Date: 3rd February 2017 at 9:18am
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‘Danger Pep Guardiola’ could well be the phrase on the lips of many City fans as they adapt the phrase used so frequently by the genial Robot B9 often whilst waving his arms around maniacally on the 1960s TV series Lost in Space (definitely showing my age…).

Usually uttered when the youngest member of the space family Robinson were about to be attacked by a giant talking vegetable (it was the 1960s remember) on a planet made from polystyrene) in this instance and in this part of the galaxy it would be a warning the City coach not to take our next opponents lightly. Remember Pep…the last time we returned from the capital having thumped the Hammers we ourselves got turned over 0-4 by Everton so he would do well to heed the warning and ensure that he prepares thoroughly for the visit of Paul Clement`s men.

Swansea, on their third manager this season, arrive at the Etihad having secured back to back wins which have lifted them out of the relegation zone. With one of those victories having been over Liverpool at Candlefield, one suspects that they will be feeling confident under their new coach. Clement has arrived at the club with a comprehensive CV as an assistant coach having assisted Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. In his first season working with Ancelotti he won the Premier League at Chelsea and in their first season at Real Madrid they collected the Champions League trophy and the Copa del Rey so he will know something about instilling a winning spirit into players. After the doomed reign of Bob Bradley (85 days in charge, 11 games, 2 wins, 29 goals conceded) Clement’s experience and knowledge of the Premier League could make all the difference to the club from South Wales as they strive to escape from the relegation trap door.

Despite City’s excellent record against the Swans (last six – W5 D1 L0) the threat of ‘New Manager Bounce’ looms very large and caution would be advised despite the scintillating displays witnessed in the last two outings in London. Pep deployed his fast, mobile young forwards behind the mercurial vision and passing abilities of Silva and De Bruyne and was rewarded with two clean sheets and 8 goals. Having struggled to regain any sense of the joyous football delivered in the heady days of late summer and early autumn we have been offered tantalising glimpses of Pep’s vision for how he wants his team to play. Gone has been the turgid slow build-up which enabled opponents to recover their shape and stifle the incisive forward passing from the City midfield. This has been replaced with an urgency to recover the ball quickly, deliver it to swiftly to Silva or De Bruyne and drive forward into the gaps with the lightning pace of SanĂ©, de Jesus and Sterling forcing opponents to defend facing their own goal.

Gabriel de Jesus has rightly featured on the back pages of the print media after the victory over West Ham given his nerveless introduction to English football in the FA Cup against Crystal Palace (including bonus biblical hailstorm) and his vibrant display at the London Stadium. His mobile, energetic, hardworking and unselfish play was the epitome of what Pep Guardiola wants from his forwards and something which the watching Sergio Aguero would do well to take note of.

Guardiola of course wants his players to score…but he would always, always want the player with a 20% chance of scoring by squeezing in a spectacular shot at an acute angle to pass to the player running in support and with an 80% chance of finishing the attack. He sees the ball nestling in the back of the opponent’s net as the culmination of an entire process from the winning tackle by Bacary Sagna in his own half, the swift delivery of the ball to the silky feet and vision of David Silva, the energy and slide rule passing by De Bruyne and the unselfish and perfectly delivered cut back into the path of the team mate who doesn’t have to break stride to stroke the ball home. The team scores.

Individual glory comes second. There have been times during de Jesus’s first two games when the starkest contrast I have noticed between him and Aguero has been his willingness to quickly pass to team mates – he has provided two inch perfect assist passes in his first two games from positions where I thought that Aguero might have dribbled (Crystal Palace – set up Sterling) or tried to drag the ball back to engineer a shooting opportunity for himself (West Ham – set up de Bruyne). This is of course all speculation – Aguero may well have done the same as de Jesus in both instances but there are times when his burning desire to score has perhaps led him to ignore such opportunities to pass to a better placed colleague and the chances have gone begging. This is not a criticism of Sergio Aguero – he has probably been weighed down by the team`s reliance upon him scoring and getting them out of a hole that his trust in others gets tainted just a little and which might cause him to try the 20% chance instead of seeking to pass. Rather it is a comment upon the dynamic of the team – the arrival of de Jesus, the fully fit and newly confident Leroy SanĂ©, the ongoing revival of Raheem Sterling…these may all lift the weight of goal scoring responsibility from Sergio’s shoulders and far from being side-lined he could once again flourish in the space these young guns will create for him.

At the other end,two games played, two clean sheets and so the bigger question perhaps is whether Pep will retain the services of Willy Caballero at the weekend. There is undoubtedly a case for doing so, for further protecting Bravo from the vicissitudes of the media spotlight and the barracking from even his own team’s fans. Pellegrini did so with Joe Hart when the media attention became almost unbearable, when every touch became a pressure point and where self-confidence becomes so eroded that judgement just drains away. Perhaps Pep has come to recognise this. There was a moment during the West Ham game when as the City players prepared to defend a corner, a camera behind the goal caught Caballero shouting and directing the City players in front of him. Voluble, English speaking, confident, competent with his distribution and just…more imposing a presence, his continuation in goal coupled with the return to fitness of Vincent Kompany could well prove to be the key to securer foundations upon which Pep can build his temple of football.

So caution is needed but the wins against Palace and West Ham and more importantly the manner in which they have been achieved, should have confidence, purpose and conviction coursing through the veins of the City players. The excitement that these young players can generate will have the faithful off their seats on more than one occasion at the Etihad as they rise in anticipation when Sane, de Jesus or Sterling surge forward.

These are the times when we look forward to the next game…and we won’t have to wait long so make plans for having an early Sunday lunch.

Come On City!!!

Team News

Man City
Out – Gundogan
Doubt?

Swansea City
Out – Britton; McBurnie
Doubt? – Taylor; Montero

City are without Gundogan who is continuing his recovery from rupturing his ACL. He appears to be making good progress and is due for the cast to be removed this week. We wish him well on his journey to full fitness.

Swansea will be missing Britton and have doubts against Montero and Taylor.

Last 8 Form (all comps)

Swansea City LLWLLWW
Manchester City WLWWLDWW

Previous meeting (last 6 matches)

EPL 24/09/16 Swansea 1 Man City 3 W
EFLC 21/09/16 Swansea 1 Man City 2 W
EPL 15/05/16 Swansea 1 Man City 1 D
EPL 12/12/15 Man City 2 Swansea 1 W
EPL 17/05/15 Swansea 2 Man City 4 W
EPL 22/11/14 Man City 2 Swansea 1 W

Goals – City 14 Swansea 7
Y Cards – City 15 Swansea 5
R Cards – City 0 Swansea 0

 
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