Manchester City continued their flawless start to the Premier League, as Pep Guardiola continued to show that he can adjust to the many new demands of the Premier League. Here’s what Anis took away from today’s victory over West Ham.
Pep Guardiola may have found his best team
I know Kompany isn’t fit. I know Gundogan isn’t either and Sane too is still missing. And I know you might think that I’ve just listed our best centre-back, midfielder and winger, but I really think Pep may have found his best team.
This side is so well balanced and it really shows. Our build-up (Pep’s favourite word) play is fantastic – we create openings in midfield, switch play quickly and involve our talented wingers at every opportunity. We can carve up the stingiest defences and attack with several different combinations. Our wingers have to be closely guarded at all times while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne’s free #8 roles cause havoc in the middle of the park.
It’s amazing to think that Pep has us playing a functional formation that literally has five attackers in the final third.
A Tactical Tweak
You know how Pep has been doing that thing where he positions the full-backs wide but also drifting in at times? Well…he didn’t do that today.
Instead, he did something rather ordinary since West Ham had decided to play a back three with two quick wing-backs. Pep responded by asking his full-backs to remain wide in anticipation of any quick breaks from players who were literally hugging the by-line.
Now that might sound sane, conventional and probably boring but this is a Pep Guardiola side and his teams are anything but. So even when City’s full-backs managed to find themselves on opposite sides – such is the fluidity of a Pep Guardiola team – they were always sure to vacate any central areas for a certain John Stones to roll into like a young Franz Beckenbauer.
So because the full-backs stayed out wide and Stones added another body in midfield (where the full-backs normally would be), the players on the wing, in this case Raheem Sterling, was under no obligation to play his usual role and dully popped into central areas for both his goals.
Pep can’t keep everyone
Samir Nasri finally made his long-awaited return, blonded up and looking leaner than ever. His cameo was expressive. He drove at West Ham with the ball at every opportunity, nearly scored himself and teed up Silva who set up Sterling’s second in the dying embers of the game.
Samir had that hunger in his belly, that hunger that we’ve seen before when he returns from a long absence. Pep toasted to his quality in his post-match conference and suggested that he too could still have a future at Manchester City. But can Pep really offer a warm embrace to everyone?
Samir Nasri isn’t the first player supposedly half-way out the door before being dragged back in by Pep Guardiola. Pablo Zabaleta was headed for Italy just a month ago while Yaya Toure too looks set to run down his contract here despite only making one match-day squad this season. 30 (!) senior players trained on Friday alone which is remarkable in itself. At this rate, Wilfried Bony will be lining up at Old Trafford in two weeks’ time.
This is simply unsustainable. You just cannot have so many big-earners on the wage bill while the foreign spots are completely overbooked. What is Pep’s thinking? Is he offering players opportunities in one last gasp of hope that someone will buy them? One things for sure, this situation can’t last. Some of those players who sought redemption all summer will be heading for the exit door.