A great display by City tonight saw them rampage to a five-goal win over Steaua Bucharest. Here are some things to take away from the match.
The revitalisation of Raheem Sterling continues
Following a largely disappoint Euros, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Raheem Sterling would be unfancied by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. Reports surfaced though, that our new manager had contacted the English winger over the summer, declaring him a big part of his plans at the club. Fast-forward, two games into the new season and Sterling has been absolute dynamite. The signs were present in pre-season, but following a man of the match performance against Sunderland, and two assists away in Bucharest, it looks as if Raheem is flourishing under new management. Obviously, the season is in its infancy though, and Sterling still has work to do, but it’s hard to imagine a more positive start for our young Englishman. What’s clear however, is that Guardiola’s words of encouragement seem to have sparked something in Sterling’s game, and with more and more fans being won over, it could be a big season for the once heavily criticised youngster.
Aleksandar Kolarov isn’t just a makeshift centre-back
For a few years now, I’ve been waiting to see when the hierarchy at City will decide to strengthen our full-backs. You could argue that it’s been three of four years in the making. Manuel Pellegrini’s time at City concluded, and I thought, ‘Finally, we will buy some new full-backs’. And then… we just didn’t. Then, we start seeing Aleksandar Kolarov at centre-back, and I’m wondering – maybe, Pep sees Kolarov as a converted centre-half? Then, at Steaua Bucharest, Aleks is in his more familiar position at left-back. Again, just like his performance against Sunderland, he was fantastic, faultless even. His start against the Romanian outfit, though, suggests that Pep is more than willing to use him in that position, and that any thought about his permanency as a centre-half can be thrown out of the window.
Joe Hart’s future is uncertain
The most rife conversation topic of the previous few days, without doubt, has been the future of Joe Hart. I think in honesty, most of us would’ve predicted Willy to start the game in Bucharest, which is exactly what happened; but it does beg the question: where does this leave Joe Hart? Quite literally, it leaves him on the bench. Whilst this may seem a disaster to England’s number one, does it have to be the killer blow that ends his City career? I’m not so sure. Even with the near-certain arrival of Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, does Hart need to exit the club? If Pep’s issue with Hart is purely football-related, surely it is a case of Hart sucking it up, grafting on the training pitch and becoming the player that Guardiola desires and requires. Whether I feel that that is what is likely to happen, I’m pessimistic, and in all honesty I think it is more likely that Hart will exit the club in the not-so-distant future.
Nolito and John Stones will slot into this side nicely
The two newest players (apart from the impostor playing in Kolarov’s shirt) to play in Pep’s first two games as boss are John Stones and Nolito. Stones has been fantastic in his first two games in sky blue, particularly away in Romania. The young, English centre-half seems to possess everything that Pep would want in a central defender, notably though, the potential to learn and improve. If Stones’ first two games are anything to go by, we may have finally found the missing link in a position that has haunted City for a few years now. As for our new Spanish left-winger, I thought the former Celta Vigo man lacked slightly against Sunderland. I wasn’t sure if it was a lack of match sharpness, or that he maybe wasn’t the calibre of player I was hoping for. His performance though in Romania was outstanding, he bagged himself a nicely taken goal, and was constantly involved in City’s bright, attacking play, laying on an assist for Sergio Aguero’s second goal. The Spaniard’s performance went some way to saying to me that his debut against the Black Cats may have just been a bit of an off-day. Both players so far have shown glimpses of the future, and look more than capable of slotting into this style of play perfectly, which is no doubt why Guardiola was keen to acquire them both in the first place.
We may have to be more clinical at Stoke
I know this seems like a negative point to include, following a blinding performance, away from home, after scoring five goals. But honestly, City need to be more clinical against Stoke at Saturday lunchtime. Granted, we took plenty of chances in Romania on Tuesday night, but chances won’t be presented anything like as generously at the Britannia on Saturday. Stoke are a plucky outfit, playing at home. They will get in City’s faces and attempt to stop the Blues from playing. That’s not to say that the Potters will succeed, but even if they don’t, we’re bound to have less chances than Steaua presented us with. Sergio Aguero won’t be afforded two penalty misses this time round, and if we are to leave Staffordshire with a 100% league record in tact, we better be ready to take our chances, because I suspect there won’t be an endless supply to play trial and error with.