Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 1 November 2016
Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN)
Kick off: 19:45
It’s over. City’s rotten form spanning over a month has finally concluded. After six winless games, the Blues were emphatic victors in the Midlands on Saturday, recording a 4-0 victory.
Some might say it’s perhaps the best time for City to recapture their form, with a vital Champions League game at home to Barcelona ahead on Tuesday. So, what is there to consider ahead of the visit of the Catalonian giants?
Three at the Back Can Work
A few years back, Roberto Mancini tried to instil a formation at City that contained three centre-backs. The idea was to slap a wing-back on either side and covert from a back three to a back five when required. It didn’t work out. In the early parts of this season, Pep Guardiola has deployed a similar looking system here and there. Its most successful use came on Saturday, with City looking comfortable for a majority of the game. Like most things with Pep, I’m willing to give the formation a chance. Granted, it might simply be a placeholder whilst a couple of our full-backs are injured. However, if not, I think there is a place for it. On Saturday, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Aleksander Kolarov were never without an option. Things looked tighter in the centre of the pitch, and in fairness the wing-backs did their job effectively. With a plethora of attacking options, City didn’t lack going forward either. In all honesty, when executed correctly, this could be a system we see a lot more regularly under Pep. Maybe it isn’t the ideal system going forward, but with a string of patchy performances from personnel occupying full-back positions; it seems a decent way to add some defensive stability to the side.
Sergio Aguero Looks Like a Pep Player
Following a couple of weeks of speculation from the press regarding Sergio Aguero’s place in Pep’s plans, our Argentinian talisman was on hand to shut a few people up on Saturday. To be honest, if you’re a City fan who doesn’t take our national media too seriously, you won’t have ever doubted Aguero’s importance to the side. Consequently, it was no surprise for most of us to seem him return to goalscoring form on Saturday. Scoring goals has never been a problem for Sergio though, it was truly Kun’s performance on Saturday that caught the eye. As we know, Guardiola demands a lot from his players, and even for a relentless goalscorer like Aguero, Pep felt there was more to come. At the Hawthorns, we saw our first glimpse of the Guardiola influence. Sergio ran and ran for the cause, winning the ball back a couple of times along the way. His performance was sure to please Guardiola, and of course he bagged two fantastic goals along the way. If you’re one of the people who buys into rumours that Aguero will be on his way anytime soon, I’d reassess your position, because he will evolve under Pep – and affirm his position as City’s greatest ever centre-forward.
The Players Need to be Brave
The biggest difference between the performance on Saturday, and the previous six was bravery. In a system where mistakes are always likely to happen, the players need to be brave. It sounds a bit daft really, but it’s something that we really missed on Old Trafford last week, and at White Hart Lane a fair few weeks ago. When a side plays out from the goalkeeper and more or less refuses to kick the ball long, players must be willing to take the ball in dangerous situations. Fernandinho is a stellar example of a player that doesn’t shy away. He asks for the ball no matter what, he provides an option to his back-line. However, when the going has been getting tougher, some of his teammates can’t boast the same bravery. In the six games before West Brom, it was a constant theme to see players shy out of the game and wait for someone else to pick up the pieces. The best example of this was at Old Trafford. Granted, it was a side largely made up of fringe players, but for about 50 minutes, City popped the ball about well. The majority of the players wanted the ball whilst the game was level. However, the second Juan Mata scored the game’s only goal, our side deteriorated. The likes of Leroy Sané and Kelechi Iheanacho went missing. These are young guys, I take the point – but if they are to succeed in this side, they need to be braver. I mentioned a couple of months back during our perfect run, that City had not yet fallen behind in a match, and that it would be interesting to see how the side responded. In all honesty, the signs haven’t always been fantastic. If City are to succeed in the next year or two, this is something that Guardiola will need to change. Because whilst recording a 1-1 draw from 1-0 down might seem like a decent effort, the standards are higher than ever. No longer can City afford such slip-ups. Everybody needs to get on the same page and want the ball, because if they don’t – they will be out of the door faster than you can say ‘Joe Hart’.
Who Can Hurt Us?
Against Barcelona, this section is a waste of time. I said it in the first game, I’ll say it again now. Anybody in that side can hurt us. Obviously though, Lionel Messi is the one to watch. If City do record a result tomorrow night, keeping Messi quiet will be the cornerstone of that effort.
At times, City matched Barcelona in the Nou Camp. Unfortunately, some diabolical defending and decision making lost us the game. If City play with confidence and courage, I can see us nicking at least a point. I’m going to be optimistic and plump for 1-1. Kevin De Bruyne to score.
Predict the score:
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