Match Coverage

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester City: What We Learned

Tosin Adarabioyo Isn’t Ready to Play a First-Team Role

I like Tosin. The kid looks calm, composed and seems to possess the potential to play an integral role in City’s defence in coming years. He’s slotted into centre-half quite nicely during pre-season; such experience will surely be priceless when it comes to his pursuit of professional football. Whether or not the minutes that the youngster has accumulated over pre-season are a result of first-team injuries, or a genuine show of intent from Pep, remains to be seen. Despite the invaluable experience that Tosin has acquired this summer, it became plainly apparent today that he isn’t ready to play a first-team role quite yet in the new-look City side. Lots of misplaced passes, not only in this game, but in the others that preceded it, suggest that Tosin is more of a rough diamond than the finished article. Guardiola football will demand a certain level of technical ability, which despite all of his excellent physical attributes, Adarabioyo does not yet possess. Nevertheless, the young defender is certain to have a bright future, and the choppy waters that he has negotiated this summer will only aid him in his pursuit of silverware.

John Stones is a Must Buy

Earlier this week, I saw a fan on Twitter protesting the pursuit of Everton’s young centre-back. The tweet’s message was basically that City already possess a young, talented defender in Tosin Adarabioyo, and therefore didn’t need John Stones. This is folly. I have already discussed the risks in trusting a first-team position to such an inexperienced player like Tosin, but in addition to this, Tosin and Stones aren’t similar in any way. John Stones is an essential must-buy, preferably in the next couple of days. Not only do City look remarkably light in the defensive positions, with David Moyes’ Black Cats visiting in just a matter of days, but Stones is the perfect fit for Guardiola’s new regime. A ball-playing centre-half who oozes confidence, Stones can improve defensively, but in all honesty, this is the least of City’s concerns. If we are to play the way that Guardiola wishes, Stones would be a revelation in the centre of defence.

Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling Have a New Lease of Life

Two players that didn’t have standout years last season occupy the subtitle of this paragraph. For varying reasons, neither Delph nor Sterling had particularly fruitful campaigns in Pellegrini’s last year. Delph had his fair share of injuries, and whilst he didn’t always look out of his depth following his move from Villa last year, he did often look to be missing a trick or two. Sterling’s issues were deeper routed. An obvious ability did not always shine through, especially as pressure mounted from both the media and City fans alike. Fortunes may be about to change for the home-grown duo though, both looked much improved against Arsenal, with Sterling providing the assist for Sergio Aguero’s first half strike. As an advocate of Sterling’s ability, I am less surprised to see him looking sharper under Pep, though admittedly it is a pleasant surprise to see him occupying the right side of midfield, rather than the left. Delph, on the other hand, I have been surprised to see so involved in Pep’s summer plans. However, it is perhaps less shocking to understand when you witness the work-rate of our Leeds-born midfielder. Pep loves a work-horse, especially one who can retain possession, and with that – City might have an unlikely hero for the upcoming season.

This Squad Isn’t Entirely Ready to Play ‘The Pep Way’

As we all know, Guardiola demands a certain style of play. Every player on the pitch needs to be very comfortable on the ball and to be able to think fast under pressure. What is transparent though is that this squad isn’t entirely ready to do that yet. Granted, our more accomplished players, especially in attacking positions, look relatively comfortable with snappy, possession football. Many of the more defensive players in our squad, unfortunately, look far less comfortable. Aleksander Kolarov, Willy Caballero and Joe Hart in particular look unable to retain the ball in the way that Pep’s system will rely on. The squad on the whole will need to quickly become efficient in practising the two simple, yet essential components of Pep’s way: retaining possession and retrieving it. I believe that current crop of players look more than capable of retrieving possession. The problems arise when certain individuals are asked to hold onto it, notably those who I mentioned earlier. The squad isn’t far ahead though, and for some of the weaker technical players in the squad, adaptation must be a quick process if they are to survive a full season under Guardiola.

Joe Hart is Far From The Established ‘Number One’

Reports of Pep’s dissatisfaction with his goalkeeping situation have been rife this summer, and following Joe Hart’s performance against Arsenal, that is unlikely to change. What is perhaps more concerning though, is not that Joe Hart’s distribution still looks shaky at best, but actually that his strengths as a goalkeeper are becoming harder and harder to identify. Attributes that were once feathers in Hart’s goalkeeping cap seem to be fading slightly. Call it pre-season rustiness, but the signs have been there for a while. Joe didn’t have the best of times during the Euros, letting more than one suspect effort in to his left-hand side. This is a problem that many have identified during the last season or two at City too. When you combine this to an obvious difficulty in occupying the ‘ball-playing, sweeper keeper’ role, Hart’s position at City is looking more and more precarious.

This Season Won’t be a Cake-Walk

It might sound obvious to say that this season won’t be a walk in the park, but I fear that many of us have forgotten this. Prior to the pre-season starting, the feel around the club was simply that of ‘we have Pep, that’s it, job done’. It couldn’t be further from the truth. With Pep comes a new dynamic, a new style and most importantly, a new identity. But to implement these things takes time, we’re not talking a few weeks or months, we’re talking years. If you have been guilty of sitting at home thinking we’ll breeze the league this year, stop – immediately. City might well be crowned champions this year, but I promise you, mistakes will be made; games will be lost, sometimes in calamitous circumstances. To change the outlook and style of a squad’s play so drastically will require a transition, so be ready for it, because it’s not all going to be rosy this season. That’s not to say the excitement should falter, because what Pep is working toward is a future that will shine brighter than any era in City’s history, just be prepared for some bumps along the way.

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