Date: 30th October 2016 at 1:10pm
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There was maybe an element of intrepidation filtering along to the Hawthorns as Pep Guardiola, now resplendent in adding a new record to his hitherto almost unblemished CV, found himself somewhat perturbed as to where the next victory was likely to surface.

Six without a win is not only new to his majesty but is also something unusual with this modern-day City team and failing to beat West Bromwich Albion, even on their own turf, or 3G as it is now known, could even be 4G, was not an option with the mighty Barcelona looming on Tuesday`s horizons.

His initial selection had both a feel of all out attack and safety at the back feel to it. Bravo was restored to mind the nets and in front of him was the becoming usual Stones, Otamendi and Kolarov. The role of Fernandinho and Fernando looked a bit odd with Dinho at times ordered to play right back and Do playing ideally as the holding midfielder. The situation was however very flexible as both at times appeared in the Baggies penalty area and both at times were detailed to close any doors that looked in danger of coming ajar.

From there on it was attack, attack, attack. Sterling at last in his best position down the right, Nolito down the left with Silva and Gundogan pulling the midfield strings. Oh and by the way, Pep probably saw the error of his recent ways and restored King Sergio to fire the bullets. And boy did he fire them!

I don`t get Tony Pulis at times. He has proved to be a fairly capable if limited manager. A builder of teams that can dig in if you like, but he manages almost as if he expects to be in a dog fight, when a more positive approach would bring out better solutions for his players.

Today his team looked as though it had been detailed to defend at all costs against a team that it knew had to win at all costs. In the early exchanges the Albion lines were close together and the breeding grounds for the combined skills of Gundogan and the Magician, Silva, looked crowded and unnavigable, but it was one of those situations City have faced on numerable occasions since QPR showed the world how to almost do it back in 2012. The man who undid the QPR stranglehold on that famous day was about to do likewise today.

The Blues had already showed that they meant business from the off. Twenty minutes of pass, move, push and press seemed, once again, to be going unrewarded, when Gundogan`s pinpoint pass went directly into the advancing path of the Mighty Atom, who exploded instantly to deliver an emphatic end to his so-called goal drought. It was a typical Aguero finish from the part of the field where he is most dangerous. His cross-shot just inside the far post from the inside right slot left Foster stranded and Sergio was back in business.

Within less than 10 minutes, the maestro that is the Argentino was at it again, promptly bringing a conclusion to this match as a contest, if not an end to the scoring.

Silva and Fernandinho were both trying, unsuccessfully, to get in on the act as City attacked from all angles, leaving the Baggies defensive structure in tatters. After 28 minutes, Fernandinho, once again brought the ball across half way, playing it directly into the feet of Silva on the edge of the box. He was tackled but the presence of Aguero and the emerging Nolito created an element of panic as three Albion Defenders tried to clear before the ball found its way to Sergio, in traffic around the edge of the box. The Baggies defence tried to press out, but Sergio was first of all patient as he side-stepped Olssen, then clinical as he drove his shot just inside the post and just under the bar. Neuer, Ter Stegen, De Gea et al would have all been collecting the ball from the netting after this shot, so it was inevitable that Foster would too.

The Blues were 2-0 up with less than a half hour on the clock and in fairness didn`t look under any threat from a Baggies side not really set up to attack. Rondon was toiling more or less alone finding Stones and Otamendi in uncharitable moods and even when Bravo stepped up to try to make it interesting, he couldn`t get it right to reduce the arrears.

Fair play to Pulis. After the restart he brought on a couple of replacements designed to try to take the game to City, who were by now operating in first or second gear, but probably not much more. The youngster Leko was introduced to exploit the space that City, when in back three mode, inevitably offer up down the attackers right and his cameo was one of the shining lights for the Albion fans, noted in absentia today. Kolarov was kept busy for a while by Leko`s up-and-at-them approach and it left us wondering why Pulis hadn`t trusted him from the start. City`s formation was always a signal that this space was going to be available, but the Baggies manager didn`t see fit to include that in his thinking.

West Brom had a really good spell for half an hour or so, but still didn`t do enough to ruffle the Etihad feathers and, of course were going to pay for that later on. Against Liverpool they got themselves a goal from a corner and ended the match on the front foot. City didn`t let them get close enough for set pieces and if they did they were dealt with.

Of course their spell of attacking play, which didn`t yield a goal, was always going to cost them and with 79 minutes on the clock, Fernandinho was once again bringing the ball across half way. This time he found Aguero on the edge of the box with another superb 30 yard pass. Sergio spun around the defence in search of his hat trick and 150th goal for the club, but the doors didn`t quite open. Last season he would just have hit it in hope, usually against a defenders legs, but this time around he saw Silva peel off to the left and Gundogan to the right. He slid it through to Gundogan who promptly slid it home. Neat and incisive. Where has it been for 6 weeks?

This seemed to deflate Albion a bit, but Leko wasn`t going to give up the ghost too soon. He really looked as though he was enjoying the opportunity of pitch time and was their most dangerous asset, even though the game was unlikely to be recovered. Not even a catalogue of Coco Bravo misdemeanours could introduce West Brom to some point today.

And so it was that in the last minute of the ninety, a slick City move from defence, where substitute Navas played a one-two with Gundogan in the City half before Navas slung it out wide left to Aguero who flipped it over his head to another replacement, De Bruyne. As the Belgian moved into a penalty area containing six defenders and two more on the way and Aguero and Fernando on pole, he neatly found the unattended Gundogan who in an instant tidily slipped it past Foster to complete the scoring for the afternoon and provide City with a deserved victory which looked probably more emphatic than it should have been.

There were many more positives today than I have been able to report over the last few weeks. Today it looked as though Guardiola had put the oil back in the engine, instead of treacle. The fluidity returned and against a team that was well enough organised, but which today found itself dragged all over town by City at their liveliest.

There is no doubt that Aguero was man-of-the-match. Not only did he score two and provide one of the three goals, but today his all round play had gone up a level, especially when he didn`t have the ball. We have witnessed an element of laziness to Sergio`s game in recent seasons, standing with his hands on his hips when he loses possession, but it looks as though he has now bought into the Pep ethos as he hurried and harassed and recovered the ball. Guardiola has told him he can improve if he wants to. Today we saw the embryonic signs of that and he looked different class. Different class even from himself. His inclusion this time against Barcelona, who have Pique and Iniesta on their absentee list is a no-brainer.

With both Fernandinho and Fernando on board, the team looked a bit more solid. Last season the intention was one to stick, one to twist. Invariably both twisted and left opponents with a free run at a back four ill-equipped to deal with rapid counter attacking football and time and again City paid the price. But this looked much better as the “sticker” was to be found generally in the right back area as the other moved from central midfield as we saw with the two goals that began at the feet of Fernandinho emerging once again as City`s most consistent player.

There was once again a sense that nobody wants to be left out of the line-up. Kolarov looked back on cue despite the second half disturbance generated by Leko. Stones and Otamendi looked solid even though it wasn`t going to prove to be Rondon`s day. In front of it all the attacking machine oozed class, Aguero easily the pick of the bunch.

All the big guns found themselves among the goals. Needless to say Sue was delighted with the outcome of Liverpool`s match with Crystal Palace, whose manager referred to Benteke as being world class. Apart from causing a bit of consternation and apprehension around the Scousers` central defence he didn`t do much, but their 4-2 victory keeps them breathing down City`s necks.

Ashburton Grove`s finest toiled in the first half against Moyesout`s perennial strugglers from the North East, Sunderland, before inviting themselves to a bit of a goal fest when their forgotten man, Giroud scored with both his first two touches.

Of course some of the best news of the week, as usual, presented itself from the theatre of nightmares where the Stretfords, despite having 37 goal attempts couldn`t find their way past their long since rejected Tom Heaton. With Moaning Maureen banished to the stands and Herrera flirted for 2 yellow cards his misfiring millionaires look a shadow of the team that David Moyes inherited from the red-nosed knight. Still elated over beating City reserves, surely they would move in for the kill against lowly Burnley? But hey, wait a minute. Didn`t Burnley beat Liverpool, much to Susan`s chagrin? Didn`t they only lose to a 96th minute offside goal against the Gooners? Sean Dyche`s boys will give better teams than United a game this season. I`m not looking forward to them rocking up at the Etihad. Didn`t they collect 4 point off City last time? What a joy it is to see the Nation`s Team, managed by the Special One sitting in pride of place behind, no disrespect, Watford!

The Blues now move on to another mixed bag of fixtures commencing with the return UCL fixture against Barcelona. It is time for City to stop thinking of themselves as Champions League newcomers and to go out and try to impose themselves on Messi, Suarez and Neymar. It`s time for Sergio to prove he is not far away from that level. He is easily the best striker in the Barclays Premier League. He doesn`t get freebies every week like the Catalan triumvirate, he has to work for them, often among three defenders.

After that we have Middlesbrough at home before another road trip that sees us visit Crystal Palace then Monchengladbach before winding up at Turf Moor to play Burnley. Guardiola must ensure that none of these opponents are underestimated, especially as we move towards a December which brings into play his acid test when we face Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal and Liverpool all inside 28 days.

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