It was a fairly routine affair on Saturday afternoon as Manchester City eased past League Two outfit Port Vale 4-1, to secure the defending champions’ place in the draw for the FA Cup Fourth Round.
Here’s what we learned during the game:
Pep the professional
Pep Guardiola did not express a hollow platitude when he noted in the pre-match programme that he had prepared for the game against Port Vale just as he would have done if it had been a Premier League side or Real Madrid visiting the Etihad. He named a strong side featuring the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Bernardo Silva, and the gaffer was animated on the touchline throughout the game. This attitude explains why Manchester City were able to achieve an unprecedented domestic treble last season, and eroded the prospect of an upset today.
VAR seems better in the FA Cup
Perhaps this view is coloured by the fact that the two interventions both favoured Manchester City, firstly in allowing Sergio Aguero’s goal to stand, and secondly for overturning the linesman’s offside call against Harwood-Bellis for City’s third. However, both decisions were reached relatively quickly and the trademark drawing of lines for once appeared straightforward and was done without fuss!
Birthday boy Angelino deserves more opportunities
For the second time this season Angelino found himself deployed on the left-wing, and again the Spaniard registered an assist. Although he does not possess the dribbling skills to play there regularly, his movement and crossing ability were on full display. Out of all our options at left-back, it is Angelino who boasts the biggest threat in the opponent’s final third. Against the stubborn defences Manchester City are accustomed to having to deal with, that incisiveness is highly desirable.
The future bodes well for City
Phil Foden, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Tommy Doyle all impressed this evening. Foden was the best player on the pitch, pulling the strings in midfield with a slickness that combined with a willingness to do the dirty work tracking back. Harwood-Bellis notched his first senior goal and although he was guilty of losing Pope for Port Vale’s equaliser, he was composed in possession and improved as the game went on. Doyle, meanwhile, only made a brief cameo but he was confident and lively, managing enough to suggest that he merited more minutes.
Three at the back here to stay?
Pep has recently been experimenting with a strategy that utilises three at the back, typically with Rodri joining the two central defenders. This time, it was Zinchenko’s turn to act as the midfielder-defender hybrid. In possession the Ukrainian still had license to push forward, enabling him to break the deadlock via a deflected strike. It reinforces the manager’s comments that it is a system that he is keen to explore further, and it is safe to assume we will see it in place again this season.
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