Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa: Player ratings as Citizens earn crucial Premier League win

Manchester City wound up eventual 2-0 winners in a hard fought contest against Aston Villa, sending them to the top of the Premier League for the time being.

Villa started brightly and were keen to take the game to City during the first 10 minutes, but quickly cooled off. City maintained control of possession throughout the first half, but couldn’t make good on countless corners and passing spells with the visitors producing a fine defensive display.

Raheem Sterling, Matt TargettRaheem Sterling, Matt Targett
Matt Targett impressed for the Villans | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola’s side continued to dominate after the break and saw a number of shots go everywhere but the back of the net. Joao Cancelo hit the crossbar and Ilkay Gundogan could’ve had a brace, but the missed chances allowed Villa back into the game.

The game opened up in the final 20 minutes and Dean Smith’s side came mightily close through Bertrand Traore and Douglas Luiz, but the missed chances resulted in a lapse in concentration at the back. Bernardo Silva won the ball and rifled it past Emi Martinez in the 79th minute to give his side the lead despite offside calls, before Ilkay Gundogan secured the points for City with a 90th minute penalty.

In a game that had more chances than ever, here’s how the players rated at the Etihad Stadium.

Ilkay Gundogan, Ruben Dias, Bernardo SilvaIlkay Gundogan, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva
Dias was impeccable yet again | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ederson (GK) – 6/10 – Ederson had little to do at times, but had to be on his toes with Villa looking dangerous in flutters. His four saves were key to three points.

Kyle Walker (RB) – 5/10 – Walker struggled with an injury but persevered until having to come off just shy of the half hour mark.

John Stones (CB) – 6/10 – After scoring a brace last time out, Stones was keen to pile forward and be the man to break the deadlock.

Ruben Dias (CB) – 8/10 – Dias kept things tight at the back and stopped any counter attacks with City piling men forward.

Joao Cancelo (LB) – 6/10 – Looked dangerous on the overlap and caused Villa a headache down the left flank. Rattled the crossbar in the 54th minute after switching wings.

Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones, Matty CashIlkay Gundogan, John Stones, Matty Cash
Gundogan was so unlucky not to leave with a goal | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Kevin de Bruyne (CM) – 6/10 – Struggled to impose himself at times, but grew into the game with some exceptional long passes. Pulled off around the hour mark in favour of a system change, with Gabriel Jesus being introduced.

Rodri (CM) – 7/10 – Rodri was the calming influence at the base of City’s midfield.

Ilkay Gundogan (CM) – 7/10 – Gundogan was a constant threat for City and denied a goal by Villa defending that was nothing short of heroic. A tireless presence and so unfortunate not to score.

Bernardo Silva (RW) – 8/10 – The Portugal international scored a wonderful, and incredibly, important goal.

Raheem Sterling (ST) – 5/10 – Sterling struggled to assert himself as the false nine and continually rotated with Bernardo Silva, but to no avail. After getting back in the goals in the previous game, this was one to forget.

Phil Foden (LW) – 7/10 – Turned Matty Cash inside out several times during the first half and continued to look threatening beyond the break. Foden looks dangerous with every touch of the ball.

Oleksandr Zinchenko – 5/10 – Zinchenko was on after half an hour to replace an injured Kyle Walker, but didn’t offer the same attacking presence as Cancelo did down the left.

Gabriel Jesus – 6/10

Riyad Mahrez – 6/10

Bernardo Silva, Emiliano MartinezBernardo Silva, Emiliano Martinez
Martinez was superb throughout | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Emi Martinez (GK) – 7/10 – Made a fine, point blank save to deny Bernardo Silva after just three minutes. Could do nothing to stop Silva’s goal.

Matty Cash (RB) – 5/10 – Was worked tremendously hard by Phil Foden throughout the first half and was caught out a few times. Gave away the penalty in unfortunate fashion – a bad day at the office.

Ezri Konsa (CB) – 8/10 – Exceptional performance from Konsa who was everywhere. The 23-year-old read the game supremely will to snuff out danger several times. The goal was by no means his fault.

Tyrone Mings (CB) – 6/10 – Dominant aerially and a leader at the back for so long, until a lapse in concentration saw him dispossessed with ease and allowed City to score.

Matt Targett (LB) – 7/10 – City’s strongest attacks came from the left side, but Targett did well when called upon and kept them quiet from the right. His influence grew after the break when the onslaught came from all angles, but was eventually forced off with injury.

Douglas Luiz (CM) – 6/10 – The better of Villa’s double pivot, Luiz was a menace against his former employers.

John McGinn (CM) – 5/10 – Worked hard off the ball, but lacked his usual tenacity and drive in possession from deep. An unusual amount of passes went wayward from McGinn.

Bertrand Traore (RM) – 6/10 – Traore is full of confidence following an impressive streak of form and looked dangerous on the counter, but lacked the composure in front of goal.

Ross Barkley (AM) – 6/10 – Barkley was keen to influence the game for Villa, but lacked a sharp final ball having been out of action for so long. An encouraging 70 minutes or so in the tank after a long spell out.

Jack Grealish (LM) – 6/10 –
Wasn’t at his usual, influential best to the surprise of many. Grealish did grow in influence as the game drew on, however, feeding colleagues through on the counter attack with nice passing.

Ollie Watkins, John StonesOllie Watkins, John Stones
Watkins’ goal drought goes on | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ollie Watkins (ST) – 6/10 – Barely saw the ball with Villa for most of the game, but came to life in the final 15 minutes with several composed and accurate crosses for teammates.

Anwar El Ghazi – 5/10

Jacob Ramsey – 6/10

Neil Taylor – N/A


Each Premier League club’s best ever January signing

Since its introduction in the 2002/03 season, the January transfer window has traditionally blown hot and cold in terms of signing success.

For all the Luis Suarez-esque signings, Harry Redknapp car window interviews and over excitement at Sky Sports News, there’ll be £35m splashed on Andy Carroll, a Danny Drinkwater loan move and… more over excitement at Sky Sports News.

However, sometimes sides do get it right. Let’s take a look at every Premier League club’s best ever January transfer window recruit.

Ashley YoungAshley Young
Young joined Villa in 2007 | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Aston Villa paid a club record fee of £9.65m to prise Ashley Young away from Watford in 2007. The winger would go on to establish himself as a key cog in what was a purple patch in Villa’s recent history, as they regularly challenged for Europe under Martin O’Neill.

Young’s 17 assists during his first full season at Villa was bettered only by Cesc Fabregas, and he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award the following campaign, before departing for Manchester United in a £17m deal in 2011.

Pierre-Emerick AubameyangPierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang was irreplaceable during his first two full seasons with Arsenal | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Arsenal were not renowned for their lavish spending under Arsene Wenger, but during the Frenchman’s final transfer window in charge they broke the club’s transfer record to bring in Borussia Dortmund’s Aubameyang for £56m.

The forward would quickly emerge as an irreplaceable member of the Gunners team during his first two full seasons with the club, topping the scoring charts on both occasions. Aubameyang signing new contract in September 2020 was treated with more excitement than most new arrivals.

Tariq LampteyTariq Lamptey
Signing Lamptey was a shrewd bit of business from Brighton | Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Pipping Dale Stephens to the post for the honour of Brighton’s best January buy is Tariq Lamptey, who arrived on the south coast on deadline day in 2020.

The Seagulls landed one of the most exciting young full-backs in English football for just £4m, and he has instantly taken to life in the top flight with his quality going forward and dogged defensive ability – and has the potential to be an asset for Brighton for years to come.

James TarkowskiJames Tarkowski
Tarkowski is one of Burnley’s most dependable figures | Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Burnley have a pretty strong history in the January transfer window, with Keiran Trippier, Charlie Austin and Michael Keane all arriving at Turf Moore in the first month of the year.

But the best recruit of them all is James Tarkowski, who joined from Brentford in 2016 and has blossomed into a full England international under Sean Dyche’s tutelage – with Burnley turning down a £30m bid from West Ham for the defender in the summer of 2020.

Branislav IvanovicBranislav Ivanovic
Ivanovic netted a last minute winner in the 2013 Europa League final | Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Chelsea signed Ivanovic for £9.7m in 2008, and he would go on to spend nine years at Stamford Bridge.

A figure of defensive dependability, he established himself as one of the Premier League’s top right backs during his time with the Blues, and proved comfortable filling in at centre half. During nearly a decade with the club, Ivanovic won nine major trophies.

Wilfried ZahaWilfried Zaha
Zaha is one of the finest players playing for a non ‘top six’ side | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Wilfried Zaha agreed a deal to join Manchester United in January 2013. Two years later on the final day of the 2015 January transfer window, the winger made his loan move to Palace permanent in a £6m deal – £4m less than United had paid for him two years previously.

Zaha has been Palace’s talisman and man for the big occasions ever since his return and was named the club’s player of the year three years on the trot between 2016 and 2018.

Seamus ColemanSeamus Coleman
Coleman is Mr Consistent for Everton | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Everton have a history of being shrewd in January, signing John Stones from Barnsley for just £3m in 2013. However, buying Seamus Coleman for just £60,000 in 2009 is one of the best bits of business in the club’s history.

The full-back has been a figure of consistency since moving to Merseyside, bombing up and down the right flank and making over 300 appearances for Toffees. Now the club captain, Coleman has been a terrific servant for Everton.

Brede HangelandBrede Hangeland
Hangeland was a terrific signing for Fulham | Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Brede Hangeland pips Clint Dempsey to the honour of being Fulham’s best January addition, joining from Copenhagen to team up with former boss Roy Hodgson in 2008.

The centre back helped the Cottagers pull off the great escape that season and was a mainstay in the Fulham side during a real golden period in the club’s history, which included their remarkable run to the 2010 Europa League final.

Pablo HernandezPablo Hernandez
Hernandez was instrumental in Leeds’ promotion winning campaign | Harry Trump/Getty Images

Leeds made Pablo Hernandez’s move from Qatari side Al-Arabi permanent in January 2016, and he soon became one of the most accomplished players in the Championship.

He played an integral part in Leeds’ promotion pushes in 2018/19 and 2019/20, chipping in with nine goals and nine assists as Marcelo Bielsa’s side went up as champions in 2020.

Riyad MahrezRiyad Mahrez
Mahrez is a two-time Premier League champion | Michael Regan/Getty Images

In January 2014, Championship outfit Leicester paid £450,000 to sign Riyad Mahrez from French second tier side Le Havre.

The Foxes won the Championship that season, pulled off a miraculous survival job the following year, and then went and won the Premier League, Mahrez scooping the PFA Player of the Year in the process after pitching in with 17 goals and 11 assists. He moved to Manchester City in 2018 for £61m.

Virgil van DijkVirgil van Dijk
Van Dijk has been instrumental in Liverpool’s success | Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Liverpool have a strong recent history in the January transfer window, with Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez both joining the Reds in the first month of the year.

It was the sale of the latter that paved the way for the signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for £75m in 2018. The centre half has proved to be one of the final pieces of the jigsaw for Jurgen Klopp’s side, with Van Dijk influential in the Reds’ Champions League and Premier League triumphs.

Edin DzekoEdin Dzeko
Dzeko helped City to their maiden Premier League title | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester City are rarely shy in any transfer window, and in 2011 they paid £27m to secure the signature of Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko.

The forward would go onto play a pivotal role in City’s maiden Premier League title triumph in 2012, scoring the equaliser during the Citizen’s famous last gasp final day victory over QPR. Dzeko scored 72 goals in 189 appearances for City, before departing in 2016.

Manchester United captain Nemanja VidicManchester United captain Nemanja Vidic
Vidic is a Premier League great | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Manchester United’s January 2020 signing of Bruno Fernandes has proved the catalyst for the transformation in fortunes at Old Trafford – but his arrival is eclipsed by the 2006 addition of Nemanja Vidic.

The Serbian joined the Red Devils for just £7m from Spartak Moscow and would go on to forge one of the Premier League’s all-time great central defensive partnerships with Rio Ferdinand as United won five top flight titles in seven years – and the Champions League to boot.

Moussa SissokoMoussa Sissoko
Newcastle made a huge profit on Sissoko | Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Mike Ashley granted Alan Pardew a rare foray into the transfer market in 2018, and the Spaniard signed Moussa Sissoko from Toulouse for just £1.5m. Taking inspiration from his new Newcastle boss, Sissoko penned a lengthy six-and-a-half-year deal at St. James’ Park.

He would go on to captain the side and make over 100 appearances for the Magpies, who then turned a tidy profit on the midfielder after selling him to Spurs for £30m in 2016.

Sander BergeSander Berge
The Blades signed Berge in 2020 | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Sheffield United pulled off the biggest signing in the club’s history in 2020 when they secured the signature of Sander Berge, the highly-rated midfielder joining from Genk in a £22m deal.

He’s looked a class apart for the Blades during what has been a pretty miserable 2020/21 campaign – and he’s got a great chant. Oliver Norwood crashes in at a close second.

Jose FonteJose Fonte
Fonte and Southampton enjoyed a rapid rise together | Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Third tier Southampton paid £1.2m to bring Jose Fonte in from Crystal Palace in 2010. The Saints went on to win back to back promotions and establish themselves as a solid top flight outfit.

Fonte twice claimed Southampton’s player of the year award and earned his maiden senior international call up for Portugal (at the age of 30), going on to win Euro 2016 with his country.

Jermain DefoeJermain Defoe
Tottenham ended his Spurs career with over 100 goals | Ian Walton/Getty Images

Jermain Defoe has signed for Tottenham twice – and both occasions were in the January transfer window.

The forward joined from West Ham for £7m in 2004, and again from Portsmouth for £15m in 2009. He concluded his Spurs career in 2014 with 143 goals in 362 appearances.

Jake LivermoreJake Livermore
Livermore has gone on to captain West Brom | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

Jake Livermore joined West Brom from Hull in 2017 in a £10m deal and captained the side to promotion back to the top flight during the 2019/20 campaign.

The midfielder’s displays with the Baggies have also seen him earn international recognition, being capped four times by England during his time at the Hawthorns.

Bobby ZamoraBobby Zamora
Zamora netted the winner in the 2005 playoff final | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

While fellow great January signing Jermain Defoe traded West Ham for Tottenham in 2004, Bobby Zamora moved in the opposite direction.

The forward became a bit of a cult hero at Upton Park, scoring three times in the 2004/05 playoff semi finals and netting the winner in the final as the Hammers secured a return to the Premier League.

Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, Richard StearmanSylvain Ebanks-Blake, Richard Stearman
Ebanks Blake is a Championship goal machine | Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Wolves paid £1.5m to secure the services of Plymouth striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake in 2008, and he topped the Championship scoring charts in consecutive seasons to fire his side to the top flight in 2009.

Always a reliable second tier striker, the forward scored 25 times during Wolves’ promotion winning campaign, and concluded his Molineux career with 62 goals in 193 appearances.


Assessing which German speaking manager is best suited to Chelsea

Frank Lampard is increasingly looking like he will be next manager to be sacked in the Premier League.

Despite Chelsea spending over £200m on a host of top talent in the summer, Lampard is seriously struggling to get a tune out of his players.

The Blues’ have only won twice in their last seven Premier League games, with their most recent 2-0 defeat to Leicester starkly revealing the chasm between themselves and those vying for the title.

Reports suggest that if Roman Abramovich does pull the trigger, he is looking to target a German speaking coach, in an attempt to get the best out of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. The question is: which of these Germanic coaches is best suited to being the next Chelsea manager? We took a look.

Thomas TuchelThomas Tuchel
Tuchel is on the lookout for his next club | John Berry/Getty Images

After being dismissed by Paris Saint-Germain, Thomas Tuchel is in the market for his next project.

While he definitely ticks the ‘German speaking’ box, it is hard to envisage him as the next Chelsea manager.

It is not that Tuchel is a bad coach, far from it. He came closer than any manager to ending the Parisians’ Champions League hoodoo and also steadied the ship following Jurgen Klopp’s departure from Borussia Dortmund.

The bigger issue is his propensity to pick fights with the board, which he has done publicly during his time at both PSG and Dortmund. Managers who clash with Abramovich do not tend to last long.

Ralf RangnickRalf Rangnick
Rangnick has been out of football for some time | TF-Images/Getty Images

After the plug was pulled on his move to Milan in the summer, Ralf Rangnick is still on the market.

During his time as director of football at both Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig in the 2010s, Rangnick oversaw one of the most successful recruitment policies in footballing history.

His reputation as an executive is legendary, but he is also a talented coach, enjoying two successful stints with Leipzig, as well as a leading Schalke to second in the Bundesliga 15 years ago.

Rangnick’s appointment would be a fascinating one and he has previously coached Werner, who scored 19 Bundesliga goals in 37 under him during the 2018/2019 campaign. However, his appointment seems unlikely for the similar reasons as Tuchel. It is difficult to imagine him accepting a humble coaching position after years of enjoying the power of heading up an entire footballing empire at Red Bull.

Peter BoszPeter Bosz
He looks a bit like Pep Guardiola, don’t you think? | Lars Baron/Getty Images

Bayer Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz is highly rated and has long been tipped for a move to a top European side.

If he is appointed the next Chelsea manager, the neutrals will be happy, as the Dutchman encourages his teams to play an attractive, high octane brand of football.

Havertz would also be pleased. It was under Bosz that the 21-year-old played the best stuff of his career to date, and if the Blues are serious about unlocking the starlet’s potential, he could prove to be a solid appointment. Bosz has also had dealings with Chelsea before, dating back to his time as Vitesse manager, who the Blues have used as a feeder club for over 10 years.

Despite all of this, he is lacking experience at the top level. When he took over at Dortmund in 2017, he floundered badly, lasting a matter of months before being given the boot.

Hasenhuttl is passionate on the touchline | RUI VIEIRA/Getty Images

Another name linked with Chelsea is Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Just over a year ago, it seemed that big Ralph’s time in England was done, after Leicester subjected the Saints to a humiliating 9-0 home loss that left them languishing in the relegation zone. Since then, the Austrian has transformed the south coast club into top four contenders, while also imparting a distinct, tactical philosophy.

He has also worked with Werner before during his time at RB Leipzig between 2016 and 2018. Under Hasenhuttl, Chelsea’s new arrival managed 60 goal involvements in 72 appearances, which bodes well if the pair were to link up again at Stamford Bridge.

Perhaps the only thing limiting Hasenhuttl’s suitability is that it would likely take some time for him to enact his style. The process took around a season at St. Mary’s and with Chelsea already behind in the race for the top four, they may want to look elsewhere.

Julian NagelsmannJulian Nagelsmann
Nagelsmann is known for his eccentric touchline attire | Maja Hitij/Getty Images

One day, sooner or later, Julian Nagelsmann is guaranteed to rock up at a top European club, so why shouldn’t Chelsea beat the rush and take the plunge now?

Despite being just 33 years old, the German is already an incredibly talented coach, whose innovative training methods and tactics have led to both Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig punching well above their weight in recent Bundesliga seasons.

What’s more, Chelsea are understood to be looking for a manager comfortable with possessing limited autonomy over transfers, a culture that Nagelsmann is familiar with from coming through the German coaching system.

If that was not enough to convince you that he is the right man for the Blues, he also has a truly remarkable track record with Werner. Under the young coach, Chelsea’s number 11 bagged a staggering 34 goals and 14 assists in 45 appearances last season. Nagelsmann will also be keen to work with Havertz, who he has praised in the past.

He represents the best option if Chelsea are insistent on hiring a German speaking coach.


Dejan Lovren claims Liverpool miss him more than he misses them

Dejan Lovren has claimed he believes Liverpool have missed him more than he has missed them this season.

Lovren’s six year spell at Anfield – in which he made 185 appearances – came to an end in the summer when he joined Zenit St. Petersburg on a free transfer. Since then, his former side have seen starting centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez struck down with injury, while Joel Matip is also out.

Lovren played 10 games in Liverpool's 2019/2020 Premier League winning season Lovren played 10 games in Liverpool's 2019/2020 Premier League winning season
Lovren played 10 games in Liverpool’s 2019/2020 Premier League winning season | Pool/Getty Images

Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have started in defence recently, meaning Lovren would no doubt have received more playing time than last season had he stuck around. During his final campaign in Merseyside he made ten league appearances before opting to sign for Zenit in a £10m deal.

In a recent interview with Sport Express (via the Daily Mirror), Lovren insisted he had no regrets over his exit.

He said: “No, I don’t regret [leaving]. My decision in the summer was firm – to leave Liverpool, and I do not look back. I got upset last season when I didn’t play, but now everything is different.

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“I think Liverpool miss me more than I miss them and Jurgen Klopp knows this, because we communicate. He wrote recently: ‘We miss you.’ I spoke with Jurgen [after I left], but I will not disclose details. Jurgen said only good things and wished him luck.”

Since joining Zenit, Lovren has been ever present for Sergei Semak’s side, making 23 appearances in all competitions and featuring in all but one of their Champions League group games.

After neglecting to sign a replacement for the Croatian in the summer, Liverpool could be tempted to dip into the transfer market this month, with released Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos previously linked with a shock short-term move.


Wolves agree loan deal for Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose

Wolves have agreed a deal to sign striker Willian Jose on loan from Real Sociedad as they bid to fill the void left by the injured Raul Jimenez.

Jimenez has been Wolves’ top scorer in each of his two seasons at Molineux but is currently sidelined after fracturing his skull in November following a sickening head collision with Arsenal’s David Luiz.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have picked up just one Premier League victory since Jimenez’s injury, and are expected to dip into the market in January in order to strengthen their forward options.

Adama TraoreRaul JimenezJonnyAdama TraoreRaul JimenezJonny
Jimenez has been watching from the stands following his serious head injury | Sam Bagnall – AMA/Getty Images

According to Spanish radio station Cadena SER (via Football Espana editor Collin Millar), Wolves have agreed a deal to sign Real Sociedad forward Willian Jose on loan, with an option to buy.

Sociedad have a deal to sign Sevilla striker Carlos Fernandez in the pipeline and as a result are willing to allow Willian Jose to depart. Sociedad are also poised to re-sign Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid.

The midfielder enjoyed a successful 2019/20 season on loan at Sociedad, before returning to the Bernanbeu in the summer. However, he has featured just seven times for Zinedine Zidane’s side this season.

Willian Jose was linked with a move to the Premier League during the 2019/20 January transfer window, as Tottenham attempted to sign a replacement for the injured Harry Kane. The striker was even left out of Sociedad’s matchday squads as the interest started to intensify, but Spurs were ultimately unable to meet Sociedad’s valuation of the player.

Wolves have also been cited with previous interest in 29-year-old, with the Midlands outfit linked with a move for the forward in 2018.

Willian Jose has netted 60 goals in 169 appearances for Sociedad since joining the club in 2016. He has four goals in 20 appearances in all competitions this season.