since arriving from Schalke in 2016, there’s absolutely no question that he is destined to become one of the Premier League’s and Europe’s most scintillating forward players.
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