Manchester City advance to the next round of the Carabao Cup after they picked off a Southampton side still licking their wounds following a heavy defeat last week. Here are five things we learned from a match that will be remembered for more than just the result…
At times it looked like Kevin De Bruyne was controlling the game from the centre of the pitch. It wasn’t City’s Belgian maestro, it was Tommy Doyle in his debut appearance for the first team. Playing out of position in the number six role, Doyle gave fans yet another reason to be excited for the future; keeping counters at bay whilst picking out some perfect passes.
The grandson of City legends Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe said after the game that he’s always wanted to play here since being a boy. Given how he played we can all look forward to that again. In a match where Eric Garcia and Phil Foden also featured, this was definitely a message to our academy that while chances may be few and far between, they will come, and all three players took advantage of that to some degree.
Having players come through the ranks who support the club really lifted the crowd on a cold night where everyone expected the result.
The General Strikes Back
Nicolas Otamendi’s difficult start to the season has been well documented, and many fans were doubtful he would ever start for Manchester City again. Particularly after the loss to Wolves, where his reckless sliding challenge cost his team a goal and eventually the game.
Tuesday night’s encounter proved some people wrong with Guardiola having enough faith in him to help keep out this Southampton side. He helped in doing that with a surprisingly successful sliding tackle, preventing Shane Long going through on goal.
While it may have only looked a matter of time until City broke the opposition down, Southampton defended well, looking to do what most away teams do at the Etihad; batten down the hatches and desperately try to keep the ball out of the penalty area. This leads to an inordinate amount of crosses into the box and the General proved his power in the air by rising above everyone to head the ball past McCarthy.
He may not be first on the team sheet every week but this will go a little toward repairing the confidence many had lost in our centre back.
Pass the Football From the Left Hand Side
With each passing game it becomes clearer that City prefer to attack down the left. Whether it be through Raheem Sterling or Benjamin Mendy, Guardiola’s side are increasingly utilising crosses from the left flank to try and get around a low-block defence. Which is why it was great to see Angelino have an impressive game at left back, being trusted to put in as many crosses from this position as Mendy has been in recent weeks.
Even though Sergio’s brace came from the right of the pitch, if City continue to advance down the left wing as often as they have been, options on this side are vital. So it was disappointing to see Angelino substituted late in the game with what looks like a hamstring strain.
Although he could have done more to defend the goal from the corner Southampton scored from, he played almost like a winger for most of the match. It’s a relief to know that Angelino can be trusted as Mendy’s understudy. Once Zinchenko comes back, maybe we can now make use of him in his natural midfield position now that cover has been found.
An Argentinian-Brazilian Combination
In the Predicted XI for this match we mentioned that we could see the past and future of the squad united with David Silva and Phil Foden starting together. And despite that not being the case in midfield, we saw that to some extent with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus both getting the nod.
It’s often debated whether these two strikers can play together and Pep decided to give it a go with Aguero in the centre and Jesus cutting in from the left. Sergio had the better game; captaining the side with his goal poaching cap on, while Jesus put in his usual work-horse performance.
I’m not sure if this is what fans wanted out of these two playing together but it showed that Guardiola is willing to give this combination a chance. With reports that Bayern Munich are still stalking Sané, it may be a partnership we see more of moving forward.
Ready to Retain
All in all, it was a routine win for the blues, where everyone expected them see off a Southampton team in crisis. Given how poor the Saints have been lately, Guardiola’s choice of a strong team yet again shows how seriously City take this competition and the desire they have to retain the trophy for the third season running.
We’ll find out who City draw in the quarter final this Thursday where at least five of the other seven teams still in the competition will be from the Premier League. Some might think it more exciting for us to draw a difficult team to raise the stakes slightly, but I’ll be hoping for the path of least resistance that gets us a February trip to Wembley. Not least because it will allow us to take a chance on players like Doyle again.
Follow us for live updates here: @City_Xtra
Follow the Author here: @Ignoblewretch