From the moment the players stepped off the coach, we knew it had the makings of a torrid afternoon. The rain pouring, the wind howling, the BT Sports commentary team salivating… it certainly wasn’t pretty.
But with Manchester City emerging narrow winners over Swansea in the FA Cup quarter-finals, that is all in the past. Courtesy of a hilarious penalty, a dodgy linesman and, of course, Bernardo Silva, the Blues have made it to Wembley by the skin of their teeth, left wondering how they made it so difficult for themselves.
Yet trials lead to triumph, and however the win came about, Pep Guardiola will be grateful for lessons learnt on the Welsh coast. Here are a few of our own…
The spirit of 93:20 lives on
For the first time in Pep Guardiola’s reign, Manchester City came from 2-0 down to win a match. Perhaps this is not as astonishing as it might seem given how dominant City have become under the Catalonian’s management, but for a side who have an famous habit of late winners, it is still something of a shock.
Yet with Sergio Agüero being the man to seal the deal in a 3-2 victory, Blues across the globe will be rubbing their eyes to check that they haven’t put on the 93:20 tapes for the 5000th time. The Argentine remains a talisman for City’s ability to find a last-gasp winner, which is encouraging given how he seems to be enjoying one of his best ever seasons.
With Swansea now added to the ever-growing list of late winner victims, Pep will be licking his lips to see that the team do not lose their fighting spirit even when in the face of defeat. This comeback will have only strengthened their resolve that they really can win it all. Indeed, given how tangible a fabled ‘Quadruple’ seems to be now, it is vital that the Blues stay in touch with their last-gasp roots.
So close yet so VAR
Let’s make no mistake – City were dealt a big slice of fortune in the manner of their victory in Wales. Yes, the Blues were dominant enough to force the opportunities that led to their goals, but as fans of the beautiful game, there is no arguing that a soft penalty, a goalkeeper’s own goal and a narrowly offside winner probably exhausted all the luck that City were due.
Whilst this would have been an unfortunate footnote to a game in recent seasons, the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee system raises a series of crucial questions. How can a competition be fair when the rules vary between grounds? Why didn’t the Liberty Stadium have the system in place?
Who are we to argue?
Simply put, you win by the rules of the game you play. As Pep rightly pointed out in his post-match remarks, City were one of a small minority of clubs who voted in favour of VAR before the start of the season. You need a sprinkling of luck to see you through sometimes, but to say City themselves are in the wrong for scraping a result is a just a tiny bit on the ignorant side.
Fabian Delph, you have failed this City
Turned inside out so many times he might as well have been an umbrella, Fabian Delph has surely worn a City shirt for the last time. You simply can’t risk single-handedly costing a team an FA Cup two seasons in a row and expect to be granted any forgiveness.
Don’t get me wrong, Delph will forever be a part of history at this club for his heroics during the Centurions season. But when it comes to the ‘basics of football’, my god… has there ever been a bigger gap between theory and reality?
To add insult to hopefully no more left back injuries, the fact that Oleksandr Zinchenko replaced Delph and looked like a better defender (let alone attacker) is not going to strengthen the Englishman’s case for further inclusion.
It’s not that we don’t love you in our own way, Fabian. It’s just that no one is stopping you from a Leeds United reunion come the summer transfer window.
A Tale of Two Youth Players
It seemed to be written in the stars. On one side, former City youth player, Bersant Celina. On the other, current prospect and future Ballon D’or winner, Phil Foden. At the end of the ninety minutes, the former would have shown why he now played for Swansea, and the latter would have taken his team to Wembley.
Or at least that’s what we all hoped. In truth, Celina capped off a flowing team goal for Swansea by curling in a beautiful shot, and Foden didn’t even see the pitch.
For Foden, the problem still remains that he is not David Silva and Pep Guardiola didn’t vote on Brexit. Of course, that eliminates the fact that Foden was City’s top FA Cup goalscorer this season, but as others have highlighted, it might be a while before Pep truly takes the leap of faith and hands him some responsibility in a big game.
When I say Bernardo, you say legend…
If I loved Bernardo Silva any more, I’d probably be legally bound to adopt him. The Portuguese not only is a bloody good player, but he also covers every possible blade of grass and celebrates every goal like he’s jumped on a trampoline wearing Moonshoes.
What an absolute hero he is. Genuinely. His exquisite outside-of-the-foot goal actually turned the match around for us. Who knows where we’d be without him this season?
Bearing in mind that he arrived aged 22 and has just signed a contract that will see him stay in Manchester until he’s approaching 30, it doesn’t sound outlandish to say that we could be looking at one of Manchester City’s greatest players developing right before our eyes.
Dare I say it, but his namesake David first donned the sky blue aged 24. The sky truly is the limit for Bernardo.
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