On the road again……..
Doubtless all the pre-match media attention is likely to focus on how Pulis and WBA were able to hand on to the ‘jewel in the crown` of their defence, Johnny Evans. After the much hyped transfer deadline day saga this will probably be portrayed as a ‘David vs Goliath` success story and a triumph for the little guy given how WBA ‘stood up to the Bad Guys` of the Premier League in the fight for Truth and Justice.
The truth is probably a bit more prosaic and revolved around the fact that, unable to secure a move for Elaquim Mangala and the funds that this would release, City exercised due caution & financial diligence to ensure that they remained the correct side of the FFP restrictions. But as that wouldn`t fit the narrative and is difficult to explain so the media will probably stick with the ‘refusing to be bullied` theme despite the fact that it was they who set the player`s transfer fee.
After their demolition of Watford at the weekend the prospect of a fired up City side arriving might give the WBA players cause for concern. However their trepidation at City`s scoring of 15 goals in three games, 9 of those away from home, might be tempered by the potential changes which Pep may wring for this League Cup tie. The City coach knows where his priorities lie and, whilst he undoubtedly respects this domestic tournament, he is well aware that the real measure of his success at Manchester City FC will be based upon his progress in the Champions League and Premier League. As a result I would expect some rotation within the squad – a distinction which seems lost on the media when it comes to City. Other managers ‘sensibly rotate their squad to give “fringe” players a chance` or “play the youngsters”; a coach at Manchester City usually faces accusations of “dropping” senior players and thus causing “doubts over their future at the club”.
On this theme Ederson (aka ‘Scarface`) may well be replaced by Bravo and one might expect starts for Sané, Bernardo Silva, Gundogan, Danilo, a potential return for Kompany and possible game time for Foden and/or Diaz. Just wait for the outcry if the sublime Aguero is ‘rested`, De Bruyne is given an evening to recover or Jesus is ‘benched`.
City arrive at the Hawthorns for yet another away fixture against Premier League opposition in a cup competition with much the same record against their opponents as they did when they stepped off the bus at Vicarage Road on Saturday. In the last six meetings between the clubs (all league) City have won all 6, scored 18 goals and conceded only 3*. A change in competition and the possible rotation of personnel makes these stats somewhat less predictable indicator of the outcome but one can be sure that the double factors of the whole squad knows that they are competing for places and combined with the obvious squad mentality which Pep is forging, then one can expect City to be playing with the same verve and zip that we have witnessed over the last remarkable week.
WBA come into this fixture without a win since 22nd August when they defeated Accrington Stanley in the previous round of the competition. Since then they have drawn at home against Stoke and West Ham and lost away to Brighton. Their average possession stat so far in the league is a tad over 41% and with City averaging 64%+ one can`t imagine that changing radically.
It is strange that before each of their last 3 fixtures City have been up against ‘tough opponents` – ‘potential title challengers and the club with the most history in the world` Liverpool, ‘Dutch Champions and revived league leaders` Feyenoord and ‘fourth in the table, undefeated and not conceded a goal in there last 3 games` Watford. After each of the comprehensive victories secured by City these descriptions were revised into “Well the sending off changed everything`; “It`s their first Champions League campaign for 15 years`; and “well it`s only Watford`. Little credit seems to have been awarded for the fact that perhaps their opponents created the conditions under which the results were crafted – hard work all over the pitch; an increasingly coherent understanding of what Pep expects from his players; a team unity and bond which engendered one of the most prolific strikers in Premier League history to pass to his strike partner when he could easily have opted to shoot himself (vs Liverpool) and to be happy to insist that his team mate take a penalty which could have yielded his 4th goal of the game (vs Watford) and moved him to with a single goal of equalling Eric Brook`s club goal scoring record??.
Generous, unselfish and already a club legend.
The changes that Pep Guardiola has been making at Manchester City are much more than the obvious ones constantly referred to in commentary – how much the players have cost. They run much deeper and bode well for the campaign which remains in it`s early stages. Many fans including plenty of Blues have rightly pointed to last season`s lightning fast start and the subsequent foundering after the turn of the year. Caution is needed. It is too early to get carried away but boy has it been a joy to watch and savour. The sight of Benjamin Mendy galloping down the left wing before fizzing in one of his almost pinpoint accurate crosses has been wonderful and is emblematic of the increased dynamism Pep has instilled in the players. They may have cost a lot of money but you still have to get them to play – and Pep is doing just that.
No live coverage of the game this week – no prizes for guessing which club`s fixture is being televised – so we`ll have to make do with using our imaginations as the action unfolds.
Come on City!!!
*Stats courtesy of Transfermarkt.com
Referee – tbc
Assistants – tbc
Fourth Official – tbc
Goals per game – 0.8
Avg Possesion – 51.4%
Pass Accuracy – 72.5%
Shots per game – 10.4
Discipline – 7Y, 1R
City (Premier League)
Goals per game – 3
Avg Possesion – 64.3%
Pass Accuracy – 88.2%
Shots per game – 18.6
Discipline – 9Y, 2R
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com
WBA are awaiting on the fitness of Chadli and O`Burke.
City await the potential return to fitness of Vincent Kompany.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
Danilo, Kompany, Mangala, Mendy
De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva B
Diaz, Sterling, Sané
Ederson, Stones, Silva D, Fernandinho, Delph, Aguero
WBA v Manchester City – League Cup Preview