Match Review: Manchester City v Newcastle United


Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 10.15.27.pngManchester City earned maximum points with a 2-1 victory over a stubborn Newcastle side at the Etihad on Saturday evening.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring early on with a deft finish, curled past Martin Dubravka in the Newcastle goal.

With their first real attack of the half, Newcastle equalised through DeAndre Yedlin, who latched on the end of a Rondon cross. The American had a tap in at the back post, despite the best efforts of Gabriel Jesus, who was the last man back as Benjamin Mendy failed to get back – much to the anger of captain David Silva.

Despite a poor showing in the first half, Pep Guardiola’s City stepped it up in the second, despite not creating many clear cut opportunities. Kyle Walker scored his first goal for the club with a thunderous strike from distance, which proved to be the winning goal in an interesting encounter in Manchester.

Talking Points

City’s English trio the best of a star studded bunch 

In a game where City didn’t really excel at their blistering best, the performances of John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker were exceptional.

With Benjamin Mendy back in the side, Raheem Sterling has thrice been deployed in a left wing position, allowed to cut inside and roam. At the World Cup, we saw that centrally, he is an exciting player, but he didn’t really have the players around him making movements as he does at City. From the left, his impact on the game is felt more and his goal was a well taken effort, not too dissimilar to his strike at the Emirates on the opening day.

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John Stones told BT Sport after the game that he is trying to work on five attributes:

“Clean sheets, defensively be more solid, become more of a leader, everything that comes with being a defender,” he said.

“Aerial duels, crosses into box. I never stop learning. I have got a lot to improve on in my game. They’re a few I want to improve on this season.

So far this campaign, Stones is showing all of them. I was at the game, so see things you don’t on the TV: off the ball, Stones is more and more commanding every week, encouraging players around him. He also looks extremely calm with the ball at his feet and is ever improving off the ball.

The third Englishman, Kyle Walker, showed again that he is probably the best right-back in world football, with another athletic display on and off the ball, that is not to mention his goal of the month candidate.

De Bruyne’s absence is felt

It says a lot that at half time, one of the trending topics was Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian is rumoured to be doing well in his recovery, but is still the best part of six weeks away from a return to action.

With City’s wide men looking good, there were a few times when you thought “De Bruyne would have done better there”.

Pep Guardiola’s men missed a cutting edge or a drive from midfield to great extent, not just against Newcastle, but against Wolves the week before.

There were a few times where David Silva received the ball on the counter attack, with half the pitch to drive into – Silva is great, but this is De Bruyne’s forte.

Again, the ball broke on the edge of the box and was cleared – City fans collective murmured “who’s there?!”. De Bruyne would have been there, popping up at the right time to unleash a shot.

City got the three points yesterday, so it doesn’t really matter, but the quicker they can get their star man back, the better, as they look a bit lost without him at times.

Rafa’s Newcastle prove they should have enough to stay up 

Newcastle have been on the receiving end of 2-1 defeats to Spurs, Chelsea and now Manchester City. Rafael Benitez will feel extremely hard done by, as his side have been very unlucky on all occasions.

The Magpies didn’t have it in them to take on City and try and win the game, Benitez was realistic about that. Thus, as he did against Chelsea and Spurs, he put 10 men behind the ball and tried to absorb pressure.

For the most part, it worked – City looked frustrated and void of options at times, often having to pass sideways in a ‘U’ shape as forward passes were unavailable due to Newcastle’s tight and rigid structure.

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As a fan of football being played at a fast, fluid level, seeing teams ‘park the bus’ is frustrating, but sympathy has to be given to teams like Newcastle. Without Rafael Benitez, the team would be relegation favourites, as they don’t have a star studded line up by any stretch of the imagination – Rafa is realistic and knows that the defensive style is the best way to win points.

Newcastle enter the international break on the back of three narrow losses against big teams, but there is a lot of positive signs. Many (better) teams will go to The Etihad and lose by a bigger score this season, and that is testament to the solid Benitez outfit, that will have enough to stay up.

Player Ratings

City: Ederson 6; Walker 7, Stones 8 (MOTM), Laporte 7, Mendy 6; Sterling 8, Fernandinho 6, Silva 7, Mahrez 6; Jesus 6.5, Aguero 6.

As has been highlighted, the English trio at City was pleasing for City fans. Another bright spark was Aymeric Laporte, who seems more at home in Pep’s side every week. The partnership of himself and John Stones looks set for the future, with the duo born just one day apart and both with the twilight of their careers well ahead of them.

It was a quiet afternoon for the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero for City. The former made his first home start, but struggled to impact the game. He often went long periods without seeing the ball, and his replacement Bernardo Silva instantly injected some pace and purpose about City’s play.

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Newcastle: Dubravka 8; Yedlin 7, Clark 6, Lascelles 5, Fernandez 6, Dummett 5; Kenedy 6,  Diame 5, Ki 5, Perez 6, Rondon 6.

The highlight for Newcastle today was the performance of Martin Dubravka, who is proving himself as a crude buy from Sparta Praha. The Czech goalkeeper looks a great shot stopper, but also seems more than capable when he rushes from his goal to close down attackers and made the right decision a number of times in the game at the Etihad.

The midfield duo of Mo Diame and Ki Sung-Yeung struggled at the Etihad. They struggled to get the ball off City, which is nothing to judge them by, as not many midfielders in the world do get the better of City’s midfield. However, neither looked to have a creative spark and apart from their goal, Newcastle hardly threatened Ederson’s goal, highlighting their lack of creativity. Had Shelvey been playing, Newcastle may have created more.

Player of the Month: August

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The first month of the Premier League season is already over. New players managers are now getting used to their surroundings, the top clubs are already heading towards the top of the table and some big names are beginning to earn their worth.

August was a month of teams getting gritty victories, individual talent setting alight games and some of the stars of last season already making their name heard in the 2018/19 campaign.

But who was the best player on show in August, across the league? Here, I take a look at some of the players who have excelled in the opening month and who deserves a shot at the August ‘Player of the Month’ award:

Sadio Mané

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Key stats: 3 goals (in 3 apps)  

Egyptian Mo Salah won all the plaudits last season for his unprecedented goal-scoring haul, with Roberto Firmino also earning deserved praise for his role in Liverpool’s Champions League run and attacking displays in the league. This meant that the third of the attacking trio went under the radar.

His name is Sadio Mane. The Senegalese international is as talented as the other two and could be just important for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side going forward if they are to challenge Guardiola’s City for the title.

The decision to swap shirt numbers from 19 to the vacant 10 following Coutinho’s departure was symbolic and reflective of the fact his reputation at Liverpool is growing into a player ready for responsibility and talismanic traits.

Whilst Keita and Milner have been excellent for Liverpool, Mane has been the standout performer in August, delivering encouraging showings against West Ham and Crystal Palace.

If Liverpool are to push all the way for the title, Mane will need to continue his early season form and carry on chipping in with goals to take the burden off Salah and Firmino.

Roberto Pereyra

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Key stats: 3 goals (in 3 apps)

Tipped as one of the favourites to face the drop, Javi Gracia’s side have been the surprise package of the early weeks of the season. Whilst it is indeed very early days, achieving maximum points in the month of August is not to be understated.

The star of The Hornets success has been Roberto Pereyra. The Argentine was signed by Watford in 2016 for a then record fee but has been blighted by injuries and subsequently failed to hit any consistent form.

Once dubbed the next star of Serie A, Pereyra was poached by Udinese at the age of 18 and his performances earned him a move to Juventus. He managed 52 appearances in his first season at the Old Lady but failed to impress in the following year so was sold to Watford, where his new boss Walter Mazzarri said he would rather Pereyra than Pogba.

Perhaps now settled in to his surroundings in England, Pereyra is starting to win plaudits. Gracia deploys him as a left attacking midfielder in a 4-2-2-2 formation and it is starting to pay dividends.

His performance against Brighton especially was noteworthy as the Argentine used his excellent positional sense and on the ball abilities to glide into the Brighton box and score two goals.

Lucas Moura

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Key stats: 3 goals (in 3 apps)

After a stagnant spell at PSG, it took Lucas Moura half a year to settle in at Tottenham.

Yet, on Monday night, Lucas Moura showed more than glimpses of the teenage sensation he was when he burst on to the scene at Sao Paulo as a 19 year old, when he nearly moved to Manchester United in 2012.

Lucas’ career looked to be spiraling away quickly in Paris, so he made the gutsy decision to leave the club he dreamed of making it at to join Spurs, coached by one of Europe’s most coveted coaches: Mauricio Pochettino.

In the second game against Fulham, Pochettino decided to play Moura as a second striker, playing off Harry Kane.

So far, that educated gamble is paying off, with the Brazilian netting three goals in two, including a brace at Old Trafford.

His new role gives a new dimension to Spurs’ play and takes some of the goalscoring burden off Harry Kane, allowing Spurs to have the chance to launch a real bid for the title as they now have more power on the counter attack.

Benjamin Mendy

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Key stats: 3 assists, 1 clean sheet, 25 crosses, 7 tackles (in 3 apps) 

It may well be the most overused phrase of the season thus far, but Benjamin Mendy really does feel like a new signing for Manchester City. The Frenchman spent most of his debut season in England watching from the stands or recovery rooms following his knee injury in September.

Whilst Fabian Delph provided ample cover at left back, City lacked a direct threat going forward, often meaning Leroy Sané was City’s only attacker on the left flank. Mendy has come in and changed that massively.

The man who was signed from Monaco for causing City problems in their Champions League exit in 2017 has been a weapon for City going forward thus far this season, used in slightly different roles each week.

In the league opener against Arsenal, Mendy played an inverted full back role, discussed in our Talking Tactics feature on that fixture. He helped out in the midfield in a tricky away game, whilst often marauding forward to create chances himself. He setup the goal for Bernardo Silva’s eventual winner, as well as assist Raheem Sterling’s opener.

Against Huddersfield, Mendy played in a wing back role. He excelled in this position and was City’s main source of attacking prowess down the left as he peppered Ben Hamer’s goal with crosses, a couple of which leading to goals.

Mendy has added a new dimension to City’s game and has been a bright star in Guardiola’s side.


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Key stats: 92.01% pass completion, 1 goal (in 3 apps)

 Jorginho was signed from Napoli along with manager Maurizio Sarri so unsurprisingly he looks at home in this Chelsea team, probably grasping Sarri’s concepts the easiest thus far.

After a shaky afternoon in the Community Shield, the Brazil-born Italian international has looked comfortable alongside Ngolo Kante in midfield. He adds a new dynamism to Chelsea’s midfield that has been lacking for a few seasons and is an astute passer.

In the game against Newcastle last weekend he registered a stat that would prove why Guardiola was so interested in his services: Jorginho completed 158 passes – 25 more than the whole Newcastle team. This stat summarizes Jorginho’s style: he is a dictator that will pull the strings in the midfield, just what Chelsea have missed.

Maurizio Sarri was willing to risk a friendship with Pep Guardiola to sign Jorginho from Napoli and his decision is showing to be well educated, with the midfield maestro starting his career at the Bridge with flying colours.

Notable mentions go to:

Naby Keita, Richarlison, Marcos Alonso, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aymeric Laporte

Don’t agree? Let me know who you would pick instead.

Match Review: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City

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Wolverhampton Wanderers gained a hard fought point at home to champions Manchester City in the early Saturday kick off with a 1-1 draw.

Willy Boly scored the opening goal in the game early in the second half by directing Joao Moutinho’s cross beyond Ederson, despite replays showed he used his hand.

The opening goal seemed to give City a kick, who performed better since going behind. Not long after Wolves scored, City pulled one back through a Aymeric Laporte header, his first goal for the club.

Despite City not being at their best and Wolves being brilliant, Pep Guardiola’s side will be disheartened not to come away with three points, after hitting the woodwork three times in the match and forcing Patricio into some top saves.

Talking Points

The implementation of Video Assistant Referee

Last night, Bayern Munich were denied a goal via VAR in the Bundesliga curtain raiser. In Serie A last season, we saw VAR work effectively. La Liga and Ligue Un also have implemented VAR for the upcoming season.

Notice a pattern? Me too. Out of the so called ‘top five leagues’, the self-proclaimed ‘best league in the world’ does not have VAR. In fact, a two-thirds majority of Premier League clubs voted against VAR for the 18/19 season.

The truth of the matter is that the Premier League is outdated and quite frankly needs to move with the times.

Today, with VAR, Wolves’ opener would not have stood and Manchester City may have won a penalty, making the game very different.

This is not the first time referees have been questioned this season and it certainly will not be the last.

Yes, the technology has its faults. There is no mathematical formula on how to decide what is or is not a penalty. As we saw in the World Cup, the argument “well it takes the drama away” is false. If anything, it added to the drama.

In order to have fair games, it is a necessity and if the Premier League is to move with the times, it must implement VAR from next season.

Benjamin Mendy’s suspect defending

Last week, many around the country hailed Benjamin Mendy as the best left back in the world. Going forward, they are not wrong – his overlapping runs and crosses are devastating and this was on full show against Huddersfield.

Part of the reason for this was the 3-5-2 shape that City employed in that fixture. Laporte’s cover on the left of a three man defence allowed Mendy to play as an auxiliary winger.

In a four, that is not the case.

Whilst Mendy looks like he will create a goal every time he attacks, it looks like he will concede one every time a winger runs at him.

Despite making a couple of vital tackles, interceptions and clearances today, the World Cup winner looked slightly suspect when Costa and later Traore ran at him.

This could leave Pep with a dilemma, especially in away games where his defenders will be put under pressure at any given opportunity.

Fabian Delph is a consistent, quiet, conservative option, should Pep have these thoughts.

Guardiola will have to weigh up his options, just as he does with other parts of his meticulous structure. When criticized for his ‘playing out from the back’ in his early days in England, the coach inspired by Cruyff admitted that it may cost them a few goals per season, but in the grand scheme of things, it will lead to them scoring more goals overall, so in the balance of proportions it will work well.

This is the same argument he may have with Mendy and Delph. Whilst Mendy may cost City a goal or two along the way, he will create more.

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Nuno Espirito Santo’s system is extremely complimentary

Ten years ago, we started to see a shift away from the standard 4-4-2 to a more compact 4-2-3-1. Most teams adopted some sort of 4-2-3-1, with many things becoming predictable.

With more foreign managers moving to the Premier League, we have seen many new formations, including 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, made popular in this league by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea.

Wolves play a 3-4-3 system: a solid back three of capable central defenders, two wingbacks and defensively minded yet comfortable on the ball midfielders, with a traditional front three, who often cut inside and act as wide forwards.

This system seems to bring the best out of every player on the pitch for Wolves, whilst striking the perfect balance between defensive solidarity and attacking prowess, making it a fluid shape.

Player Ratings

Wolves: Patricio 8; Bennett 6, Coady 7, Boly 9 (MOTM); Doherty 6, Neves 8, Moutinho 6, Jonny 7; Jota 7, Jimenez 6, Costa 7.

Rui Patricio’s first half save from the Sterling dipping effort is quite literally a save that wins you points – the sort you look back on at the end of the season. Despite some suspect distribution, Wolves’ #11 goalkeeper looked assured and made some top saves to deny the likes of Jesus and Aguero.

Willy Boly put in one of the best defensive performances you may see all season. He was commanding in the air, timed his tackles to perfection and used his tactical knowledge to cleverly intercept balls as Aguero looked sharp in the first half. The French defender scored the important first goal for the home side, despite using his hand.

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City: Ederson 6; Walker 5, Kompany 4.5, Laporte 8, Mendy 6; Fernandinho 7, Gundogan 5, D. Silva 7; Sterling 6, Aguero 7, B. Silva 5.

Aymeric Laporte is looking a great signing for City. Every attack started via the Basque defender and he looked solid in the duels as well. His first goal for City may be an important one, as City could’ve easily lost this game against a stubborn Wolves defence.

The same cannot be said of his partner Vincent Kompany, who looked nervous for a man of his experience. The early yellow card may not have helped, as the Belgian pulled out of a few tackles that saw Wolves players skip past him.

Match Preview: Wolves v Manchester City

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Wolverhampton Wanderers host the champions Manchester City in the early kick off on Saturday in what proves to be a blockbuster affair at Molyneux.

For the home side, it has been a start that is below the par many outsiders expected of Wolves, but is very early days and some players have shone already.

Manchester City head into the game in the form they finished last season, on the back of dismantling Huddersfield Town at the Etihad last Sunday.

I take a look at both sides, as well as some of the key factors that may impact the way this affair will swing on Saturday.

When? Saturday 12:30pm

Where? Molineux

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Last League Meeting: Wolves 0-2 Man City (April 2012)

Odds: H 12/1; A 2/7; D 6/1.

Team News

Club record signing Adama Traore impressed off the bench last weekend and is expected to make his first start, which will frighten the young City defence.

Wing back Matt Doherty is fit despite being forced off with an injury in the loss to Leicester.

For City, Claudio Bravo is set to miss the best part of the season with an Achilles tendon injury suffered in training this week. In response, City have recalled teenage goalkeeper Arojarnet Muric from a loan spell at unofficial sister club NAC Breda.

David Silva is set for his first 90 minutes of the season after completing an hour in an impressive performance against Huddersfield last weekend.

Wolves Predicted XI: Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.

City Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy; Fernandinho, Gundogan, D. Silva; B.Silva, Aguero, Sterling.

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Molineux awaits in expectance

It has been a far from easy start to life back in the Premier League for Wolves, but their attractive brand of football has caught the eye of many neutrals.

Nuno Espirito Santo will stick to his principles, and not be one to change his ways and sit back just because one of the big boys are in town.

He said this week: “We do not know how to play another way. We will not change because we want to build something”.

If that is so, this could be an exciting tie. With City playing their possession based game high in the Wolves half, they may be susceptible to the counter attack, especially if Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker play as high up as they have done so far this season.

With this being the first big team to visit Molineux since their promotion, the crowd will be up and the roar when they enter the City half will be deafening.

Ruben Neves is a player that has been courted by Pep Guardiola and City as a potential replacement for the ageing Fernandinho. The Portuguese midfielder has enjoyed a positive start to life in the Premier League after an eye catching season in the Championship. Will he use this game as an audition to Pep Guardiola and managers of other clubs?

What cards will Guardiola play from his stacked deck?

In the 6-1 victory over Huddersfield, Guardiola’s bench included the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sané and Phil Foden – and that is not to mention the fact their star man, Kevin De Bruyne, is sidelined for a few months with a knee injury.

To say City have an embarrassment of riches is an understatement, but this creates a selection headache for Pep Guardiola. The Catalan coach, as we have seen in the Amazon Prime ‘All or Nothing’ documentary, will be sat in a room on his laptop plotting how he can beat Wolves.

But, what weapon does he choose to use? Does he have to be wary of the counter attack? Does he risk starting the attacking Mendy and risk leaving the space in behind? Will he opt for the tricky, finesse players in Mahrez and Bernardo, or opt for pace and power in Sterling and Sané? Does he opt for a 3 or 4 at the back?

These are all questions that will be mulling around Pep Guardiola’s head. Whether he opts for the conservative approach, or whether he unleashes his stars, is unknown, making it almost impossible to predict his lineups.


I think this will be City’s toughest game of the season, thus far.

Arsenal invited City on to them, Huddersfield just weren’t at the races, whilst Wolves may go toe to toe with City and try and win the tie, just like they nearly did at the Etihad in the Carabao Cup last season.

Despite this, City should have enough to win, but I think it will be tight. I’ve gone for a City win, with Wolves taking the lead in the first half. Aguero and David Silva to score.

Wolves 1-2 City.


Opinion: Pep Guardiola’s all time XI

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Pep Guardiola is the man at the forefront of the Manchester City side that is quite literally tearing up the record books and re-writing them.

The Catalan is seen by a large majority of football fans as the best coach in world football, having brought success to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City.

You could be the best manager in the world, but you need good players to carry out your ideas on the pitch, like a craftsman needs good tools to succeed in a job.

Guardiola has never been short of that – he has always had the best players in the world to help his successes. But, who are the best?

At Barcelona, Guardiola built a team that is recognized as one of the best club sides of all time, and possibly the greatest of recent history. Building on a rich footballing philosophy passed down from Johan Cruyff and reconstructed by Guardiola and co, Barcelona had some of the best players in the world with a talented pool of homegrown players such as Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Valdes.

Following winning two Champions League titles, Pep decided he had taken Barcelona as far as he could, as well as got bored of the politics of the club, so left. A year later, he joined Bayern Munich, where he monopolized the Bundesliga, winning seven trophies in three years.

In early 2016, Manchester City appointed Guardiola as their boss. Since then, he has won two trophies in two years, including a 100 point haul in the Premier League, breaking all sorts of records in the process.

If there were to be a hypothetical ‘Best XI’ of all the players Guardiola has managed, who would make it? Would any of Guardiola’s current crop at City make it?

Let’s find out…

Pep’s tried and trusted 4-1-4-1 formation is his most used setup, so that is what we have chose for our fantasy XI.

Goalkeeper – Manuel Neuer  

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This wasn’t the straightforward decision it may seem from the outset – Victor Valdes is very underrated in popular media for one reason or another. However, Neuer would surely get the nod in a Guardiola XI. When the Catalan coach arrived in England in 2016 one of the biggest headlines was that he wanted away with Joe Hart, instead to buy a ‘Guardiola goalkeeper’: a ‘keeper as adequate with his feet as he is with his hands.

The 2014 World Cup winner is just that. Whilst one of the best shot stoppers we have seen this century, arguably the best goalkeeper of the past decade or so, he is perfectly capable with the ball at his feet and has popularized the ‘sweeper keeper’ role that is so prominent on the continent now.

City’s current number one, Ederson, surely looks up to Neuer as an inspirational figure he can learn from.

Manuel Neuer represents a no brainer decision for the goalkeeper spot, being potentially the most complete ‘keeper of the past decade or so.

Right Back – Dani Alves  

Dani Alves, now of PSG, represents potentially the best right back of this generation, embodying all the needed characteristics of the ‘modern full back’.

The money Guardiola spent on full backs in 2017 was no coincidence, as full backs are central to his system. He likes fast, attacking full backs that are comfortable to tuck inside and play as auxiliary midfielders to pack the middle when ordered to do so.

Alves is everything Guardiola wants in a full back. Signed from Sevilla in 2008, the Brazilian revolutionized wing back play at club level in a similar way his Brazilian counterparts Cafu and Roberto Carlos did at international football at the 2002 World Cup.

Just as we see with Walker and Mendy now at City, Alves was given responsibility as a buccaneering right-back in name but a winger in style, often playing higher than the midfielders as he helped to break down stubborn outfits.

Centre Back – Gerard Pique

Oft cited as a teachers pet of Guardiola’s school of thought, Gerard Pique is probably the biggest individual success story for Pep.

Brought back to his boyhood club just as Guardiola took charge, Gerard Pique developed a formidable pairing with Carles Puyol at the heart of the Barcelona defence and blossomed into one of the best defenders in the world.

Leaving Manchester United after making just 12 appearances in four years, Guardiola nurtured Pique from a benchwarmer at Old Trafford to a pivotal part of the team who won the ‘sixtuple’ at Barcelona, as well as international triumphs with Spain.

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Centre Back – Carles Puyol (C)

 The captain of all of Barcelona’s success is a guaranteed feature in this side. The centre-back, known for his iconic long curls, spent all of his career at Barcelona, after graduating from La Masia.

Puyol gets the nod over Jerome Boateng, who was unlucky to miss out, because he was a mainstay in Pep Guardiola’s side that won everything there was to win at club level, not to mention his triumphs with Spain.

Now retired, Puyol managed nearly 600 appearances for Barcelona and will be remembered for his innate leadership traits, as well as his clever style of defending, which overcome the fact he wasn’t the typical defender in the physical sense. 

Left Back – Philipp Lahm

Mr. Versatility himself was another easy decision in this team. In truth, he could have slotted in at right back, defensive midfield or even centre back, if needed. That’s how he was as a player too, the dream player for all coaches.

Guardiola saw Lahm as his most important player, probably as he does Fernandinho at City. He trained the reliable full back to one of the best defensive midfield players in the world, in the role Guardiola calls ‘El Pivote’.

Pep added a new dimension to the already accomplished game of Lahm, helping him captain his country to World Cup glory in 2014, whilst also leading Bayern to domestic success.

His leadership, versatility and tactical nous will make Lahm go down as one of footballs finest.

Defensive midfielder – Sergio Busquets

Dubbed the Octopus of Badia, Sergio Busquets is potentially the most cool defensive midfielder football will ever see. After a year together at Barcelona B, Guardiola promoted Busquets to the first team and no one has questioned that decision since.

For the decade to follow, Busquets has been Barca’s midfield lynch-pin and one of the first names on the team sheet every week.

In a position where the energetic midfield destroyer Fernandinho was a possibility, Busquets gets the nod for the way he manipulates the pitch in a unique manner: he is not quick, but he has one of the best brains in world football, and can pick a pass to the forwards, in an effortless style. His passes are weighted to perfection, almost giving the receiver telepathic instructions of which way to turn with their first touch, due to the crisp nature of the pass from Barca’s brains.

 Central midfielder – Kevin De Bruyne

The Belgian midfield maestro has been unplayable since he settled into his deeper lying role under Guardiola and was the star man that drove City to the title, registering man of the match performances against each of the other top six sides.

De Bruyne roams around the pitch picking passes and has the most assists in the league since joining City. His shooting range is phenomenal, as are his venomous crosses, making him City’s most devastating asset.

Central midfielder – Xavi

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Potentially the best midfielder of the generation, Xavi Hernandez is Pep-Ball to a T. The reliable and consistent mover of the ball won a staggering 31 trophies in his career, most notably eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, a World Cup and two European Championships.

He was the man that made the greatest club side of the century tick, as well as a mainstay in the great Spain team that won three tournaments on the bounce.

Assisting Messi for a total of 31 goals, Xavi was the heartbeat of Pep’s fast football that caught the hearts of many football purists around the world, making him a no brainer in this fantasy eleven.

Winger – Lionel Messi

If you ever needed an example for a dictionary definition of ‘no brainer’, here we have one. Lionel Messi slotted into this team without so much as a seconds thought.

Guardiola is often cited as the man who developed Messi to what he is today, teaching him new aspects of his game whilst admitting Messi helped him shape his managerial career.

Whether it be as a false nine, or in the case of this team a winger, Messi is the best player in the world and the best player I have ever seen.

Pre-Guardiola, Messi had devastating running traits and the ability to manipulate the ball and the opponent, but Pep added the end product to his game, turning Messi into the most prolific forward of all time, hitting unprecedented heights.

Striker – Sergio Aguero

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When Guardiola arrived in England, question marks were asked of Sergio Aguero. Can Aguero function in Pep’s system? Will Pep sign a new striker to replace him? Will Jesus keep him out of the team?

Manchester City’s record goal scorer has answered those questions, and then some. The Argentine striker now has a higher strike rate than Robert Lewandowski when Pep was at Bayern, and David Villa at Barca.

Having undergone a knee operation at the tail end of last season, Aguero looks as sharp as ever and will have his sights set on more records as he climbs up the list of Premier League all time top scorers.

Winger – Franck Ribery

Regarded by many as the greatest non-German to represent the red of Bayern Munich, Franck Ribery was unstoppable when fully fit and in form at Bayern.

In 2013, the French star finished third in the Ballon d’or rankings, claiming later that he felt he deserved to win ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. That season, Ribery took all the Bundesliga awards, as a team and individually, with Ribery citing politics as the reason Ronaldo tipped him to the illustrious award despite winning no trophies that season.

Under Pep, Ribery often played the ‘false nine’ role made famous by Lionel Messi. Due to this multifunctional characteristic, Ribery gets the nod over his Bayern teammate Arjen Robben, who also excelled under Pep.

Player Ratings: Manchester City v Huddersfield

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Following a comfortable opening game victory over Arsenal at the Emirates, Manchester City hosted Huddersfield, a side that they struggled to break down in both games last season. Although the bookies had Huddersfield at astounding odds of 35/1 pre match, City and Guardiola knew that The Terriers are a tough outfit to beat.

On the day, City were excellent, winning by six goals to one. The team performance was breathtaking, but some individual displays will be particularly memorable for City supporters.

Here’s how I rated the players:

Ederson Moraes – 7

The Brazilian was a mere spectator for the majority of the afternoon, sometimes not seeing the ball for ten minutes at a time. However, when he did get the ball, he was an attacking weapon. Huddersfield decided to mark man for man when Ederson had the ball, inviting him to play long in the hope their tall back line could mop up. Wagner got it wrong, as Ederson weighted a perfect ball into Sergio Aguero for City’s first goal. After waiting all season last year for an Ederson assist, he has it.

John Stones – 6

John Stones has come back from summer a new man. In the opening stages of last season, he was excellent, but so far this season he looks even better. He looks stronger, more confident and more commanding of the defence. He lost his man for Huddersfield’s goal, but Pep Guardiola will be delighted with the progress of Stones, who is set for a big season.

Vincent Kompany – 6

City’s captain Vincent Kompany registered his first start of the season and had little to do, in the heart of a three man defence. With Stones and Laporte either side of him, keeping Kompany fit for the most part of the season could be crucial to City, as they look to play three at the back with two relatively young defenders – Kompany will add needed experience to that back line.

Aymeric Laporte – 7

“It’s done Txiki, we have him!”. In Amazon’s ‘All or Nothing’ we see an interesting scene where Manchester City chiefs confirm the signing of Laporte. There were reasons they were so excited and those reasons are coming to fruition quickly as Laporte cements himself as a mainstay in the City defence. The Basque born defender has a wand of a left foot to play Guardiola’s style, but is equally adequate defensively. He always looks good when players run at him, but looks even better at defending crosses. Often, defending crosses do not get deserved credit because the defender makes it look like they should get there, but in truth Laporte is excellent at reading situations and getting ahead of his men.

Bernardo Silva – 6

After stealing the headlines at the Emirates for his winning goal, Bernardo Silva adopted a new role against Huddersfield, almost as an auxiliary right wing-back. He put in some devastating in-swinging crosses that City were unlucky not to connect with, and stayed wide for most of the match, allowing David Silva to occupy the half space and leave Huddersfield defenders not knowing how to cope with him.

Fernandinho – 6

A relatively quiet afternoon for Fernandinho, which is pleasing to see for City fans. When the midfield general has an easy shift, it normally means the players in front of him are on form, and the opposition hardly attacks due to this. The 3-5-2 shape seemed to take some burden off Fernandinho, which is important, noting that he is probably the player City rely on the most.

Ilkay Gundogan – 7

If you read social media, you will see many Manchester City fans criticising Gundogan. The reason for this is probably rooted in the fact he is not Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva or Fernandinho: he will not create goals in abundance and in the same light he will not put himself about like Fernandinho. However, Gundogan goes about his business well and always looks adequate both on and off the ball and is crucial to Guardiola’s team.

Benjamin Mendy – 9

It may be the overstatement of the season, but: Benjamin Mendy is like a new signing for Manchester City. King Shark stepped up last week against Arsenal and excelled even further in his wing back role at the Etihad this weekend. He hugged the touchline and made himself an option at every given opportunity. The World Cup winner will be awarded an assist for a perfect cross to Aguero in the second half, but will feel hard done by to not be given more assists, due to his big role in two other goals. His tally of three assists is already better than Delph, Danilo and Zinchenko (the three alternative left-backs) managed last year, so it is evident why Guardiola rates him so high.

David Silva – 8.5

El Mago is back. Manchester City’s magician was written off by some fans in the closed season, speculating that he could not cut it for much longer due to his age. David Silva got his first minutes of the season against Huddersfield, with an hour on the pitch enough to conclude that the Spaniard is certainly not ‘finished’. As ever, Silva trotted around the pitch like it was a playground: finding space when it looked impossible, making clever passes, even scoring a goal for the archives. That goal was Silva’s 49th for City and potentially one of his best. The perfect free kick buried the game for City, as Silva left the field to a standing ovation from all corners of the ground, including the travelling Huddersfield fans, who conceded the fact that City were just too good for them. To top it off, his son Mateo, was waiting in the tunnel. David certainly upped his game for the watching eyes of his five month old son.

Gabriel Jesus – 7.5

The goal for Jesus was needed, you could feel that from his celebration. After an underwhelming summer in Russia, City’s Brazilian ace opened his season account with a lovely left-footed drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. His overall link up play was pleasing, as was his defensive work, as he often sprinted back to help the defence.

Sergio Aguero – 9.5 (MOTM)

In Amazon’s ‘All or Nothing’ documentary, Sergio Aguero admitted that his knee troubles have been a burden on him for the best part of four years. The Argentine took the advice to have an operation at the tail end of last season, when the title was wrapped up for City. Just three competitive matches into the season, that looks like an expert decision.

The Argentine looked possibly as sharp as City fans have seen for years. He netted a hat trick and in truth, may be disappointed he didn’t score a couple more. The first goal was the pick of the bunch, as Ederson’s long ball put him through on goal, with Ben Hamer closing down the angle. I was at the ground and when I saw Aguero in the position, I said “goal”. There are not many players in world football I would have that confidence with.

With his fully fit knee, I would tip Aguero for his best goalscoring season in England.


Riyad Mahrez – 6

Was unlucky not to add to the scoreline on his home debut.

Leroy Sane – 6

Came on and looked very sharp amidst speculation about Guardiola being unhappy with the German speedster. Sane created City’s sixth in style.

Phil Foden – 6

The ‘Stockport Iniesta’ looks stronger and better than his cameos last year and I am sure Pep will trust him more and more as the season progresses. The young starlet could have had an assist or two if his luck was better.