West Bromwich Albion 0 Manchester City 4
Saturday 29th October 2016 : Keith Bale for
The dry spell is over – in more ways than one.
Manchester City had not won since Sergio Agüero’s last goal, away
against Swansea City on 24 September, but seven games later the
Argentina striker found the net twice in the first half to catapult
Pep Guardiola’s team past an uninspiring West Bromwich Albion and
back to the top of the table, where Arsenal had momentarily
displaced them earlier in the afternoon.
Ilkay Gündogan, who looks increasingly comfortable, capped a
terrific individual showing with two goals late on in what was
perhaps City’s most dominant performance under Guardiola.
That comes with a caveat, though, because their opponents were
plagued by hesitancy to such an extent that their own fans chided
them sarcastically before half-time with a chant of “We’ve got the
ball” when they had managed half a dozen successful passes.
Much had been said about Guardiola’s longest spell without a victory
but this response was emphatic, no matter the welcoming nature of
their hosts. He said the three points were the most pleasing aspect
of a commanding afternoon but the performance must also be a
confidence boost before the Champions League meeting with his former
club Barcelona on Tuesday.
The only period they were put under any degree of pressure was
midway through the second half when two goals in front. “We are
still learning how to improve in the second half, it’s difficult to
control 90 minutes,” Guardiola said.
Albion’s best chance when still in the game came in the opening
couple of minutes when Nacer Chadli shot over, and their only
attempt on target was a tame 67th-minute free-kick.
Instead they spent much of the match pinned back by a visiting side
that hardly broke sweat. That Ben Foster had managed the same amount
of touches as both wingers, Chris Brunt and James McClean, by the
interval spoke volumes for the level of control exerted by City in
the opening 45 minutes. “They didn’t push up,” Guardiola said, “so
we had time to think about it.”
Agüero’s first arrived in the 19th minute following an exquisite
through ball from Gündogan. The striker composed himself before
rifling low past Foster from a tight angle in a slick, almost
effortless move that made the West Brom back four appear
The hosts’ attempt to protect a clean sheet was understandable but
their dismal response to falling behind was to concede even more of
the ball. Gündogan, alongside David Silva in the centre of a
four-man line of attacking midfielders, seemed to enjoy every
Tony Pulis, who signed a new contract on Friday much to the
frustration of a substantial portion of Albion supporters, had
sought to stifle City’s midfield by pairing Darren Fletcher with
Jonny Evans but Gündogan and Silva found continuous joy.
Indeed, West Brom’s marking for Agüero’s second was the opposite of
stifling. Neither Jonas Olsson nor Gareth McAuley were alert enough
to intercept a loose ball on the edge of the area, allowing Agüero
time to take possession, turn and send a stunning effort into the
top-right corner from the penalty arc. His finish was immaculate but
the 28-year-old should never have been allowed the opportunity in
the first place.
“They were too good for us, had too much quality,” said the Albion
assistant manager, Dave Kemp, who was sent by Pulis to address the
media. “The players we’re playing against are top drawer. They’re
not coming down from the job centre. They’re very, very good.”
Albion did grow into the game briefly when Jonathan Leko and James
Morrison were sprung from the bench 10 minutes after half-time – the
latter came on for Fletcher, who was harshly jeered off – but their
end product remained so limited. Even when they finally made Claudio
Bravo work it was bread and butter for the goalkeeper, who smothered
a low, tame free-kick from Brunt.
City continued to threaten on a regular basis. Nolito, who was
booked for lashing out at Craig Dawson in the first half,
accidentally obstructed a pair of goal-bound efforts from Silva and
Gündogan, while Raheem Sterling, turning in another lively
performance on the right, shot over following a botched Allan Nyom
Foster denied Agüero a tap-in for his hat-trick in the 72nd minute
when getting his leg in front of a Kevin De Bruyne cross. The
Belgian, sufferer of a calf twinge against Southampton last week,
was introduced for the final quarter – another boost for Guardiola
before Barcelona visit the Etihad.
Agüero unselfishly turned architect for Gündogan’s first goal,
jigging along the edge of the area before his lofted through-ball
was deflected by McAuley into the German’s path. Unmarked, and with
time on his hands, Gündogan finished low past Foster for his second
goal in a City shirt.
His third followed in the final minute, a simple tap-in from De
Bruyne’s cross from on the left, though Albion already looked to
have thrown in the towel. “He has so much quality,” Guardiola said.
“He is really good with the ball, especially when attacking one on
one with defenders.”
West Brom: Foster, Nyom, McAuley, Olsson, Dawson, McClean,
Fletcher, Evans, Brunt, Chadli, Rondon. Subs: Leko, Morrison,
Manchester City: Bravo, Kolarov, Stones, Otamendi, Fernando,
Fernandinho, Nolito, Silva, Gundogan, Sterling, Aguero. Subs: Navas,
De Bruyne, Garcia
Referee: L. Mason • Attendance: 22470
Manchester City 1 Southampton 1
Saints Hold City
23rd October 2016 : GYKO at the Etihad
When Pep Guardiola travelled to the Arabian Gulf to discuss
Manchester City at the end of last season, he wanted to take total
control of the club in a way he had not been allowed at either
Bayern Munich or Barcelona. The last few weeks would have
strengthened his belief that his grip needs to be ever tighter.
Kelechi Iheanacho's eighth goal in his last 11 appearances was
enough to salvage a point against Southampton and take Manchester
City back to the summit of the Premier League but the club’s winless
run was still extended to five matches. Their manager is likely to
conclude that what City require is more rather than less Pep.
In the pages of the latest edition of Pep Confidential, written by
Marti Perarnau, a journalist with unique access to Guardiola's
thoughts, the Manchester City he saw beaten by Real Madrid in the
European Cup semi-finals was ageing and ridden with apathy. Six
months on, he watched another City side recovering from a chastening
night in Spain – the 4-0 mauling by Barcelona – and the same
thoughts must have flitted through his mind. For 45 minutes,
Manchester City were something no Guardiola team can afford to be.
They were dull and they were ordinary.
They were rescued by two 20-year-olds, Leroy Sané and Iheanacho. The
former was the recipient of a fabulous diagonal ball from
Fernandinho and he used to it to go past his marker and square for
the young Nigerian. This was the 17th shot on target of Iheanacho's
Premier League career and he has now scored from 11 of them. Not
even Gary Lineker in his pomp would have boasted those kind of
The odds were that Manchester City would then force their way past
Southampton for a second but they neither deserved nor looked like
doing so. This is a better Southampton side than travelled to Old
Trafford in August to be well beaten by Manchester United.
In the vast, imposing figure of Virgil van Dijk they possessed the
afternoon’s outstanding figure and Southampton might even have
snatched back the lead had not Claudio Bravo saved well from Charlie
Upon kick-off the light shone most brightly on two members of
Manchester City’s imperial guard, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero,
men who have served so many managers.
Having been dropped for the Nou Camp, the Etihad Stadium waited for
Aguero's response. There was in truth very little to suggest that
Guardiola had been wrong to leave him out against Barcelona. Towards
the end there was one trademark run from the Argentine that saw him
charge through Southampton’s defensive screen, brush off Van Dijk
and send his shot fizzing past the post. But there was little else.
Operating as one of three centre-halves, Kompany had a better match.
Like Aguero, his place as one of Manchester City's greats is already
secure but he had not started a league game since April – a 1-1 draw
at Newcastle. Given the number of times he has broken down painfully
in public since, you feared for him now.
It was, however, John Stones, the man slated to be Kompany's
long-term successor, for whom the afternoon went horribly wrong.
Manchester City were playing ‘tiki-taka’ on the edge of their own
area when Stones pointed upfield, turned and then passed the ball
behind him. Or in precisely the opposite direction he had indicated.
It fooled Kompany, who had pushed up, and was completely unable to
intercept Nathan Redmond as he seized on the error, took the ball
past Bravo and shot joyously into an empty net. Five minutes later
there might have been that kind of instant redemption that football
loves when Stones met a free-kick and volleyed it in at the far post
only to be called offside. He was not ready to be forgiven just yet.
Manchester City (3-2-4-1): Bravo; Stones, Kompany (Navas 78),
Kolarov; Fernandinho, Gundogan; Sane (Nolito 90), De Bruyne
(Iheanacho ht), Silva, Sterling; Aguero. Subs not used: Caballero (gk),
Fernando, Clichy, Otamendi.
Southampton (4-2-3-1): Forster; Martina, Fonte, Van Dijk, McQueen;
Clasie (Hojbjerg 67), Davis; Tadic (Boufal 70), Redmond, Romeu;
Austin (Ward-Prowse 83). Subs not used: McCarthy (gk), Yoshida,
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Durham)
Barcelona 4 Manchester City 0
Wednesday 19th October 2016 : Rob Greenacre
for GYKO at the Camp Nou Stadium
Guardiola had been asked on Tuesday how he might stop Lionel Messi.
The Manchester City manager simply laughed. There is no way to stop
one of the all‑time greats, as Guardiola himself knows better than
most from his four years in charge at Barcelona, and the Argentina
international re‑emphasised the point to make this a difficult
homecoming for his former manager.
Messi’s hat-trick came courtesy of three sumptuous swipes of that
left foot and the latest statistic to laud his genius shows that he
now has 16 goals in 15 games against English clubs. In truth he has
been punishing all-comers for as long as anybody can care to
remember. This was the 37th hat-trick of Messi’s career.
Guardiola felt this daunting assignment would offer a gauge of the
progress of his City team and there were some positives for him to
take. He was extremely adventurous with his tactics, which took in
the headline decision to omit Sergio Agüero from the starting XI, in
an attempt to get an extra body in midfield and he watched his
players work the Barcelona goalkeeper, Marc-André ter Stegen, on a
number of occasions.
There were spells when City imposed themselves while the
shots-on-target count was only eight to six in Barcelona’s favour.
And yet Guardiola was damned by the final scoreline and there would
be the inevitable questions about the wisdom of the decision to
introduce Agüero with only 11 minutes to go – in other words, when
the game was gone. Barcelona had lost two of their key defenders in
Jordi Alba and Gerard Piqué to injuries in the first half and it was
tempting to wonder how Agüero might have troubled what became a
In the end, though, City were undone by errors. There was
Fernandinho’s slip that ushered in Messi for his first goal and the
loose pass from Ilkay Gündogan that found only Luis Suárez, who laid
on Messi’s third. But the most horrible mistake was the 52nd minute
one from Claudio Bravo, which led to the goalkeeper’s red card. Up
until that point City were in the game. After it they were taken
Guardiola’s fingerprints are all over this City team already and it
was noticeable how keen they were to play short and cutely. It was
Barcelona who were prepared to be direct. Bravo’s downfall stemmed
from his attempt to make a little pass to Fernandinho, after he had
left his penalty area and he got it all wrong. The ball went
straight to Suárez and Bravo’s next mistake was when he
instinctively saved Suárez’s subsequent attempted lob with his
hands, while still outside the box. The referee, Milorad Mazic, had
no option but to send him off.
Guardiola’s tactical nuances underscored the occasion. His starting
formation could best be described as 4-1-4-1 but, when City had the
ball, Pablo Zabaleta, the right-back, stepped up and inside into
midfield, alongside Fernandinho. John Stones, the central defender,
too, was encouraged to step up and so were the more advanced central
midfielders, Gündogan and David Silva.
It felt as though long spells were spent in an attempt to decode it
all, and the ever-evolving formations served to ask questions of
Luis Enrique. Then again the Barcelona manager had Messi and that is
some comfort. Remember what Indiana Jones did when confronted by the
bad guy who wielded his swords so dramatically? He just shot him.
Here Messi shot Guardiola.
The opening goal owed everything to Fernandinho’s slip, because he
was the favourite to get to the ball before Messi, after it had
squirted loose following Stones’s challenge on Andrés Iniesta.
Guardiola’s approach was utterly meticulous but he cannot be relied
on to check whether his players are wearing the correct studs.
Messi’s finish was marked by class and composure.
Barcelona had chances in the first half to add to their lead. Suárez
found the side-netting with a shot; Ivan Rakitic headed over from
Messi’s free-kick and Bravo had to back-pedal, leap and tip over his
own crossbar, after he had only half-saved a shot from Suárez.
But City, too, had their moments in a purple patch before the
interval; flashes when they got in behind Barcelona. Guardiola could
enjoy a dividend from his elaborate attempts to win space. Silva
played in Nolito and Ter Stegen had to make a regulation save, and
minutes later the Barcelona goalkeeper was extended fully by
Gündogan, after he had skipped past Piqué. In first‑half stoppage
time Stones headed wide of the near post from Silva’s free‑kick. It
was a glaring miss.
The tie turned sharply after the red card. Messi scored his second
when he jinked and threaded a low shot into the corner from the edge
of the area and the hat-trick followed Gündogan’s aberration and
Suárez’s assist. Neymar added the fourth, after dancing and shooting
inside the area, having earlier seen a penalty saved by City’s
substitute goalkeeper, Willy Caballero. It had been awarded after a
burst from Messi – who else? – was crudely halted by the sliding
For City there were further flickers. Kevin De Bruyne and Kolarov
extended Ter Stegen but by then it was too late. The Barcelona
substitute Jérémy Mathieu’s dismissal for a second yellow card on 73
minutes was a footnote. After the draw at Celtic in their previous
Champions League tie City have it all to do
Barcelona : Ter Stegen; Mascherano, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets,
Iniesta, Rakitic; Messi, Neymar, Suarez.
Subs: Masip, Arda, Rafinha, Alcácer, Digne, André Gomes, Mathieu
Man City : Bravo, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov, Fernandinho,
Gundogan, Silva, Sterling, Nolito, De Bruyne
Subs: Caballero, Fernando, Aguero, Maffeo, Clichy, Sane, Navas
Manchester City 1 Everton 1
City Pay The Penalty
October 2016 : GYKO at the Etihad
Ronald Koeman has always been one to teach Pep Guardiola a few
tricks. At Barcelona, Johan Cruyff told the young Catalan to observe
the way the Dutchman operated as the defensive shield at the back of
his Dream Team’s midfield. He eventually succeeded him in the role.
Koeman drove a Mercedes and Guardiola a second-hand Opel in those
days: that’s how the pecking order worked.
The new Everton manager might be in the younger man’s slipstream
now, desperately ambitious and looking ultimately to manage
Barcelona as Guardiola once did, but this was the day when he
contributed once again to the younger man’s education. The lesson
was about the brutal challenge of the Premier League - a division in
which you can dominate, excel, express yourself and still be
wounded. The panic was setting in and two penalties had come and
gone before Manchester City finally found the goal that saved them
against a goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, who repelled everything
they threw at the task.
The statistics told the story of City’s first half fluidity and
superiority: 150 passes in the attacking third for the home side
(119 successful); 25 for Everton (nine successful). The challenge,
though, was to convert the dominance into chances and for at least
an hour that did not happen nearly enough.
Guardiola had thrown every available resource into the effort,
deploying a three-man defence and allowing Leroy Sane the full width
of the pitch to mount much of their attacking intent – seemingly
intuiting that he would need the full artillery to find a way
through . But though the 20-year-old German was City’s outstanding
performer of their first half – the one player who consistently
drove at Everton and delivered effective balls in from both flanks –
City struggled to for the incisive finish to top off the
architecture of their performance.
Guardiola had opted to keep Sergio Aguero on the bench, with the
ultimate challenge of Barcelona awaiting on Wednesday, and in his
place Kelechi Iheanacho offered no offensive threat, giving the
Everton defence time to focus on those other City players who were
buzzing around the edges of the area. Bryan Oviedo, who had both
Sane and Kevin de Bruyne attacking his channel, did most to
demonstrate the new defensive muscle which Koeman has brought to his
City’s approach had palpably slowed when half-time arrived and they
struggled for a way through the yellow wall before them. The second
half was 15 minutes old when they were taught what attacking pace
looked like and were stunned by it. Romelu Lukaku, until that moment
a bystander in a side seemingly incapable of holding onto the ball,
took on a long pass that Yannick Bolasie had flicked on, accelerated
past Gael Clichy and fired beyond Claudio Bravo before the
goalkeeper could blink. John Stones was the player who had made to
intercept on the half way line and who found himself stranded high
up the pitch.
There happened to be a defensive weak link for City exploit. On two
occasions, Phil Jagielka simply did not possess the speed of
response to deal with the quick feet of the forwards and he
justifiably paid with penalties.
Raheem Sterling was the first to draw a poorly timed tackle out of
the 34-year-old, who extended a leg which the forward toppled over
on the edge of the six-yard box, two minutes before the break.
Stekelenburg made his first significant contribution to what would
become a big afternoon when he put out the fire, diving left to save
Kevin de Bruyne’s right footed penalty.
Aguero had arrived for Iheanacho when the second penalty came. It
was the Argentine whom Jagielka's trailing leg caught on 69 minutes.
Aguero stepped up and Stekelenburg saved again. It was City’s fourth
penalty miss from eight this season a carelessness no Premier League
side can afford.
Stekelenburg was being talked of as Edwin van der Sar’s successor at
Manchester United five years ago but has drifted around the edges in
the past three years, barely playing for Fulham, then hardly shining
on loan at Southampton last season before joining Koeman on
Merseyside. The 34-year-old had two more outstanding saves to make
before the day was done - palming away the shot Aguero had worked
from a one-two with an outstanding David Silva and leaping to touch
a 35-yard Kevin de Bruyne effort onto the post.
City had Manuel Nolito to thank for saving them from a defeat they
did not deserve. It was he who leapt to meet Silva’s 72nd minute
cross to equalise with a fine header. Guardiola was chasing to do a
ball boy’s work as City drove to win the game. He looked desperate
but the winner was beyond his side. There will be more of these
tough days ahead for him as his Premier League education continues.
Manchester City (3-1-4-1-1): Bravo; Stones,
Otamendi, Clichy; Fernandinho; Sane (Nolito, 71), Gundogan (Kompany,
90), Silva, Sterling; De Bruyne; Iheanacho (Aguero, 56).
Substitutes not used: Cabellero, Zabaleta, Fernando, Kolarov.
Everton (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg; Coleman, Jagielka, Williams,
Oviedo; Gueye, Barry; Cleverley (Funes Mori, 90+1), Bolasie (Mirallas,
84), Deulofeu (McCarthy, 57); Lukaku.
Substitutes not used: Robles, Barkley, Valencia, Holgate.
Referee: M. Oliver (Northumberland)
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester City 0
Blank of London
Sunday 2nd October 2016 : Robert Ardern for
GYKO at White Hart Lane
Pochettino never takes charge of another game his managerial career
will have a couple of lovely winning bookends: victories over
expensively-assembled Pep Guardiola teams.
His first win as a coach was against Guardiola’s Barcelona back in
2009 and now he can add this devastating 2-0 victory by his
Tottenham side over Manchester City at White Hart Lane that has
taken some of the gloss off the Etihad club’s impressive start to
the season that had them crowned champions elect in some quarters
Spurs, whose goals came from an own goal and the golden-booted Dele
Alli, were quite simply superb – and even missed a second-half
penalty. On this form they deserve to be considered title
challengers every bit as much as City for whom this was Pep’s first
defeat. Can Spurs maintain this high-tempo brand of football or will
they run out of puff as they did last season is the question?
Well, the squad is deeper and new signing Victor Wanyama ran
midfield on Sunday adding steel alongside Mo Sissoko while Heung-Min
Son, Alli and Christian Eriksen brought the style to the party.
Spurs started brilliantly with Kyle Walker, Sissoko and Son
combining from the kick-off with quick, neat interplay down the
right. Son found space in the box with a clever touch before driving
his shot over the bar. Seconds later Danny Rose almost threaded a
pass through to the Korean playing in the No 9 role he took up for
the last 20 minutes in Moscow in midweek and in such rich
goal-scoring form of late. There was barely a minute on the clock
and the Spurs intent was there for all to see.
This match was the resumption of the Guardiola-Pochettino rivalry
they had enjoyed in La Liga when they were in charge of Barcelona’s
two clubs, Barca and Espanyol respectively. Pep had said before
kick-off how much he admired Pochettino teams who had always sought
to be attacking – rather than containing – against his sides. High
praise, of course, given the calibre of Pep’s Barca and the no doubt
huge temptation to park the bus when confronting them.
And Spurs, just like Espanyol, were certainly not overawed by Pep’s
players and their perfect start to the league season on Sunday
running City ragged in the early stages.
There was a Jesus Navas cross that dribbled through the six-yard box
but that was a rare trip into enemy territory for City and John
Stones had to deny Son with a brilliantly-timed sliding tackle in
the box as the Korean continued to threaten.
On nine minutes, the imposing Wanyama stole the ball back in
midfield as City tried to pass their way out of their half. He fed
Danny Rose on the wing and the England full-back whipped in a
vicious, dipping, swerving cross. Aleksander Kolarov at the back
post missed with his swinging right foot as he tried to clear, the
ball instead diverting in off his standing leg. So much for Pep
teams playing it calmly out from the back.
Son broke through again and Claudio Bravo saved with his feet as the
white waves washed over sinking City. Alli was next in on the act,
his nifty footwork and attempt to play Son in resulting in Nicolas
Otamendi going to ground and handballing. Eriksen’s free-kick was
Pep joined Pochettino on the sidelines now fearing the worst - and
he was right to as Spurs doubled their lead in the 37th minute. Alli
tried to find Erik Lamella breaking into the box but the ball ran to
Son who fed Alli. The midfielder swept past Bravo.
City stuck to Pep’s philosophy of playing the ball out from the back
but the Tottenham energy was too much for them to do it comfortably.
Bravo’s bravado often caused mild panic in the City back four. Apart
from in Stones perhaps, so easy on the ball, who at one point weaved
through four Spurs tackles.
The second half continued in the same manner as the first with Son
and Wanyama shooting dangerously, the first narrowly wide the other
tipped away by Bravo.
Bravo then highlighted why Pep wants a passer in goal as his long
ball to Navas cut out several pushing Spurs players and led to
Sergio Aguero getting in for a shot that bobbled off Hugo Loris and
on to the post.
Most of the action, though, was in the other penalty area and Spurs
had the chance to kill the match when Fernandinho clipped Alli as he
broke on to a loose ball and charged into the area. Alli needed no
great encouragement to collapse. Lamela’s left-footed penalty was
too weak and the perfect height for Bravo diving to his left to beat
The miss could have been costly had substitute Kelechi Iheanacho
scored when through but Loris saved and then he did so again when
Aguero shot. For all this, Spurs never really looked in trouble.
TOTTENHAM (4-1-4-1): Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld,
Vertonghen, Rose; Wanyama; Sissoko (Dier 72), All (Nkoudou 86),
Eriksen, Lamela; Son (Janssen 90) Subs not
used: Vorm; Trippier, Davies, Winks Booked:
Wanyama, Rose Goals: Kolarov own goal 9; Alli 37
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Bravo; Zabaleta (C), Otamendi, Stones,
Kolarov; Fernando (Gundogan 53,), Fernandinho, Silva; Navas
(Iheanacho 65), Aguero, Sterling (Sane 87)
Subs not used: Caballero; Sagna, Clichy, A. Garcia
Booked: Otamendi, Sterling
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)