The recent phase of some of City’s most exhilarating football of the season came to a close in Yorkshire with an ecky-thump this weekend. Shorn of the scintillating young attacking trident that is Sterling-Jesus-Sané and its inherent unpredictability that has seen defenders scrambling for cover of late, Pep’s FA Cup team selection dominated by 30 something’s spluttered its way to an unhelpful replay on 28th February at The Etihad…
Admittedly, all things considered the result in itself against a vibrant side is not a disaster but the timing of it is problematic as it compromises plans for warm winter squad training at His Highness Sheikh Mansour’s power base in Abu Dhabi. On the upside, players in dire need of game time will get a second chance to prove to their manager or would be summer suitors that they have what it takes to still contribute. That might sound harsh but some of the individual performances yesterday were bloody awful and have reasserted the belief across Planet Blue that the City squad’s depth of quality is simply not good enough for where we want to be. We face a heavy run of season defining fixtures after the cup replay and players who underperformed so badly at the John Smith’s Stadium might yet be called upon again, dependent upon how the squad holds up physically. Talk of a major summer overhaul this summer has unsurprisingly resurfaced. Let’s face it, half of high flying Huddersfield’s senior players were rested.
I would have liked to have seen Pep inject some youth into the side yesterday but an initially bold commitment to blood Elite Development Squad graduates has dried up in deference to seasoned internationals much in the way that Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini before him opted to play safe.
However, one of the big plusses of Pep’s squad management has been the handling of injuries. To date overall there has been a marked reduction in injuries, particularly hamstrings this season save for notable long term absences, which brings me to Gabriel Jesus. The 19 year old’s enthusiasm and work rate energised The Blues with perfect timing and his loss, hopefully not for the entire remainder of the season could yet prove a major body blow to the club’s aspirations. But there the situation is alongside the keenly felt absence of Ilkay Gundogan and we have to move on.
With the stakes so high, especially at the top of the league table, more than ever now we need Kun Aguero firing on all cylinders. Some Blues have become concerned at all the media drooling over our talisman’s recent benching and mini goal drought, but the Mighty Atom is far too wonderfully decisive a player to stay off the score sheet for much longer. I fully expect him to deliver in the imminently tough contests with Monaco and the replay against the Terriers. Above all else, one hopes City’s recent resurgence will resume on Tuesday night when our big guns return.
On a final note, the subject of City’s suspicious run of unfavourable domestic cup draws has continued with the news that City will travel away to Premier League rivals Middlesbrough if they can dispatch Huddersfield at the second attempt. Boro away represents our 8th consecutive cup outing away from home. The Blues have also been pitted by the powers that be against top flight competition in 13 of the last 17 cup draws. Once again, we are going to have to realise silverware the hard way. Step it up again, Blues.
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