At home to Sunderland in last Saturday’s opening Premier League fixture I think Pep learnt a considerable amount about both Manchester City and the Premier League; in a game that we dominated possession-wise but also nearly let slip.
On Tuesday night against Steaua Bucharest he learnt that he had a group of players who have already started to take on board all he has taught them so far and so very quickly…and we-fans learnt what a joy it is to watch it in motion.
Now Pep has to experience the ‘Stoke away factor’; a ground that has all too often yielded so very little for us down the years and regardless of who’s at the helm. Crack this one tomorrow and in just 3, very different games our manager will have already laid down a considerable marker.
A quick word on the Bucharest game…
Sorry for no post-match blog-posting in midweek – I was just too busy the following day.
If I had to choose just two words to describe the game, I’d use “Crazy” & “Thrilling”. Crazy as in Sergio’s two failed penalties but in a game, which, still saw him hit a hat trick and where City could very easily have been in double figures! Thrilling to watch our players performing ‘Guardiola style’, particularly as the home same faded in the second half and our lads zipped the ball around with precision and style to totally overwhelm the Romanian side.
All players deserve credit for last Tuesday’s performance but if there were any doubters after last season who inferred that David Silva was finished (I mean…it sounds totally crazy to even suggest it but that’s what was being posted on-line by some so-called “Blues”) and that Pep wouldn’t improve Raheem Sterling; then this game went a long way to prove otherwise.
I still get a bit twitchy with this ‘passing around at the back’ lark and that’s despite having more ‘round pegs in round holes’ in Romania. It’s something I’m sure I’ll get used to, especially as our defenders become more accustom to what they’re being asked to do backed up by a new, incoming keeper who is used to playing that style.
Final word on this game – just how hard was it to watch those colours on TV when the camera went to wide angle?! Red & white with bold blue vs maroon, black and bright yellow did my eyes no good at all!
Totally different ball game
No disrespect meant whatsoever to Stoke City or Mark Hughes, who deserve credit for some very good performances and ‘scalps’ last season, but I expect these to be a bit more ‘rough & tumble’ at home tomorrow. Expect them to have done their homework on us too, though, in-studying Pep’s first two competitive game in charge; expect them to attempt to exploit our ‘passing defence’ by pressing us high & fast and making me, at least, a little twitchy once more.
v Stoke City
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:
Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (recovering from injury), Eliaquim Mangala (not selected), Ilkay Gundogan (recovering from injury), Samir Nasri (not selected), Leroy Sane (recovering from injury) and Yaya Toure (not selected).
Willy to continue between the sticks.
Only a very slight change, I think, to the back-4 [from last Tuesday] with the possible rotation of the left-backs in order to give Aleks some time off and to go with the often-considered more defensive Gael (although that perception is starting to melt away now under our new manager). Pablo likely to keep his place and not be rotated but his starting place may have been saved by a “small [injury] problem”, as Pep puts it, with Bacary; who was not risked in midweek for that very reason. John & Nicholas to continue their partnership for now.
To save time after that…no change in the 5 ahead of those I don’t think; a team who have learnt & improved very quickly and gelled well for their new boss. We might see some other players being given a starting shot in the return leg of the Champions League this coming Wednesday.
Do I agree with Pep's (predicted) line-up?
Possibly lacking a little ‘bite’ away at today’s hosts - and perhaps in the form of Fabian Delph - but I’m fine with this formula that has yielded good results so far.
Result? Following on from my brief analysis (above) of what we might expect, I do honestly believe that we may come out of this one a little battered & bruised…and I’ve even got a feeling that Stoke will end the match with 10 men.
Had we stuttered & spluttered in our midweek Champions League qualifier after a late, own-goal 2-1 win at home to Sunderland just 3 days earlier, I might have been a little cautious with this one; perhaps suggesting a draw.
It will be tough; I expect them to sneak a goal and it will be a heavy pitch in windy conditions. But after such a confidence-boosting, fabulous display on Tuesday night I’m going for us to eventually impose our game on the home side and come away with 3 points.
Expected weather conditions during the game: Players & fans should prepare for blustery showers in-between brief, sunny spells. South Westerly winds will be persistent and in the ‘mid teens’ MPH with gusts expected much higher, all adding to Pep’s education with a ‘wet afternoon in Stoke’.
Other City news:
· City have completed another ‘favour signing’, similar to how both the Luke Bratton & Anthony Caceres deals felt, in capturing the signature of Spanish central defender Pablo Mari. At first I thought we were just adding to our growing collection of “Pablo defenders” but then it turns out having loaned him immediately to Girona (who?) for the season it’s apparently something to do with Pep’s brother? Whatever… Girona’s manager, by the way, is called Pablo…
· It’s looking more like the sad debacle surrounding Joe Hart will end with him moving to Everton on a season-long loan next week; with interest also from Sevilla. The England number 1, quite sensibly in some ways, has apparently said (to someone) that he wants a loan move in order to assess his long-term future / next move. I won’t go on too much about what I feel on this because I’ll still be typing well into tomorrow’s game…although I must now add that Pep has made it perfectly clear in his pre-match press conference that he would be happy for Joe to stay, learn and see how the future goes. Joe cannot, as no-one can, expect to start every game - especially in a team that is evolving - and as disappointed & pride-hit as he might be; I hope he does stay and work with Claudio Bravo to add to his armoury of skills.
· The bright, exciting future continues to get brighter, more exciting and secure, following the news that Kelechi Iheanacho has signed a contract extension; now registered with the club for 5 years and to the end of the 2020 / 21 season.
· Rumours are that the signing of Claudio Bravo next week won’t be our last. Despite him insisting, recently, that he does NOT want to leave Juventus, City are supposedly going to persist in their persistence and make another attempt to get 29-year old, centre back Leonardo Bonucci. If we do get the Italian, that’s Denayer & Mangala definitely out of the door, Adarabioyo & Humphreys frustrated and Otamendi ‘watching his back’…as well as watching more games from the subs bench I think this season.
· Samir Nasri might be on his way out – not sure if it’s on loan for a season or a permanent move but Besiktas are apparently interested. Perhaps that’s what Pep’s plans were; to train him hard, ‘trim him down’ in order to make him more appealing / sellable. Isn’t Yaya currently going through the same training regime?
· I think we can rule out any new ‘flanking defenders’ coming in for now, seeing as Guardiola appears to like Mr Kolarov. Like many, Aleks will almost certainly improve under his new manager and has shown good signs already under Pep…and I have been saying that very thing about many of our players in many on-line posts over the summer. What I will add, though, is that improvement is one thing but from what ‘starting point’ does that improvement begin / how far can it go?
Thanks for your patience while hyperlinks were being completed and thanks, as always, for taking the time to visit / read.