It is often said that the ability to win games when not playing particularly well is the mark of Premier League champions, and against Watford, Manchester City scored two late goals to steal an undeserved win in a tight encounter at Vicarage Road.
Sergio Aguero is of course no stranger to dramatic late moments in a Manchester City shirt, but a winner six minutes from time served as a reminder of his talent when not, as has been the case for much of the season, restricted by hamstring injuries.
After dominating the opening exchanges the home side looked to be on course for yet another impressive result. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo troubled Manchester City’s backline – again without captain Vincent Kompany – and should have gone into half time ahead. Instead, Watford’s goal came in the 55th minute, as Ben Watson curved a corner straight into the net with the help of a slight touch off Aleksandar Kolarov.
Watford have performed above all expectations this season, and are so far making a mockery of the generally accepted wisdom that stability is key to success in football. They’ve had five different managers in the last 18 months and 13 new summer signings arrived in the summer. Yet despite what has undoubtedly been a turbulent time for the North London side, Watford sit 9th in the table and would be considerably higher were it not for late defeats in their last two matches.
Like Leicester City, Watford have persisted with a positive 4-4-2 formation this season, and the quality, physicality and workrate of captain Deeney and strike partner Ighalo has proved too much for most Premier League defences to handle. Here though, it could be argued that their positivity was ultimately their undoing. 1-0 up at home and facing an onslaught from a desperate Manchester City, manager Quique Flores chose to keep both strikers on instead of bolstering the midfield, and may well rue his decision not to try to hold on for what would have been a famous result. Instead, Yaya Toure nonchalantly volleyed a cross straight into the top corner, before Aguero won the match late on.
Going forward, Watford look an accomplished side more than capable of ensuring Premier League survival, which would surely have been the minimum expectation at the start of the season. They will probably set their sights a little higher now, with justified positivity considering that all seven of their Premier League defeats this season have come against the current top seven in the table.
This could prove a vital win for Man City come the end of the season. As the latest kick-off of the day, City were six points behind league leaders Arsenal before the game had started, and now look well placed going into 2016 to fight it out with the Gunners for the title.