Blues against an assortment of Reds…

On the day Prime Minister Theresa May calls a General Election, the maxim ‘A week is a long time in politics’, could just as easily apply to top flight English football.

You saw him standing alone - but Pep Guardiola has big dreams in his heart for Manchester City.

You saw him standing alone – but Pep Guardiola has big dreams in his heart for Manchester City.

Irrespective of the political Blue against Red battle on June 8th, Manchester City Manager, Pep Guardiola, is about to find out that five days can radically change the football landscape, determining whether he can win silverware, as well as secure a Champions League slot, in his debut season in England.

An FA Cup semi final win over Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday, followed by victory in the Manchester derby at the Etihad four days later, will go a long way to Pep securing two crosses in the appropriate boxes.

Easter resurrection - City's Blue leader has arisen!

Easter resurrection – City’s Blue leader has arisen!

Guardiola will be helped in no small measure by the Easter resurrection of City’s on-field leader, Vincent Kompany, whose Man-of-the Match performance against Southampton has City supporters praying for their Captain Fantastic’s match fitness to be sustained.

Coupled with the imminent return of Brazilian wonder-kid, Gabriel Jesus – we’ll forgive him for not quite hitting his biblical deadline last weekend – and there are plenty of grounds for sky blue optimism.

Jesus the Redeemer - Gabriel is the face of City's future but his goals could yet help land silverware in the present.

Jesus the Redeemer – Gabriel is the face of City’s future but his goals could yet help land silverware in the present.

The frustrations born of gathering only two points from a possible nine against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea – three games where City could and should’ve won were it not for dodgy refereeing decisions and a profligacy in front of goal – can be banished with wins in the next two fixtures.

Obviously Guardiola’s chances of winning the Premier League are well and truly gone this season – only the second time in eight years in management that he will not have won a domestic league title.

Nein Leroy - sorry that should be nine Leroy, as in goals scored so far this campaign.

Nein Leroy – sorry that should be nine Leroy, as in goals scored so far this campaign.

That’s more than understandable this season (at least to level-headed City fans) given the teams ageing quartet of full backs, an injury-plagued Kompany and a goalkeeping situation, where Pep must take his share of the blame with the acquisition of Claudio Bravo.

Notwithstanding City’s shortcomings this season, it does beg the question how much better it could’ve gone had the skipper, Ilkay Gundogan and Jesus not been injured for prolonged periods?

City's SAS strike force will be looking to get behind enemy lines and wreak havoc on both Arsenal and United.

City’s SAS strike force will be looking to get behind enemy lines and wreak havoc on both Arsenal and United.

After unparallelled success with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, City’s Catalan boss has never gone trophy-less in any season, so lifting the FA Cup on May 27th will rank high in his priorities.

Higher still, will be the pre-requisite of qualifying for a seventh consecutive Champions League campaign.

29 not out - Sergio has scored in each of his last five games - a goal in the FA Cup semi final will take his tally to 30 for the season.

29 not out – Sergio has scored in each of his last five games – a goal in the FA Cup semi final will take his tally to 30 for the season.

Both are perfectly achievable, but it’s the Champions League berth – preferably automatic qualification via third place – which is imperative, when it comes to landing top transfer targets this summer.

It’ll be a measure of the professionalism and application of a number of City’s players who are out of contract this summer, or who are unlikely to figure in Guardiola’s future plans, as to how the Sky Blues finish the season.

Goal number 29 of 2016/17 for Aguero, away at Southampton on Saturday evening.

Goal number 29 of 2016/17 for Aguero, away at Southampton on Saturday evening.

Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, Bacary Sagna and Willy Caballero all look set to go and question marks hang ominously over the likes of Fernando, Nolito, Kolarov and Bravo – depending on who and what you believe.

Fair to say there’s little or no chance of Joe Hart, Wilfried Bony, Eliaquim Mangala or Samir Nasri  returning to the City fold.

When you appreciate the amount of players likely to leave the Etihad very shortly, one can but only admire the job Pep has done, rather than decry his work, during his first season at City.

Commander-In-Chief of City's Defence - Kompany could make all the difference between now and the end of the season.

Commander-In-Chief of City’s Defence – Kompany could make all the difference between now and the end of the season.

To those who seek to chastise him for not doing more to strengthen the defence last summer, it’s worth remembering Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus and Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Bilbao came close to joining City.

If anything the chances of landing Bonucci could be higher in 2017, given a major reason for not moving last summer was a situation affecting the Italian centre back’s family in Turin.

What are the odds of Bonucci and Messi being in City blue next season?

What are the odds of Bonucci and Messi being in City blue next season?

But, as Pep himself has stated, now is not the time for transfer talk. It’s a time for winning football matches and another eight victories for City would see the season end on a real high.

The second installment of a league double over United in 2016/17 would maintain at least a four point buffer over Mourinho’s bunch with five games left to go.

Captain Kompany rises high to score the winning goal which secured a 1-0 win over United and a Premier League double in 2011/12.

Captain Kompany rises high to score the winning goal which secured a 1-0 win over United and a Premier League double in 2011/12.

On an even more optimistic front, the points gap could be bigger if United fail to win away at Burnley, as City do battle with the Gunners at Wembley.

There was a time when a Manchester derby win would’ve been the highlight of City’s season.

KDB hits City's first goal in their 2-1 win at The Swamp back in September 2016.

KDB hits City’s first goal in their 2-1 win at The Swamp back in September 2016.

Thankfully those days are long gone as Premier League titles, FA and League Cup wins and Champions League clashes against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, have become increasingly commonplace.

Nonetheless a win against the Trafford Troglodytes is always to be savoured and there’s more than just local bragging rights at stake this season – as has been the case in many of the derbies in recent years.

Yaya puts United to the sword in the 2011 FA Cup semi final.

Yaya puts United to the sword in the 2011 FA Cup semi final.

Who could ever forget the catalyst to City’s modern day success – the 1-0 FA Cup Semi Final win in 2011, the ‘Should’ve Been 10’  6-1 Old Trafford massacre later that year, or the momentous 1-0 win at the Etihad on the run-in to City’s first Premier League title in 2012.

Happy days indeed and occasions that could be repeated in 2017.

Why always him? On a day when Mario was Super and not Mad, City took United to the cleaners 6-1.

Why always him? On a day when Mario was Super and not Mad, City took United to the cleaners 6-1.

Another Wembley win on Sunday and a derby triumph on Thursday night, will help fast-track Guardiola to the first installment of the success he craves with City.

It’d be a cracking mandate for Pep and one that will certainly get the vote from the overwhelming majority of City fans.

 

By David Walker

  

COMPETITION TIME

Read But Never Red has teamed up with InCrowdApparel to offer readers the chance to win a superb ‘Loud, Proud, Loyal, THIS IS OUR CITY’ T-Shirt in time for next Thursday night’s Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

All you have to do is select City’s most important derby win of recent times. Was it:

 A – 1-0 FA Cup Semi-Final 2011

B – 6-1 Away 2011

C 1-0 Home 2012

Pride in Battle - you could be wearing this at the Etihad Stadium next Thursday night - either by winning our competition or buying this great City T-shirt.

Pride in Battle – you could be wearing this at the Etihad Stadium next Thursday night – either by winning our competition or buying this great City T-shirt.

Entries can be made by emailing your answer to info@incrowdapparel.com accompanied by #Manchesterderby.

Alternatively, you can respond to the Twitter poll @InCrowdApparel & @ReadButNeverRed answering A, B or C and adding #Manchesterderby #ThisIsOurCity T-shirt…and then RT the poll.

The competition closes at 11.59pm on Sunday23rd April. InCrowdApparel will dispatch the T-shirt to the winner…in time for the Thursday night derby.

From the people who brought you this Big Beauty comes another great design.

From the people who brought you this Big Beauty comes another great design.

Uniquely designed, the t-shirt features a blue supermoon dominating the Manchester skyline accompanied by the ‘Loud, Proud, Loyal, THIS IS OUR CITY’ slogan, as created by graphic designer @IanVizzi (winner of the recent Man City #cityflag design competition) exclusively for In Crowd.

If you want to ensure you are the proud owner of this great City T-shirt you can order directly from www.incrowdapparel.com

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

14 Comments

  1. April 19, 2017  9:07 pm by Susan Bookbinder Reply

    Love this David - very skilful mix of politics and football - can only be done with experience and style - a difficult combination - you do it so well - love your stuff

    • April 19, 2017  9:14 pm by David Walker Reply

      Purely opportunistic and pragmatic, but nonetheless, thank you for your kind words.

  2. April 19, 2017  10:11 pm by Will Reply

    Looks like Navas has played his way into Pep's plans. Never would have imagined it but think he has done well enough to stay as wingback if he wants to. Two huge games as you say, will be nervy I am sure but City looking good I think.

    • April 19, 2017  11:01 pm by David Walker Reply

      Navas has indeed played well but I think he has a three-year deal in the offing back in Seville, and with Pep looking at specialist wing backs in the summer transfer window, it probably makes sense to have a very amicable parting of the ways. It's not arrogance or over confidence to suggest City should be beating both Arsenal and United, and for that matter, all our remaining opponents this season.

  3. April 19, 2017  10:54 pm by Guv Reply

    I bet he rests Kompany against Utd. I hope not though

    • April 19, 2017  11:02 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'm hoping Vinny can play both games and if anything, Pep can rest him against Boro because a) we can beat Boro without Vinny and b) they're a bunch of dirty b@st@rds who might put his physical well being at risk.

  4. April 20, 2017  1:57 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    So here we are at what is called the "Business End" of the season.
    City have 3 objectives in the remaining games 1) Win FA Cup 2) Acquire enough points to get 3rd or at worst 4th spot in the league 3) Beat Manu.
    Some of the football this season has been terrific but this has been offset by some woeful defending which has led to losing or drawing games we have been in a good position to win.
    That is history now so looking forward let's hope VK can see this season through (A true captain), that Jesus can play even for only a few games and help secure the X number of points for Chumps League next season (It is in our own hands of course) but so called lesser teams aren't always that easy to beat.
    With Ilkay back a fully fit Jesus and the new players who will be coming there are exciting times ahead.
    Hope some of the Youth/Academy players get a chance but the pursuit of trophies (Pep's job description !!) may not encourage this policy. Pity if the Academy is just a football "factory" for young players to go out on loan and disappear.

    • April 20, 2017  2:24 pm by David Walker Reply

      As ever we are virtually as one with our views. I honestly think Pep will give every encouragement to the likes of Foden, Diaz and Sancho coming through the CFA. The CFA is supposed to mirror the aspirations and outputs of Barcelona's La Masia - that means bringing players all the way through to the first team and having them stay there as permanent fixtures for a large part of their careers. It'll be interesting to see if Patrick Roberts, Marlos Moreno and Oleksandr Zinchenko figure next season. It sounds as if Enes Unal cannot due to ongoing work permit problems.

  5. April 20, 2017  3:05 pm by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    Superbly written, as always. I wish that I had even half of your writing skills.
    Win the next two games and the season can end on a high note with the securing of 3rd place and a possible FA Cup win. Anything else doesn't bear thinking about.

    • April 20, 2017  6:04 pm by David Walker Reply

      That's way too generous George but very much appreciated - thank you. With reinforcements such as Kompany and Jesus back in the fold there's no reason why we can't win all of our remaining games and lay the foundations for a much improved 2017/18 when it will be more and more Pep's team as opposed to a composite of Mancini's and Pellegrini's. Good luck in the competition.

  6. April 20, 2017  10:36 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Nicely put Dave, let's hope we do the Arsenal & then do Utd. What great results they would be it would make for one very noisy city fan round here.

    • April 21, 2017  9:44 am by David Walker Reply

      As Slade used to 'sing' Cum on Feel The Noize - you would not be alone! Cheers fella ;-)

  7. April 23, 2017  5:42 am by Zahar Abdul Rahman Reply

    Would our youth be given the chance to play in the first team realistically? Or are we just pinning on hopes that someday they will? Its seemed quite clear to me that none of our managers since Mancini are willing to take that risk.

    • April 24, 2017  3:51 pm by David Walker Reply

      In fairness, I don't recall Mancini bringing too many kids through the ranks do you? I think Pep will with youngsters like Foden, Diaz and Sancho leading the way.

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