Manchester City’s less than comfortable win against Brighton & Hove Albion was certainly not the most entertaining Semi-Final match in FA Cup history, but nonetheless a win is a win, and City are going to Wembley (again). However, in every game there are lessons to be learnt over the 90 minutes and with that in mind, here is a brief insight into what we learned from the latest chapter in this eventful campaign.
The Quadruple is Still On!
The quadruple is a feat that has never been accomplished in the history of English football and accomplishing said triumph would ingrain this squad in football history and would raise the bar for future sides higher than it has ever been raised before. The next 21 days will make or break for the Blues as we face Tottenham Hotspur three times (twice in the Champions League and once in the Premier League) as well as three Premier League away fixtures versus Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Burnley.
The Quadruple is possible, and as stressed by Guardiola: an improbable achievement. When considering the mass of fixtures, including the extremely close-knit title-race between ourselves and a Liverpool side who continue to consistently come from difficult positions and wind up victorious, an upcoming FA Cup final, and potential European fixtures against tough opponents: Tottenham, Juventus and Barcelona standing between us and what could potentially be our first Champions League triumph, the accomplishment sounds optimistic at best. Nevertheless, it remains possible.
Kevin is the Key
Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the best player in the Premier League and is often considered to be the “complete” footballer. The inaugural Premier League Playmaker of the Season possesses excellent passing, fantastic finishing, a tireless work-rate and technique in abundance. The embodiment of a definitive game-changer. A few minutes into the game, the Belgian provided a simple, yet precise cross and Gabriel Jesus’ flawless diving header proved to be the difference maker in deciding who advanced to the FA Cup Final.
Kevin De Bruyne has been absent for most of this terrific campaign which has seen us reach the final of both domestic cups for the first time in our history. Since returning to the fold following yet another devastating setback, De Bruyne has quickly proved himself to be a player of huge importance within the City side. Having scored the opening goal against Cardiff in mid-week as well as providing a beautiful assist at Wembley, Kevin De Bruyne is back, and he may prove to be influential in what will surely be an interesting two months left of the season.
The Full-back Crisis Continues
Kyle Walker had a shocker at Wembley, clearly still nursing a knock from the Cardiff fixture. Walker would’ve had a torrid time had we have been playing against tougher opponents. The England international was hauled off at half-time following a poor first half which included an overly-aggressive, childish clash of heads with Alireza Jahanbakhsh, following a needless challenge by the Iranian, although a booking was warranted and was the correct decision. City may have seriously suffered during the second-half had Walker have been sent off. However, on the plus side: Danilo had a good showing in the second half both offensively and defensively and the Brazilian has hardly put a foot wrong when called upon this season.
On the opposite flank however, as Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fabian Delph are both injured (and the latter being out of favour), Benjamin Mendy was afforded the opportunity to start his first game since the Manchester derby in November 2018. The France international, albeit returning from a lengthy injury, appeared rusty throughout the match and it was clear that he sorely needed much more game-time before he is back to his best. Hopefully he can become a real asset in these perilous final stages of a very important campaign as well as for many seasons to come. Mendy was replaced by John Stones for the last fifteen minutes with the England international playing right-back whilst Danilo switched to left-back.
Due to City’s full-back woes, it may not be improbable to see Aymeric Laporte playing left-back in our upcoming Champions League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur. However, given the various issues with our full-backs, Guardiola may have been testing the waters on whether a back-four featuring Danilo at left-back and John Stones at right-back could operate effectively, as seen by the final 15 minutes at Wembley.
Defence and Attack, 14 on his Back.
Although this article is titled “5 Things We Learned”, this section will go against the grain: Aymeric Laporte is undeniably a class defender and following a less than stellar first (half) season in blue, accompanied by reservations about his ability, the Frenchman has since blossomed into one of the best centre-backs in the country. Aymeric Laporte has been an ever-present throughout the season and he is undoubtedly our first-choice centre-half as well as a shoo-in for the Premier League Team of the Season. In the tougher than expected semi-final against Brighton, Laporte was instrumental in the blues keeping a third consecutive clean sheet with a crucial goal-line clearance. Had it not been for this vital save, the game could’ve been very different and may have even resulted in a shock semi-final exit for City.
The Frenchman has all of the qualities expected of a top-class modern centre-back. Aside from being excellent at the defensive aspects of the game, Aymeric Laporte also possesses stunning technical ability and a great passing range. This was evident in the build-up to the first goal. Brighton failed to press Laporte as he advanced into their half prior to pinging a long ball to De Bruyne which led to the first (and only) goal of the match. With four headed goals this season, Aymeric Laporte has also proven himself to be a threat from set pieces. Through his excellent performance against Brighton and great displays throughout the season, he has shown himself to be an ideal long-term replacement for the colossal Vincent Kompany. Aymeric Laporte looks set to become a talisman for the club.
We Can Win Without Playing Well
To be frank, City’s latest match at Wembley wasn’t exactly our best performance of the season. Sloppy passing and poor crosses hindered our attacking proficiency, and for the remainder of the run-in, we must be more lethal in front of goal or else disaster could follow. Nevertheless, in recent weeks City have shown that even a less than stellar performance has been enough to grind out results. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you win, but that you do win, and Saturday’s performance was a perfect example of this. What truly matters, is that City got the job done. To be fair to Brighton, they performed very well and deserve to be commended for their efforts in the FA Cup this season. However, with all eyes fixated on a tough fixture in the Champions League on Tuesday, a complacent performance was enough for City to progress to the FA Cup final. Hopefully, it will be a more enjoyable experience than the last one!
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