New chapter, new expectations
Well we have, arguably, one of the best if not ‘the’ best managers in the world and have bolstered our creative and attacking midfield / wing options in the summer very well indeed. We eventually added a long-term, central defensive target to our ranks too and have purchased a whole host of exciting-sounding youth talent for the not-too-distant future.
There are still cries from a lot of Blues for a left-back and, possibly, an outright striker as well…and we are most definitely still to add competition / ‘cover for’ our goalkeeping department in the final two-and-a-bit weeks of the transfer window.
But despite a not-ideal, pre-season warm-up that included a long trip to a high-humidity and very wet China, which saw one game cancelled and then another behind-closed-doors one added to compensate; we should be, otherwise, all ‘good to go’ from today onwards.
We certainly could be in a far worse position – we could be, for example, managerless Hull City or even today’s opponents, Sunderland; who have only just appointed their new manager and who are, subsequently, very-quickly-importing new players needed for their next, and latest, [survival] campaign.
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:
Now…PLEASE bear with me and not just for this predicted line-up, subs and formation but for the next few; at least until I can get my head around our new manager and his general ‘ways & means’.
For example, whenever I’ve seen a Pep side in ‘full motion’ it seems to ebb & flow between a 4-6-0 to a 4-3-3 in very quick succession. So, I’ve decided, until I can work it all out (if ever I can) I’m gonna call it a fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4 for now.
Right…Joe in net for the first game of the season.
I’m going for Gael being Pep’s first choice left-back and on the opposite flank for today’s clash; I’m assuming that Bacary is to be given a little more ‘easing in’ time following his lengthy Euro campaign. Pablo it is, then, who starts there. In between those is possibly our Argentine central defender, Nicholas (although he is apparently carrying a ‘slight niggle’) and with experienced options limited otherwise – with the ‘up for sale’ Mangala and the recovering-from-injury Kompany – I think it’ll be ‘new boy John’ to make his debut against the Black Cats.
A midfield ‘five’, if you like and for ease, in David and Fernandinho buzzing around ‘Pep style’; attempting to disposes the ‘oppo’ and then provide creative passing; a hard-working Nolito helping too but also providing an explosive outlet on the left. Kevin the main link to the striking department and adding an extra ‘threat to goal’ and the never-stops-running, pacey Jesus on the right flank.
Ahead of those and alone – although well supported by that attacking & fluid 5 plus occasional wing-backs – is ‘our man Serg’.
Bench should include a good mix of defensive, midfield and attacking options – Willy the obvious choice to cover Joe; Tosin likely to be rewarded for a very good pre-season and Bacary as insurance for the recovered [from last season] Zabaleta. Fernando & Yaya to provide a different, defensive and also creative-threat ‘central option’ in midfield (a little more on the defensive midfield aspect soon); pace, skill and “potential” on the flank in Raheem. Finally, our only real striking replacement option - and I say that with Wilfried Bony also being told to prepare to pack his bags - is Kelechi.
Notable absences: Aleksandar Kolarov (not selected), Eliaquim Mangala (not selected and another one who we could be waving goodbye to very soon), Vincent Kompany (recovering from injury), Jason Denayer (not selected and could be gone very soon also), Fabian Delph (not selected), Ilkay Gundogan (recovering from injury), Samir Nasri (not selected and may never be again by Pep), Leroy Sane (injured), Oleksandr Zinchenko (not selected), Wilfried Bony (not selected / possibly out ‘house hunting’).
Doesn’t that list of ‘non-selectees’ just tell you so much about the squad we now have at our disposal?! Frightening too when you consider that we might still bring in another 2 or 3 players in the coming weeks…and also spells out the need to off-load 3 or 4.
Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?
Considering we are at home against a side struggling to gather their thoughts after a ‘whirlwind period’ and hardly-ideal, late managerial change; I think that very attacking midfield line-up is just fine.
There’s a little bit of, ‘who is gonna hold in midfield about it’ (if I’m correct) and, as I suggest, another opposition, on another day and at another venue might call for a Fabian Delph or a Fernando to be ‘in there’ from the start instead. But this is what I’m going for Guardiola to go with for his Premier League and home debut and I'm fine with this.
Result? It’d be just like ex-Everton & Manyoo manager Moyes to ‘rock up’ to the Etihad this evening and spoil the party, wouldn’t it? And with the possibility of at least 2 players making their Premier League debuts for Manchester City and the feeling of a rushed / short pre-season; there’s a…small voice of concern at the very back of my head going into this game.
But just look at the quality of players available to a manager that any football club in the WORLD would love to have at the helm and, that being the case, I just can’t see anything other than a fairly comfortable home win.
There might be periods where we’ll look a little disjointed as players adjust to each other and their new surroundings; where our manager might have his arms flailing all over the place in-trying to orchestrate proceedings as he too begins his English football learning experience…but it’ll all work out just fine for us by the end of ‘the 90’ in my opinion.
Expected weather conditions during the game: Dry, some sunshine but mainly overcast. A fairly-comfortable 62F but with a persistent and stiff, westerly breeze expected throughout the game.