After a first half of painful viewing, due largely to the state of the pitch the two teams were playing on, City went on to beat Newport by a margin of victory which perhaps doesn’t do the home side’s efforts justice. Joe Butterfield takes a look back over the main talking points from the game.
City’s squad is worth more than Newport’s
No, you don’t need an eye test. Your screen isn’t throwing out random words. This is actually true. Newport County of League Two have a squad which is worth only a fraction of that of the Premier League champions.
BBC Radio 5 Live’s official Twitter feed took no time at all to make the comparison as soon as the starting XIs were announced.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in having my mind blown by this comparison, having to grip the arm of the sofa tightly to ensure that I didn’t fall to the floor in some kind of fit as my brain struggled to comprehend the figures before me.
Once I’d composed myself, however, I thought about it for two seconds and I shrugged.
Every single time one of the Premier League’s top teams (particularly Chelsea and City, whose riches have come through filthy, non-organic methods) comes up against a minnow in a cup competition, the insightful analysis comes out. Of course, by insightful analysis, I mean the boring comparison of how much the two squads cost, as if the idea that the squad of a Premier League giant is more expensive than that of a League Two team is a revelation.
Sure, it makes for a great story when the Non-League teams come out victorious. “The goalkeeper is a bin man in his dayjob and he’s just saved a shot from Paul Pogba!” It’s the kind of pseudo-viral crap that LADbible and BBC Sporf live on. However, when they do it before the game’s even kicked off it becomes apparent that it’s being done to suit a boring narrative – City are the big bad rich guys and you should want them to lose.
Riyad Mahrez is not good
This might be a bold claim given that he scored a goal at the end of the match, but Mahrez was absolutely terrible today in my opinion. He spent the entirety of the first half just getting the ball in the final third, taking it wide-right, cutting inside and taking a shot when there were better options.
This is becoming a recurring theme for Mahrez and, as a player who’s apparently growing increasingly frustrated by his lack of game time, performances like this and cameo appearances on the level of the last 10-15 minutes of the Chelsea game last weekend, in which he couldn’t have looked less interested unless he’d kept his AirPods in and spent the whole game on his phone, are making it difficult for Guardiola to justify picking him over putting Raheem, Leroy or Bernardo on the wings in his place.
His decision-making generally, as it was today, is absolutely awful. He hasn’t adapted to the Guardiola system of picking out the best goal-scoring option, even when it’s not yourself, and instead has gone too far the other way in an attempt to prove himself to Pep. Rather than looking for his team-mates to gift them a goal, he’s instead become more insistent on shooting as soon as he sees the whites of a goalpost, which is leading to him hitting about 78 shots off target every game and making himself look much worse in the process. He doesn’t look any closer to getting a Premier League start any time soon.
This isn’t to say Mahrez never will adapt, nor that he won’t still have a part to play between now and the end of the season, however after a promising purple-patch in the autumn of 2018, his form has gone off a cliff and he’s showing no signs of getting back to where he was.
John Hartson is not good
For all of us who had to suffer through the BT Sport coverage of this game, it’s fair to say the worst part of the coverage was the idiotic co-commentary of John Hartson.
When he wasn’t stumbling over the names of the entire City squad, slurring or mispronouncing every single player on the pitch who had a name that wasn’t even remotely British, he was very obviously rooting for the Welsh team. As he’s a Welshman, that isn’t the most surprising, or grudge-worthy thing in the world, however when it involves trying to justify the reasons why a stone-wall handball City should have been given in the first half is in fact not a penalty, it’s gone too far.
He called City’s goalkeeper “Emerson” on more than one occasion. He confused Leroy Sané with Gabriel Jesus multiple times, including when the German scored the first goal of the game. He made multiple bold claims over the course of the game, with just a couple of gems below:
I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that as Newport County’s FA Cup dream has died, so has John Hartson’s co-commentary career.
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