A comfortable win against Burnley saw this City team take their tally up to 28 goals in 6 games, an insane statistic by any measure. Any game in which a Sean Dyche team is beaten is always particularly sweet, even more so when you see a display as dominant as the one today’s City side put out.
So, what did we learn from this game? Corner flags aren’t indestructible, Manchester City are very good and Burnley aren’t. Below are just a few of the main talking points from today’s game.
Pep wants to win this competition. Badly.
After a mid-week game against Burton which saw a blend of youth and experience, with Garcia and Sandler being particularly impressive at the back, it was perhaps a bit naïve of me to think that we might see a similar kind of line-up. I obviously wasn’t expecting to see Poveda or Nmecha or anything like that but I don’t think it was beyond the realms of possibility to expect maybe Sandler or Garcia to return to the starting line-up against a Burnley team which is definitely not anywhere near the strength of last season.
What we got instead was a Premier League level team. No giving the kids a run-out, not even Muric is afforded this cup competition. Even Foden made the drop to the bench when, realistically, this is the only competition he’s going to get starts in for the rest of the season. This is the one domestic trophy in England which eludes Pep. it would absolutely kill him if he were to leave City without having the FA Cup on his CV and it shows.
Even the bench left no room for complacency. Every player on the bench besides Foden and Muric would be in the team’s strongest starting XI. No Garcia, no recovering Mendy, none of the youth to be brought on in case of a comfortable lead. The inclusion of Fernandinho raised many eyebrows, mine included, as he surely can’t be essential to a victory against Burnley in the FA Cup. With Newcastle, Arsenal and Chelsea on the horizon, it would be ideal to keep him rested for as much time as possible. But then I’m not Pep, so I may not be right on this one.
The FA Cup clearly isn’t a youth experience trophy like the Carabao Cup, certainly not for Pep anyway. He wants this badly.
Walker is still a cause for concern
It’s safe to say that Kyle Walker hasn’t had a brilliant time of late. His form has taken a pretty spectacular dip in the last month or so, most likely due to having played virtually every game for the best part of 4 months with no real summer break after last season ended. Whatever the reason may be, his performances have been a cause for concern.
Today his moment going forward was the best thing he did, which is something you can’t usually say for Kyle Walker. He made some good wide runs However, it was in the 20th minute when the flashes of his current form really showed.
In a challenge virtually identical to the one which saw him get a booking against Huddersfield last weekend, the ball bobbled away from the full-back and, as Steven Defour looked to pounce on the ball, Walker threw himself at a ball he was never going to get. It was a bad tackle made even worse by the poor timing and it’s safe to say that his decision-making definitely let him down. By no means did it define his entire performance of the day, but another worrying moment to add to the ever-growing pile surrounding Kyle Walker.
When Mendy is back to full fitness, it will be difficult to see how Walker retains his place when Danilo has been reasonably consistent since his return to the squad on the left-hand side, unless he can do something to arrest this slide of form.
Jesus is back
Gabi should just play every single non-Premier League game this season. A hat-trick in the Champions League, 4 in the Carabao Cup and now his scoring streak in the FA Cup has continued with another goal today. Having suffered a pretty poor spell of form while his family and friends were back in Brazil it has become clear since their return that he’s a striker who is fuelled by the power of love.
His goal today was outstanding, receiving the ball on the byline and showing a great display of balance and agility to slalom between multiple Burnley defenders, before putting his head down and his foot through the ball, beating a hapless Pope. I will resist the temptation to make a religious pun.
It’s not just his goalscoring record which has seen an improvement in the last couple of months – his pressing game is as relentless as ever (this was fairly present during his rough patch, in fairness) but his individual flashes of Brazilian flair are back. When he first joined up with the City team two years ago, he dazzled us with his dribbling technique and his pure skill. Last season he lost this and, despite his goalscoring record, appeared to be playing within himself a bit, which was only exacerbated when his family and friends left him alone in Manchester earlier this season.
Now they’re back and Gabi is back with them. He’s filled with confidence and, most importantly, he’s enjoying his football again. He’s playing with a smile on his face and taking on many more shots than in the first couple of months of the season, which can only be a good thing for the blues going forwards. You could almost say that Jesus has been resurrected.
Kev is back
When the Belgian suffered a ligament injury at the start of the season, much of the definitely-not-rooting-for-Liverpool-to-win-the-league media asked how City could possibly cope without him, wondering if this would put a serious dent in the title race for them. Of course, this proved not to be the case as City pushed forward with their title challenge without him with the aid of the Silvas.
However, despite City’s success without him, it’s clear that they’ve missed something when De Bruyne isn’t in the squad. He brings a directness and a ruthlessness to City’s attacking play – there’s not really anybody else who can pick the ball up on the edge of the centre circle, take three long strides and then play a quick, precise through-ball into the path of Sané or Sterling quite the same way that Kev does with unnerving regularity.
He’s been back in the squad for a month or so now and he’s been eased back into the squad slowly, as last time he returned he was downed with another injury immediately afterwards. It looks to be paying off, as today he put in a performance which was reminiscent of 2017/18 De Bruyne.
He played multiple pin-point passes throughout the game, including an incredible underlapping pass to Kyle Walker early in the first half, though his highlight of the game was obviously his goal. In a moment of vintage Kev, he picked up the ball on the edge of the area and hit the ball from 20 yards, which perfectly arrowed into the bottom corner. It didn’t even appear to dip, it just hovered consistently above the ground all the way.
If he can continue this form into regular games in the league and can get back into playing two or three times a week, he’ll be an invaluable asset to the squad in the crunch point of the season. He’s the kind of player who can turn any game, even the biggest. And with Champions League knockout ties, a cup final and some big top six games coming soon, he’ll be needed now more than ever.
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