And so I wave goodbye to the City Watch match report. It was a choppy but enjoyable ride, one on which I came face to face with the whining voice of the Manchester United fanbase at Rashford-gate, and where Kevin De Bruyne patrolled down a catwalk at Bournemouth. It truly was an honour to relive the defeats while attempting to maintain a sober reporting tone; a real privilege to re-read my ramblings and then question my journalistic aspirations week after week.
To be honest with you, after what happened on Tuesday night, all I can say is thank f*** for that – I’d have been sat here for at least a week trying in vain to make sense of something I don’t and don’t believe I ever will understand. On Wednesday’s City Watch Podcast I was asked whether it was the giddiest I’ve felt watching a game at the Etihad. My answer was no. In truth, I felt like utter shit at the final whistle having wrestled five times against my friend’s best efforts to chuck me into the Monaco end. Want chiseled abs and a beach body to die for? Go and watch City in the Champions League.
Before we go on I want to put a question to you all. If you were in the Monaco end last night, would you have been able to prevent yourself from chanting ‘M’Bappe’ to the tune of MMMBop by Hanson?
Anyone up for a Silva vs Özil debate? In fact, would fans even be able to have a genuine dispute about this anymore? I suspect even the lads at ArsenalFanTV, bar Ty who, bless him, probably defended Özil’s non-performance in Munich by suggesting the midfielder forgot to take his inhaler prior to kick off, would agree that 2017 David Silva is everything Gooners want Özil to be.
Silva’s performances of late have been particularly mesmerising. There was a genuine risk of David becoming a real-life Mr.Krabs meme in a deeper role in the midfield, but Guardiola’s insistence on keeping the ball at all costs has actually uncovered an even more cultured side to Silva’s game. His movement remains impish – he still floats along the turf like an autumn mist, twisting and turning, never ever losing the ball, but no longer is there such a reliance on David to provide the direct assist. In the free 8 role, himself and De Bruyne are now tasked with producing the pass before the assist – a play often more important than the assist itself. It’s a role that calls upon the entirety of Silva’s vast repertoire of attributes.
If Mesut Özil had the diligence of Silva, he too could excel in the position. And it is Silva’s doggedness, more than any alleged superior awareness in the final third, that settles this debate. It is a side to Silva’s game that does not receive much recognition but in big fixtures the 31-year-old simply does not go missing. For all his elegance, Silva is not averse to a strategic foul or an argument with the referee. He gets involved, his tenacity is respected and that’s the reason he led the team out against Monaco with the captain’s armband wrapped around his arm. Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I don’t think Özil has ever captained anyone.
I’m not saying Arsenal would’ve turned Bayern Munich over had Silva been in a blue and green jersey that night but I know his effort wouldn’t have been questioned by Claude and company. It’s because of players like David that City have the mental strength within them to come back from deficits against top sides like Monaco.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Blue Moon pic.twitter.com/5UX83FIiKr
— Adam Bailey (@adambailey__) February 21, 2017
Just listen to that. Is there a more beautiful sound on earth? The stadium was absolutely rocking on Tuesday night – a group of people intoxicated by an insane game of football. The lads on the pitch were great but the fans certainly played their part in the win.
TWEETS THAT BOOMED
Sterling has contributed to 25 goals in all comps this season, 3 more than Kane and 6 more than Alli. Only 4 fewer than Ronaldo.
— Adam Bailey (@adambailey__) February 22, 2017
UEFA have confirmed that Raheem Sterling didn't receive a yellow card last night and will be available for the return leg in Monaco.
— City Watch (@City_Watch) February 22, 2017
Damn fine #numbers right there. Raheem has been one of, if not our best, performers this season and the fans know it. I wonder how the Daily Star will try and bring him back down to earth this week?
For those of you who just can’t handle the fire, I took the statistics from transfermarkt.com and yes, they include penalties won. Now dry your eyes.
HERO OF THE WEEK
Willy Caballero – I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: is there a more likable character in our squad than Big Willy? After graciously accepting the blame for Monaco’s first goal, Willy spurred the team on to victory, denying Radamel Falcao from the spot and keeping the Colombian out from point blank range later in the game with a magnificent reaction save. There were whispers that Bravo was set to return for the Champions League clash but there’s only one man deserving of a place in goal for me.
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK
Perhaps the only real negative we can take from the Monaco game is that there seems to be a real problem with queuing at the Etihad. Talk about our defence all you want, I thought it was a laugh (only because we won, like). I arrived at the ground ten minutes before kick off and was fortunate to be sitting in 313 above the away fans where access was relatively easy, but those trying to get into the lower blocks of the South Stand faced at least a 20 minute wait to get into the ground.
This game was a sell out, though no one would have known until 15 minutes in when the stadium finally reached capacity. Queues seeped out of the gates and at one point, when those struggling to cope with the masses of supporters rushing in for kick off finally admitted things were getting farcical, security gave in and stopped searching people’s coats and bags. There’s been a lot of talk about systems at City this season but it’s the one outside the ground that needs the most work.
ADIOS, SERGIO? BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Maybe it was just a confidence boost the best striker in the club’s history needed? Among the heavy touches against Monaco was an unfamiliar willingness from Sergio Agüero to do exactly what Pep Guardiola wants from him. He dropped deep to bring Sterling and Sané into the game, brought his manager to his feet when he sprinted 40 yards to retrieve the ball in his own half, and after volleying City level he became Sergio the Super Saiyan; quite comfortably the best player on the pitch for the final 20 minutes.
What a strange situation Sergio finds himself in. Here is one of the most fearsome on-the-shoulder forwards in the game, a player who has built his reputation bullying defenders when on the ball as opposed to harrassing his opponents when they have the ball. For a striker, what’s the more impressive quality?
— City Watch (@City_Watch) February 22, 2017
Of course, Guardiola wants him to do both and that’s fine. Sergio certainly showed he’s capable of nailing the role on Tuesday. But to expect such brilliance from him every single week is unrealistic and to rest this 113 Premier League goal player’s future on his ability to maintain such a high level of consistency doing something that is completely unnatural to him is absolute madness.
There are fans out there who after seeing Gabriel Jesus play four games want Sergio gone. Just remember what Sergio has done for us in the 237 games he’s played and get excited about what he’s got left to offer.
Have yourselves a top weekend and let’s hope Southampton wipe the smile off that smug t***’s face.