Match Coverage

Predicted Man City XI vs. West Ham: Agüero back up top, no place for Gabriel Jesus?

Everyone enjoying Transfer Deadline Day? Compelled by the ins and outs of Sunderland’s invasion of Everton’s dumpster and Moussa Dembélé’s curiously-timed, but actually very innocent, trip to London? In fairness you have to give it to the Sky Sports News crew; they’re experts in portraying faux excitement.

At least there was some genuinely interesting news reported on the channel today. Sergio Agüero has trained and is fit to play tomorrow despite picking up a knock before the Palace tie on Saturday. The Argentine’s return is likely to pose Pep Guardiola’s biggest selection dilemma of the day after Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané performed so well together in that 3-0 win just three days ago.

Unless Pep opts for a 4-4-2 formation, one of the four will almost certainly drop to the bench and you wouldn’t put your bets on it being Sané who has been excellent in his last three appearances. Sterling, too, has contributed significantly, offering balance and tactical discipline on the right. If he isn’t too busy buying pasties in Greggs, I think he’ll start. As for Jesus, it’s clear to see that his work-rate is superior to Sergio’s. He’s a talent and we all want to see more, but starting him over the best striker in our team will not magically erase all our problems. Sergio Agüero, though misfiring at the moment, is not the real problem.

For that reason I’d bring Agüero straight back into the team. It’s important to bed Jesus in carefully.

Fernandinho’s services are now available to us again after what seems like a four-year absence. The Brazilian is back from suspension after missing our last four games and Guardiola is delighted.

So am I. But it must be said that Yaya Touré softened that blow much more than I expected him to. The Ivorian has been tremendous in these last two months, particularly against Tottenham where we all expected him to be overrun by Mauricio Pochettino’s powerful midfield. Dropping Touré to the bench is a decision Pep won’t take lightly, but his appearance in the starting XI on Saturday makes me think he’ll be given a rest on Wednesday. In front of Ferna, I’d have David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne pulling the strings.

At the back it’s becoming increasingly and painfully obvious that Gaël Clichy is our worst defender. He’s making at least two mistakes per game and in Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll West Ham have the players to punish Clichy’s lack of height in the box. Aleksandar Kolarov, though now probably a better centre-back than a left-back, should take his place.

Now fit again, Vincent Kompany has to start. The back line looks so much more assured with him in there and his return to action against Palace was a real boost. Nicolás Otamendi has shown in the past that he manages physical strikers better than nimble ones and could be chosen to play alongside Vinny for that reason. Unfortunately, that will mean another week on the bench for John Stones.


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