Vintage Pep has City fizzing
Pep Guardiola’s side has served up plenty of champagne football this season, albeit the last couple of wins weren’t quite vintage stuff – but nonetheless, palatable.
The stout resistance of a bus-parking Burnley was quite rightly ended by a 100% bona fide penalty, dispatched by record-equalling Sergio Aguero, followed by a quick two goal salvo from Nicolas Otamendi and Leroy Sane.
It didn’t come anywhere near the smooth flowing, sweet tasting spectacle of seeing Stoke succumb 7-2 just seven days earlier, nor the downing of a classy Italian number, as Napoli choked on a Champions League night when Manchester City mesmerised and delighted in equal measure.
The drinks trolley was running a tad flat as Wolves rolled into town to contest the ‘Thai Fizzy Drinks Concoction Cup’ – but a fine Chilean was ‘dusted off’ from the cellar to engage Sky Blue taste buds and save the ‘day’ for a much-changed City team.
As City head to the Hawthorns in search of a 13th consecutive win today – hopefully unlucky for WBA Club Shop wearing Tony Pulis – Guardiola’s men have won 13 and drawn one of their opening 14 games this season.
They’ve scored 43 goals and conceded just six, sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League, as well as occupying first place in the Champions League Group F.
It’s ironic that despite reaching the last eight, Pep more or less conceded the League Cup is a waste of energy – a competition sponsored by Carabao – an energy drinks manufacturer, who plainly couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery after a farcical quarter final draw.
City last lost a competitive game – controversially so in the FA Cup semi final on April 23rd – and haven’t suffered a Premier League reverse since April 5th at Chelsea, a run of 16 games undefeated.
So when the media tried to tempt Pep with the question of whether City could go unbeaten all season long, he swiftly and quite understandably stamped on the question saying: ‘Forget it…Next question...’
The man is a football genius, but he’s also a pragmatist, one who has learnt well and fast in respect of the pitfalls of the Premier League.
That said, nobody expects City to come a cropper against Albion – it’d be a huge upset were it to happen – but Pulis will take encouragement from their narrow 2-1 League Cup defeat to City in September, and also from Wolves stoical resistance for 120 minutes on Tuesday night.
Statistically Albion are on a hiding to nothing having lost the last 11 league meetings with City, their last win over the Sky Blues coming back in December 2008.
Perhaps of more relevance will be the return of Ederson, Delph, Otamendi, Fernandinho and David Silva – all rested from the exhausting Wolves battle – and starting berths for Tuesday’s quartet of substitutes Stones, Walker, De Bruyne and Sane.
Whether Sergio Aguero – veritably itching to finally hit his 178th and record-breaking City goal – starts alongside Gabriel Jesus, remains to be seen, especially with a tough trip to Naples next Wednesday.
Pep has attacking and midfield options with Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Gundagon and Yaya Toure, as well as defensive back up in Danilo and Adarabioyo.
Kompany is once again ruled out, but is scheduled to be back in contention within the next two weeks – great news if – if – he can stay fit and display his previous good form.
Had it not been for the not insignificant matter of playing for England in the U17 World Cup Final against Spain in India at 3.30pm BST today, you get the impression Phil Foden would be in the frame for some first team action.
The prodigious youngster from Stockport would undoubtedly have played against Wolves, along with the injured Brahim Diaz, and it’s clear Pep wants to see the pair push on to gain more first team experience this season.
At the other end of the spectrum you have a certain 34-year old veteran with well over 100 international caps who has finally discovered his true self in M11 3FF.
It was a case of bravo Bravo, as Claudio showed the City fans what Pep Guardiola thought he was getting from Barcelona 14 months ago.
It may only have been the Carabao Cup but with nearly 51,000 in the Etihad, Bravo’s brilliance didn’t go amiss as he successfully went one-on-one with attacking ‘Wolves’ three times, keeping City in the tie during the 90 minutes.
Bravo was already Man of the Match long before his heroics in the penalty shoot-out, but should we have been surprised that he saved two of the three spot kicks?
He’s been his country’s hero on many occasions, not least in two Copa America Finals where he’s seen off Messi, Aguero, Higuain and Co.
At least this time Sergio and Claudio could celebrate being on the same side.
Aguero’s ‘Panenka’ penalty – an audacious deft chip over the goalkeeper – was the magic record-breaking 178th goal that never was, because penalty shoot-out conversions don’t count as ‘real’ goals – even if it did secure City’s best ever run of 12 wins on the trot.
Sergio's the legend eternal, but it was the much maligned Bravo who had his ‘day in the sun’ on a night of pouring rain in Manchester.
Parallels with Willy Caballero – another oft criticised City keeper – were there for all to see. What is it about League Cup penalty shoot-outs that transforms City ‘villains’ into heroes?
Whatever it is, mine’s a pint, with a 'party-can' to go.
If Aguero comes good by ten-to-five this afternoon with even a solitary goal and another City win, there’ll be more than a case for breaking out a case of Argentine Mi Terruno Torontes 2014.
Bottoms up Sergio and hands down on City pulling away at the top of the league.
By David Walker
Dedicated to Wilfred Hornby aka ‘Wilfie Boy’ a true Blue coming to terms with two traumatic losses in recent days and weeks. Your City ‘family’ are here to help ease your pain.