City are still a work in progress under Pep Guardiola, but the signs are good. Here are some things we can take away from today’s win at the bet365 Stadium.
Aguero is still the main man at Manchester City
I tipped Kevin De Bruyne to be City’s key player ahead of the new season but if I’m being honest, the Belgian has started slowly. Instead, Sergio Aguero has been getting the business done and reminded us all that he is still the main man at Manchester City. The Argentinian has started the season with aplomb, scoring six goals in three games with the privilege of missing two penalties against Bucharest too. Not only is he scoring at a high-rate but he is getting involved everywhere across the pitch, drifting wide and running channels. The extra weight he lost in pre-season looks to have done him the world of good.
Nolito is our best value signing
I wasn’t expecting much of Nolito when he signed and if anything, I thought he would struggle to hold down a place in the team. He seemed like one of those late-bloomer types that finally make a big move which turn out to be uneventful. But he’s been anything but that. He’s provided a proper goal-scoring option from the wing and proved a perfect foil to Sterling. His game is based on taking up dangerous positions moves and finishing off attacking moves. He’s not a pacey winger and nor should he have to be. And for £13.8 million, he represents our best signing pound for pound.
Gundogan could be the final piece of the puzzle
You’ll probably have better luck predicting what Pep Guardiola is going to have for tea tonight than what he’s going to do when Gundogan returns. Will he shift one of David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne aside? Will he replace Fernandinho as the deepest midfielder? Or will he overhaul his entire formation to accommodate him? Like nearly everything Pep has done so far at City, it’s hard to say.
John Stones is money well-spent
For a joint fee of nearly £100 million, Raheem Sterling and John Stones represent England’s brightest talents. They are the nation’s most valuable and most gifted players and I am delighted that they are both at City. Raheem Sterling continued his good start to the season but it was Stones who really caught my eye today. He was magnificent in every department. He built from the back, stormed over Stoke’s powerful forwards and carried the ball deep into Stoke’s half several times.
There were those who said that Stones would never be a top defender and that being good on the ball doesn’t excuse your inability to defend. They are wrong. Defending can be taught – ask Javi Martinez – however teaching your center-back to start attacks cannot. You need the brains to know where and when to spread the ball and you have to have the technique to be able to bring the ball into midfield at least ten times a game every game.
That’s why Pep has repeatedly moved midfielders into defence throughout his career and that’s why he seemed almost done with center-backs all together in recent years. So when a shining gem like John Stones come along, you can be sure Pep was desperate to get his hands on him.