Venue: Selhurst Park
Date: 28 January 2017
Referee: Mike Jones
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV
Five and a half years ago, City ended their wait for that elusive first trophy in 35 years. Following a massive win against United in the semi-final, Yaya Toure blasted home against Stoke City in the final to win City the FA Cup.
Tomorrow, it’s another game in the world’s oldest cup competition, and this year presents us with another chance to lift the famous trophy. It’s a tricky away draw at Palace though, so what is there to consider?
City Fans Aren’t Hard to Please
With all of the money and all of the success comes an assumption that I just don’t feel to be true – that City fans now need the earth to be happy. Granted, there’s certainly a section of the fan base that has a little sulk at half-time if we’re not a few goals up, but for the most part we’re a fairly easy to please bunch. What do you need to do as a player or a manager then? Well, it’s actually not that hard. As a player, you go out there and you work. Being an absolute shower of pigeon poo won’t buy you any admirers, but then again being a technical magician won’t earn you any admirers either if you’re not willing to fight for a result. If you look at the game last week, there’s evidence of this. Admittedly, there was plenty of frustration flying around, City failed to win a game they should’ve ended 30 minutes in. However, if you visited any of the social media after the game, the feeling was more optimistic than usual. The team played well. They pressed with an intensity we’ve seldom seen this season, and but for a host of missed chances, would’ve torn apart a Tottenham side that everyone thinks is the next big thing. City need to turn up like that again tomorrow. Play with intensity, play with urgency, play like the FA Cup is your last good chance of a trophy – because it is. For Pep, winning over the fans is slightly more complex, but the task starts with intention. He dropped a clanger earlier in the season playing a weak side at Old Trafford. Now, our neighbours are in the final of the League Cup, and do you think anyone on their end cares about which trophy it is? No. Take the FA Cup seriously, strongest possible XI, and win the thing. Because I guarantee that if City were to win the cup, this season goes from looking like a bit of a damp squib to a year with another trophy included.
The Sooner Aguero Has Some Competition the Better
For all of the money spent, and all of the years we’ve now sat on a goldmine, the lack of depth on our forward line is a joke. Whether you were a fan of Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli, they had something to offer when they were getting the minutes – goals. At one point, City had Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko and Balotelli. What happened? Slowly but steadily, City binned off all but Aguero. Well, who did they replace them with? Which top class striker did City go out and sign to back up our injury-prone, suspension-happy talisman? Well, for a period it was Alvaro Negredo. For half of the season, the Beast looked unstoppable. But even he was discarded after a season, and the questioned was asked again – who is here to backup Aguero? The answer for the majority of this season has been Kelechi Iheanacho. I like Kelechi, but I’m completely unsure about his long-term ability to play a massive role in the first-team.
“But we signed Gabriel Jesus!”
Simply put, I’m not sure we will see Jesus play as a striker for a long time. On top of that, Pep clearly doesn’t fancy Iheanacho. We’ve seen players like Nolito, Sterling and De Bruyne occupy false nine roles more or less as a way of keeping Kelechi on the bench. Maybe I’ll be wrong about Jesus, but for me, City need to buy a top class centre forward in January. Not to replace Aguero, but to challenge him. Of course, it’s difficult. You have to make sure you don’t sign a player who will end up sat on the bench all season if Aguero has a monster year. The solution? Dynamism. Players need to be able to play in a couple of positions. Aguero needs to learn to play behind a front-man, or a new front-man has to be able to play out on the wing or as an attacking midfielder. Alexis Sanchez is the obvious choice, though I’m not expecting City to go there. One thing is for certain though, we cannot keep relying on the out of sorts Aguero to win us games.
Sterling, Sané and Jesus Will Have to Battle
On Saturday, Raheem Sterling didn’t have his best game in a blue shirt. He fluffed a few chances, and his frailties in front of goal reared their ugly head. That’s not to say that he wasn’t half-decent in other areas, but it wasn’t really Raz’s day. On the other hand, Leroy Sané had what I consider to be his best game for City. I thought the young German winger was superb. His touch, his directness, his trickery and his passing were a joy to behold. Now, throw Gabriel Jesus into the mix. In his short cameo he could’ve scored a goal or two and looked very sharp in his first appearance since joining from Brazil. Well, this team isn’t likely to be big enough for all three. Perhaps it’s still too early to expect Jesus to be starting games, but the day will come when that’s not the case. And provided somebody isn’t shifted more centrally, one of the three will be on the bench. It presents a challenge (similar to the one that Aguero isn’t having) to all three to up their game and fight for their place. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, make a man fight and he’ll often produce his best results. We’ll see if the same can be said for these three, but I’m intrigued to see who can up their game and secure their place in the starting XI.
Crystal Palace are struggling a touch at the moment. Since hiring the disgraced Sam Allardyce, Palace have only managed one win – against Bolton, in the game that secured this one against City. City need to take full advantage of this and not do the cliché thing by allowing a 4-0 hammering against a side that looks useless at the moment.
I’m hoping that City will carry on from last week by taking the same intensity to Selhurst Park that worked so well against Spurs, but this time converting it into a victory. 2-0 City.