Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 21 January 2017
Referee: Andre Marriner
Kick off: 17:30
City’s title race is over. It seems premature to be saying it with 17 games to go, but in all honesty, it’s delusional to think otherwise. Pep Guardiola suggested the same thing following City’s hammering at Goodison Park, though it’s not clear whether it’s an attempted Jedi mind trick from the boss. Whether it is or not, City are done.
So, what next? It’s Tottenham at the Etihad on Saturday. A juicy looking affair. So, with City out of the league running, what is there to consider?
City Need to Reassess Their Targets
Despite being a staggering 10 points behind the league leaders, City are actually just three points behind second placed Tottenham. With all of the sides from 2nd to 6th possessing realistic looking ambitions of making the top four, it is a must for City. For Pep’s masterplan to work, he’ll need the draw of Europe’s elite cup competition. It’s hard at this point to see who will drop out of those top four spaces however, and in all honesty – as it stands you could argue that City look favourites to be one of the unfortunate casualties. At this point, Pep needs to look at achieving two targets to salvage this season and have a decently successful first season in charge. Firstly, qualifying for the Champions League. It’s the priority. I understand why some people might not understand the importance. A lot of our fans have no time for the competition, which is fair enough. However, it does allow City to compete for the top talent. That same top talent will allow us to win league titles and domestic trophies, as well as going far in Europe if that’s something you prioritise. At a time where there are several attractive propositions in the Premier League, City need all that they can to tempt the world’s best players to the blue side of Manchester. Pep’s second target should, quite simply put, be to win the FA Cup. City have every chance of a cup run if the boss takes it seriously. On top of that, City don’t have a fanbase that devalues the cup. A trip to Wembley to hoist the cup still excites 99% of the fans, myself included. It would buy Pep more time too. Top four and a trophy in a transitional season? Why not.
Everyone Wants to See Gabriel Jesus
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Saturday’s game at home to Spurs is the potential to see City’s newest star. Gabriel Jesus was finally registered this week and is eligible for the visit of Spurs. His arrival could breathe new life into an attack that has struggled at times this season. It puts the pressure firmly on the attacking facets of this team too. The likes of David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero will know that there is another player vying for their starting spot on the b ooks. At the moment, it’s difficult to pinpoint how Pep will decide to use Jesus, though it looks like it’ll be from a wide area, at least for the time being. It’s worth remembering that Jesus will need time to adapt to not only football in England, but life in England too. I know some of our fans think that we’ve just signed the next Ronaldo in his prime, but we’ve not. This is a kid who is on the back of a sensational season, but he is still a young guy who has a lot of adapting to do. Give Jesus time. He’s going to take a while to get up to speed, to learn from his teammates, to learn from Pep and to, most importantly, deliver on the first-team front. Expect Jesus to perhaps make the bench on Saturday, but I think anything beyond a 20 minute cameo is unlikely for the young Brazilian star. Who knows what he can do, though? It’s the kind of signing that has me excited to see the team-sheet again.
Everything Has to Improve
Everything, and I do mean everything, on the pitch needs to vastly improve before City are capable of winning games against even half decent teams. We’ve had a few decent wins this season, but it’s been few and far between and seems to depend on whether or not the big names can be bothered turning up. Starting from the back, Claudio Bravo is a liability. I’d be tempted to give him maybe one or two more games to show that he could actually save footballs, but beyond that – I’d give it Willy ’til the end of the season. Defensively, we are shambolic. It hardly takes a rocket scientist to work out that new recruits are needed, and yet 20 days into January there has been nothing. City’s defence are capable of the occasional big performance, but it’s pot luck. Here’s hoping they’ve gone one in the bank for tomorrow. The centre of midfield is a dire state of affairs too. We have one top quality central midfielder in Fernandinho – unfortunately he can’t seem to use his vast experience to stop himself getting sent off. Yaya Touré has enjoyed a resurgence since his reintroduction to the squad, however he’s a short-term positive, and can’t carry City forever. The rest of the available options in central midfield just don’t look good enough to compete. Another potential area for improvement, though we’ll have to wait until summer for that I suspect. The attacking areas of midfield are without doubt where City are strongest. There is still inconsistency there though, the likes of De Bruyne, Silva and Sterling have to find their goalscoring touch sooner rather than later, as they have a responsibility to contribute goals to this side. Up top, Sergio Aguero isn’t in form and in my opinion, simply hasn’t been good enough to merit selection. The problem is, his deputy is the inexperienced Iheanacho who isn’t good enough (for now at least) to lead the line and carry the side. City need to hope that all of their top players are singing from the same hymn sheet tomorrow. Because when it all clicks, they’re unstoppable. And when it doesn’t, it gets embarrassing.
Spurs are in a position this season where they have several top players who are capable of turning up for the big games. It’s hard though to look past Harry Kane as the danger-man. The young English sensation is on the back of an impressive hat-trick against West Brom and is more than capable of hurting City. For the Blues, Kevin De Bruyne is the player most capable of creating pain for the opposition, and I’m hopeful he’ll do so tomorrow.
I’m expecting one of two things. Either City turn up and absolutely outclass Spurs, or we don’t and get beaten very comfortably. I’m going to remain optimistic and say that we’ll have one of those days where it all falls nicely. 3-0 City.