• Nick Hamer

Pre Match Review | Manchester City (a)

Manchester City vs Sheffield United - 29/12/2019

English Premier League

Friday night’s defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers has pretty much meant that City are out of the Premier League title race and along with their injury and suspension list getting bigger and bigger. Could this be the best time to play them? Or will their hunger for a reaction make it the worse time to play them?

Last Time Out

Sheffield United 2 (Shelton 12, Stead 24) - 1 (Sturridge 48) Manchester City - 27/01/2008

FA Cup 4th Round

The famous balloon-gate! The Manchester City fans arrived at Bramall Lane on a sunny but cold and fairly blustery afternoon in January in high-spirits.

At the time, City were managed by former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson and found themselves 7th in the league and they were only 2 points away from the Champions League places.

Couple that with a seemingly winnable away tie in the FA Cup against a team who were having a bad time under Bryan Robson, 14th in the table and 9 points away from the playoff places despite being one of the favourites to get promoted that year. They were well within their right to make the short trip from Manchester to Sheffield and treat it as a celebration.

So why not bring balloons? You can’t have a party without balloons. Have you ever been to a mass party without them? Of course not.

It’s not like with 12 minutes on the clock, balloons would still be in the City penalty area and a Lee Martin cross would touch said balloons, causing some confusion from Michael Ball and the other defenders in the box, which meant Luton Shelton could tap in the opener.

Paddy Kenny would palm away an Elano free kick and another effort from Emile Mpenza as the away side pushed for an equaliser but the Blades would find themselves 2 goals to the good after 24 minutes.

City’s defenders were having a shocker and once Richard Dunne found himself unable to make a clearance, John Stead was able to score the United’s second.

A young Daniel Sturridge reduced the deficit with a lovely finish not long after half time after coming on for Elano, but it would be United who would go on to the 5th round.

It still wouldn’t be enough for Robson who found himself sacked a couple of weeks later. It proved to be for the best as United would go on to make a late push for the playoffs but narrowly miss out by 2 points.

Manchester City went on to finished 9th and Eriksson would find himself sacked after losing to Middlesborough 8-1 on the final day of the season, but the following summer Manchester City’s fortunes changed massively.

Summer at Manchester City

Notable Ins: Rodri (£62.6m, Manchester City), João Cancelo (£60m, Juventus), Pedro Porro (£10.5m, Girona), Angeliño (£5.3m, PSV Eindhoven), Scott Carson (Loan, Derby County)

Notable Outs: Danilo (£32.3m, Juventus), Douglaz Luiz (£15m, Aston Villa), Fabian Delph (£8.5m, Everton), Patrick Roberts (Loan, Norwich City), Arijanet Muric (Loan, Nottingham Forest), Lukas Nmecha (Loan, Wolfsburg), Toisin Adarabioyo (Loan, Blackburn Rovers), Eliaquim Mangala (Free, Valencia), Vincent Kompany (Free, Anderlecht)

The biggest loss for Manchester City this summer would be their captain, goalscorer of THAT goal against Leicester City to all but win a second consecutive league title and in the second half of last season at least, their second-best centre-half in Vincent Kompany.

Add that to losing Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sané through long-term injuries early in the season and not buying a replacement, it was always going to be a fairly difficult campaign to City, with it being fairly clear now that Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones no longer have the trust of Pep Guardiola.

Rodri was brought in to provide cover and an eventual replacement for Fernandinho, who was always going to be moved into a centre half position at times this year and has probably been their best defender and if he was paired with Laporte, things may be a lot different this season.

Cancelo and Angeliño were brought in to provide competition in the full back areas with the former being able to play in either position. We haven’t seen a lot of Cancelo yet and with City’s struggles at left back, with the fitness of Oleksander Zinchenko and the apparent lack of faith Guardiola has in Benjamin Mendy, why not give him a try?

Manchester City’s Recent Form

November’s defeat to Liverpool meant that the title was always going to be a big ask for Manchester City, that’s before you even consider Liverpool’s incredible form and the fact that after a win over Chelsea, City would stumble again when letting a late lead slip at St James’ park.

A comfortable midweek win over Burnley in early December was just the tonic for a result like that but what followed wasn’t, they would then lose at home to Manchester United and would find themselves 14 points off the league leaders and 6 points off Leicester City. Comfortable wins over an insipid Arsenal and an impressive result against Leicester City gave the impression that no matter what, Manchester City weren’t going to give up.

Liverpool then battered Leicester City on Boxing Day and last night saw Wolverhampton Wanderers come from 2 behind to beat a 10-man City 3-2. Which would make you think that it is now impossible to do anything domestically apart from win a few cups and their focus should be switched to the Champions League?

But what has been the problem? Injuries have played their part of course and not adequately replacing Vincent Kompany has been a major factor also.

Could the ongoing speculation of the now-departed Mikel Arteta had been a factor for increased anxiety around the club and dressing room? Or could it merely be that in his 4th season in charge that Guardiola is now no longer able to get his message across?

It happened during his 4th and final season at Barcelona and he only did 3 at Bayern. He has always said that the right time to walk away is when the players are not as listening as much anymore, that time may come sooner rather than later.

Wilder Quotes

"It's a fabulous start from a newly-promoted side but I'm a bit greedy actually as I feel we could've done a little bit better, I think we need to take a step back as it is a great start as regards performances and results, but the assessment comes at the end of the season. I'm confident we can continue to pick up points in the second part of the season. We won't be lacking desire, that won't happen. Historically in the second parts of the season, we have been pretty strong so we're looking to be just as strong in the Premier League in 2020.

We understand how tough the division is and one defeat in 12 is a terrific return for some consistent performances, but we still feel we have a lot to prove and we want to kick on in the new year. It has been about, and will be about, consistency. We've given ourselves every opportunity of getting a result in virtually every game. We've gone toe-to-toe with everybody, and I'm delighted about that.

"The standards we've set have been fabulous and high. I haven't been tossing a coin up in the air and wondering what kind of performance I'm going to get from my team, we've been consistent in our displays and our attitude." - On continuing 2019’s form into the New Year.

“A total respect, but not over doing it. We aren’t doing any more on Manchester City than what we did on Watford. We’re in this position by merit. They’re in their position by merit. This is the beauty of the game.” - On facing Manchester City

“There’s a couple that we’ll look at from an injury point of view, and there’s a couple that we’ll look at from a fatigue point of view.” - On fitness

Opposition Style of Play

Manchester City’s style comes from Pep Guardiola’s philosophy of Juego de Posición, which translates as Positional Play, the style that he was taught at Barcelona from Johan Cruyff, who we associate with the philosophy of Total Football and of Juan Manuel Lillo, the nomadic Spanish coach who is said to have been the originator of the 4-2-3-1 formation. Guardiola played under Lillo at Mexican side Dorados toward the end of his career, so that he could learn under him.

At Barcelona, Guardiola has always said that the tactic was to get the ball to Messi as quickly as possible, add in the bulk of the Spanish National Team that won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. It is not a surprise that Barcelona would play a style similar to that of ‘tiki-taka’

As that generation aged and Guardiola left Spain it is no-wonder that tiki-taka died out, at Bayern Munich, Guardiola said to his players that he ‘hated tiki-taka’ and that it was ‘fucking shit’. This doesn’t mean that making sure you have the ball isn’t important, it’s more about what you do in the right moments.

Manchester City are more of Guardiola’s Munich than they are his Barcelona. The wider players will stay high, a full back will move inside to play in a more central position when in possession, something he worked on at Bayern so that he could stop being hit on the counter. Which at times can make it look like City are playing a WM formation from the 1930's

A big part of City’s style is to create overloads in an area of the pitch so that a diagonal pass could be hit to a spare man, utilising the space that had been left (sound familiar?). Which can then be utilised by players rushing into the box for a cut back or low cross.

None of this can be possible though without bringing the ball out of defence and playing out from the back, meaning that players pressing is once again creating space. However, with the likes of Ederson and Laporte missing, Otamendi and Stones not being in great form, fixture pile-up and fatigue and Sheffield United’s relentless energy when pressing, City may not find it so easy.


I expected a battering up until yesterday evening when Wolves scored late and the fact that Bravo will be in goal. It’d be nice to end 2019 unbeaten away from home in the Premier League. I’ll go 1-1.

Betting Tips

Lys Mousset to score last at 15/2 (SkyBet); Sheffield United or Draw at 11/4 (SkyBet)

Possible XI’s

I can see City going for more conventional centre halves to try and be more physical against us. Mousset has to start considering what Manchester City are like defensively at the moment.

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