Well there’s your response, guys. And what an emphatic one it was; Sergio Agüero and İlkay Gündoğan, guilty of under-performing in City’s six-game winless run before this game, each bagging a brace in a 4-0 win over West Brom. Pep Guardiola suggested a ‘lack of confidence’ within the dressing room was to blame for that barren spell in which the side shipped 12 goals. But perhaps it was the modesty present in Guardiola’s squad that prevented the tally reaching seven on Saturday as Agüero and Gündoğan, two professionals unusually down to earth given the heaps of ability they possess, seemed to slap themselves on the wrist and up their game just at the right time.
Meanwhile, back in Manchester, two of the most arrogant men in world football were creating one last Vine masterpiece before the video sharing service closes down in the next month. It’s worth asking, would Paul Pogba be the world’s most expensive player if Vine had never existed?
City now find themselves 8 points ahead of and seven places above Manchester United who now, after their 0-0 draw with Burnley, shouldn’t warrant any worry on our part, even if their first teamers did manage to scrape past our youth team in the League Cup on Wednesday. It’s just banter, lads, or ‘sabotage from the highest level to destroy Jose’, if you’re @UnitedStandMUFC.
It was a slight surprise when arguably the best performer in that game, 19-year-old right-back Pablo Maffeo, was left out of the starting line-up at the Hawthorns, and an even bigger one when I realised he’d not even made the travelling squad. The reason? West Brom were a little too tall and physical for the young Spaniard, apparently. But in truth, Guardiola had only revealed just how committed he is to a back three, with John Stones, Nicolás Otamendi and Aleksandar Kolarov the names making up the back line.
As it happens, Fernando found himself at right-back for most of the game and actually did a decent job until James McClean began to trouble him in the second half. Nevertheless, if I were Maffeo, I wouldn’t be too happy being replaced by an Octopus.
Anyway, back to Tony Pulis vs Pep Guardiola; can you think of two more differing styles of football? I was one of the plenty of City fans who thought our recent inability to put away chances would again be the death of us against the side of one of the most frustrating managers in the league, but fortunately, I was wrong. City were just too good, the passing too slick, the finishing (for once!) too clinical. At one point in the first half, our dominance in possession even had the Albion fans sarcastically chanting “we’ve got the ball”. It was a welcome return back to the old days, that time one month ago when City were winning games for fun and in style.
The first goal couldn’t have been scored by a more deserving bloke. Running onto Gündoğan’s superb through-ball, Agüero spanked the ball into the corner from a tight angle.
The second 10 minutes later was just beautiful, a scorching thump from the edge of the box that seemed to scream “HAVE THAT YOU F****** T***”! Out of that shot oozed all of the frustrations of the last month; the criticism, the reports linking him away from the club, his vampire-like thirst for goals. As if City were ever going to get rid of this God-like specimen.
Agüero was great, Gündoğan was better. Yeah, the German’s fit in pretty nicely since making his summer move to the Etihad but there hasn’t been that direct running or box-to-box galloping we saw at Dortmund, just safe, lateral passing. Simple, effective definitely, but boring. On Saturday, with Kevin De Bruyne on the sidelines, Gündoğan was given the freedom to show his imagination just behind Agüero and proved that he could become a Frank Lampard-like player for us.
His assist for Agüero’s first was sublime – a clever flick of the right foot. And it was the German who put the game to bed after a courageous surge from the hosts early in the first half when he beat the West Brom offside trap to finish off Agüero’s cheeky through-ball. He got his second of the game and third of the season when De Bruyne found him in the penalty area with a fizzing cross from the left.
With Gündoğan, Agüero and De Bruyne all now fit, firing and full of confidence, Guardiola may be hopeful of getting revenge on Barcelona in three days time.