Date: 15th September 2017 at 7:12am
Written by:

Fresh from a wonderfully composed and professional performance in Europe and after demolishing Liverpool last weekend City are once more back on the road in the Premier League where they travel to Vicarage Road to face Marco Silva`s high flying Watford.

Aside from the rags and City, Watford are the only other undefeated team in the league this season and sit in fourth place on 8 points. A decent start from their new Portuguese manager who after a single year in charge opted not to accompany Hull City to the Championship after their relegation last season. This should perhaps not be a surprise – he only stayed at his 2 previous clubs (Olympiacos and Sporting Clubs de Portugal) for single seasons.

As City revisit the scene of their previous 5-0 win in the Premier League on the last day of the 2016/17 season they perhaps need to take care not to read too much into that victory. This time around it is early in the season, players are fresh, they have a new manager and all to play for. Watford will present a different test this time around I suspect especially after having put three past Liverpool on the opening day and most recently despatched Southampton 0-2 at St Mary`s last weekend.

Their transfer activity over the summer have seen the arrival of the Brazilian winger Richarlson from Fluminense, the talented Will Hughes from Derby, Chalobah from Chelsea (yes, he`s the one who shoved Aguero over in the debacle at the Etihad last season & faced no sanction) as well as Andre Grey from Burnley. Oh yes, and journeyman ex-rag Tom Cleverley from Everton.

Averaging less than 50% possession in the league so far (46.7% to be precise) Pep`s men can expect to see a lot of the ball and, should Pep retain three centre halves, perhaps expect from their opponents similar tactics to those employed by Koeman – hit the ball long into the space behind City`s advanced wing backs. The other theme that seems to be emerging is the targeting of Otamendi with through passes into the space on the left side of our back three. A bit isolated by the progressive nature of Benjamin Mendy outside him, the Argentine defender has been left a little exposed at times encouraging a resumption of his tendency to get drawn into challenges. Liverpool exploited this a few times at the weekend and he swiftly ended up on a yellow card and subsequently might well have seen City reduced to ten men for the third successive match had not the dynamic of the game been altered by the removal instead of Said Mané.

That decision has been the subject of significant debate and for some odd reason appears to be divisive amongst football supporters and pundits alike for reasons which pass understanding. I have been utterly bemused by the whole ‘debate` – the player left the ground with both feet at pace; he was in mid-flight & therefore not in control when the studs of his boot caught an opponent on the side of the face, leaving him requiring treatment for nearly eight minutes and eight stitches for the resulting wound. How is it not dangerous?

Oh and absolute shame on those Liverpool ‘fans` at the ground who actually booed the injured player whilst he was being placed onto a stretcher as the medical staff assessed what, at the time, they clearly felt might have been a more serious head injury including concussion and possible facial bone fractures. Just add this to the evidence folder of their lack of class alongside their disgraceful treatment of Raheem Sterling.

Not that it is relevant but Mané never touched the ball. Had he made a tackle like that elsewhere on the field and caught an opponent on the thigh whilst sliding in both feet off the ground making zero contact with the ball it would have been a red card. For some bizarre reason the fact that his foot was at head height and the opponent was a goalkeeper seems to have generated a plethora of irrelevant and contradictory excuses for his action and reasons why he should have stayed on the pitch: –

‘He was only looking at the ball’ – irrelevant. As irrelevant as saying ‘But I got the ball!” after breaking someone’s leg in the tackle.

‘He didn’t see the keeper coming’ – illogical. If he didn’t know the keeper was there he would have let the ball drop and wouldn’t have needed to launch himself into mid-air to try and reach it.

‘He was looking to tip it away from the keeper’ – Specious & contradicts the one above. If he didn’t see the keeper coming then how could have been ‘trying to tip it away from him`?

‘He has to go for that. The reward is so great if he beats the keeper to the ball, he just has to go for it’ – Specious. No he doesn’t if it endangers his opponent. The ‘reward’ (as mooted by Gary Neville on Sky`s commentary) is irrelevant.

Let`s try this Gary. Let`s play the ‘Imagine Game`???Close your eyes and imagine that it is your 9 year old son or daughter that is playing in goal and has come out to head the ball and they are the one getting kicked in the head???.would you have thought it a ‘fair tackle` then?

I don`t think you would somehow.

But enough of this and the specious arguments of the vague-minded dippers or ‘pundits`?..

With the rags getting an extra day off (they don`t play until Sunday having played at home on Tuesday) to recover from their exertions at home against those giants of European football, FC Basel, City have the chance to move to the top of the table on Saturday and build on the marker laid down last weekend. Their record against the Hornets in the last six meetings (4 league, 2 FA Cup) bodes well having won all those matches scoring 18 goals and conceding only thrice. The key to this game as it probably will be all season is securing an early goal – it opens at the doors and helps to create the space where the talents of Silva and De Bruyne can come to the fore.

Danilo impressed with his versatility against Liverpool and Mendy was outstanding – his early crossing from the left is a forward`s dream. Coming off the bench and netting twice last Saturday Sané has clearly risen to the challenge and made a case for inclusion in the starting XI but I think Pep will stick with his flying wings backs to start with and use Sané`s pace against tiring legs. His finish for his first goal was sublime by the way. Kevin De Bruyne seems to have found his mojo and is purring like a Rolls Royce in the City engine room.

One would hope that the media myth of ‘can Jesus and Aguero play together?` would finally be put to bed after the latter set up his team mate to score when he could easily have opted to take the ball around Mignolet for a second time early in the second half against Liverpool. They combined well and clearly can form a deadly partnership for the Blues – something which was once again demonstrated in the Champions League on Wednesday evening. The hacks will continue to cling onto this ‘myth` for a while yet but will increasingly find it hard to justify. David Silva remains the maestro, quietly pulling the strings. But above all there are ominous signs that Pep really is starting to make the squad his own and weave his magic behind the scenes, bolstering player`s confidence both individually and collectively as they increasingly deliver the connected joined-up performances that he seeks.

The mark of champions is measured in many ways – showing resilience and getting back into games when behind; keeping going until the very end; securing points when the going gets tough; winning games against other title contenders??.and managing to deal with the pressure of mid-week European football whilst maintaining your league momentum.

This weekend City face the latest of these tests – maintaining consistency. Time to follow up last weekend`s emphatic thrashing of Liverpool and the composed professional performance in Europe with another solid league result.

Come on City!!!

Our opponents


Match Officials

Referee – Anthony ‘Altrincham` Taylor
Assistants – Gary Beswick; Adam Nunn
Fourth Official – Neil Swarbrick

Stats** comparison:-

Watford (Premier League)

Goals per game – 1.8
Avg Possession – 46.7%
Pass Accuracy – 73.2%
Shots per game – 12
Discipline – 3Y, 1R

City (Premier League)

Goals per game – 2.3
Avg Possession – 64.6%
Pass Accuracy – 87.7%
Shots per game – 16.3
Discipline – 9Y, 2R

**Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com

Team News

Watford will be without Kaboul, Cathcart & Hoban. Doubts exist over Femenia, Prodl & Pereyra. They will also be without the suspended Britos after his sending off for a challenge where he left the ground with both feet and clattered an opponent which was deemed dangerous. Oh – there was NO massive outcry about an injustice being done.

City await news from Pep on the condition their captain Vincent Kompany. Injured whilst on International duty one has to feel that Pep`s patience may well be running a bit thin.

Potential starting XI, subs & formation

Ederson

Danilo, Stones, Otamendi

Walker, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva D, Mendy

G Jesus, Aguero

Subs:-

Bravo, Mangala, Silva B, Gundogan, Sane, Sterling, Diaz

 

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