Sat in a luxury pad somewhere in Eastern Europe, tiger fur hanging from the walls, snake skin lining his boots and 1980’s Russian trance booming from his vinyl player, Dimitri Seluk is cackling away to himself, fully convinced that Pep Guardiola will cave and place his client Yaya Touré back in the midfield where he belongs. Sat in more humble surroundings somewhere in Manchester is a 19-year-old much more in touch with reality. The reality for Aleix García is that he is now way above Touré in the pecking order at Manchester City.
And isn’t it telling that most City supporters are united in their contempt for the Ivorian. Seluk has held the microphone during Touré’s six years at the Etihad Stadium, but the player has been the ventriloquist and his silence on his moronic agent’s latest outburst shows you just where he stands. Cheers for the goals and that Yaya, you’ve been brilliant, but shut the door on your way out.
Less on Touré, and more on García who was excellent in City’s 2-1 win over Swansea in the third round of the EFL Cup. The Spaniard – an impish central midfielder, so cool on the ball and blessed with a range of passing that make him a ready-made Guardiola player – was City’s Man of the Match at the Liberty Stadium, controlling the game from the middle and scoring the winner.
The introduction of Kevin De Bruyne in the second half gave us a glimpse of how things may play out in the future. Call me crazy for calling the manager out on this, but partnering García and Fernando with no recognised no.10 in front of them meant the side lacked incision in the first half and were forced into playing the ball out wide where Jesús Navas and Leroy Sané struggled to get at their full backs. City have won their last two games from the middle of the park with De Bruyne driving forward and García needed a player like the Belgian to accept his forward passes and move the ball into dangerous positions. It was a match made in heaven, and in García Pep has a player who can capably fill in for Fernandinho and dictate the play from deep.
After a dull first-half where only Caballero’s anxiety with the ball at his feet provided any sort of entertainment, City took the lead early in the second through Gaël Clichy. Bursting through the middle of the park as Guardiola’s full-backs so often do, Clichy played the ball into Angelino on the left flank, received the ball back and saw his deflected shot creep past Kristoffer Nordfeldt. Even at 60% of their full strength, it’s encouraging that the side are capable of producing moves of this quality.
After a period of City dominance, García capped off a fantastic display by arriving on the edge of the box and coolly converting Navas’s pinpoint cross on 67 minutes. And the day got even better for the academy when Tosin Adarabioyo and highly-rated 17-year-old Brahim Diaz were introduced. The future, based on this evidence, looks extremely bright.
For Vincent Kompany, however, his City future looks grim. The 30-year-old made his eagerly anticipated return to the first team after a four-month absence on Wednesday, but left the pitch before the final whistle with a suspected groin problem. This had been a breeze for the Belgian who, when fit, is comfortably one of the best defenders in the Premier League. Here he was seen organising his defence, muscling out his opponents and even spreading 40-yard passes into the flanks. But when the legs are gone, they’re gone, and City are no longer in a position where they have to rely so much on his fitness for success.