It was a comfortable afternoon for Manchester City as they tightened their grip on a top four place with a 5-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

It looked for a while as though City would struggle to kill the game off, but they eventually wore down their visitors and bagged five goals through David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolás Otamendi.

Palace, meanwhile, will have to wait a little longer to guarantee their safety. It was a disappointing performance from Sam Allardyce’s side.

Here are five things we learned from the game.

Big Sam’s Back Three Was a Big Mistake

We’ve seen the back three system work wonders for the likes of Chelsea, who are on their way to title glory, as well as Tottenham Hotspur, who have a good grip on second place.

But Sam Allardyce’s attempt at a tactical surprise with a back three of his own, made in part due to injuries to a few of his central defenders, blew up in his face almost from the kick-off. 

Silva netted inside two minutes after Martin Kelly made an error with his clearance.

After seeing his players struggle to cope, Allardyce quickly corrected his mistake, changing to a 4-3-3 formation, which stabilised his defence. They ultimately conceded five times but had he kept that back three, the scoreline might have been worse.

It’s likely Allardyce will revert to his usual back four for next week’s huge game at home to fellow relegation battlers, Hull City.

Otamendi Benefiting From Kompany’s Return

Nicolás Otamendi has come in for much criticism following his big money move from Valencia – and rightly so following erratic displays and defensive errors.

But Kompany’s return from injury and his gradual return to form, capped off by his goal, has seen Otamendi become more and more assured with each passing game.

Against Palace, the Argentine could easily have been man of the match but for the hugely impressive display of Silva.

The defender made three interceptions, a game-high 11 clearances and won three of his four defensive aerial duels.

Otamendi was reliable at the back. One moment that stood out was when he covered for Kompany to tackle Wilfried Zaha in the box before he could shoot.

The Argentine’s goal just before the final whistle rounded off what was truly a top notch display and there’s no doubt he will continue to improve as a result of Kompany’s influential presence.

And like Otamendi, Kompany’s consistent presence would also be of huge benefit to John Stones, when he returns.

David Silva is Pure Gold

There was doubt as to whether the Spaniard would last the 90 minutes, and ultimately he didn’t, but he still managed a masterful display in front of his home fans.

Silva scored his 50th goal for the club and proved a real thorn in the side of the visiting team with his constant prompting and probing in midfield.

Before he was brought off, he led his team in attacking third passes, but eventually dropped to third behind Kevin De Bruyne, who was also outstanding, and Yaya Touré.

Silva completed 30 passes in the final third compared to De Bruyne’s 34 and Touré’s 43 – but he left the field on 68 minutes while De Bruyne and Touré both finished the game.

If City do go on to finish in the top four, which looks increasingly likely, it’s largely in part because Silva has picked the lock to countless doors. 

Palace Concede Too Many Soft Goals

Crystal Palace’s defending was woeful on every one of of City’s five goals. From leaving Silva and Kompany free in the penalty area, to failing to close down De Bruyne and Sterling. The backline also didn’t track Otamendi from a late free-kick.

Of course they had a patched up defence for this game but Palace have conceded 61 times this season, 36 of which have been shipped on the road.

Those statistics are not the hallmark of an Allardyce team. Palace should stay up this season, although they’re not safe just yet, and it will not be a surprise if Big Sam brings in at least two centre-backs this summer.

Manchester City, Crystal Palace

Sergio Aguero Can Learn From Gabriel Jesus

Aguero missed this game due to injury, allowing Gabriel Jesus to start alone up front.

The Brazilian starlet put in a good display despite failing to score. He did claim and assist, however, which was telling.

Jesus, in addition to getting into goal-scoring positions, put in a bit of defensive work as well as held the ball up and waited for support.

Aguero’s tendency is to go for goal. He often shoots when team-mates are better position, although he often scores. Jesus’ style is better suited to what Guardiola wants, which is why he is well-liked by the Spaniard.

Aguero’s scoring record speaks for itself but he must learn from Jesus and adapt or risk falling behind in the pecking order.

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