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September 2018

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Ollie Holt on City

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Ollie Holt on City

Post by blueboy on Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:16 am

Last season, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City promised the world.
For six league games, they bewitched English football and persuaded us that there was a new way of winning and that they would set new standards for beautiful football. Then the spell wore off and they lapsed into mere occasional brilliance as others usurped them.
This season is now seven league games old and this time, the spell is stronger. This season, City are suggesting more and more with every game that even though Guardiola has not compromised his principles, even though City are playing once more with great elan and verve and beauty, this time they are the real deal. 
In the minutes after City's dynamic, dominant 1-0 victory at the home of the champions, Guardiola drew a comparison between the way his team played on Saturday and the way they played in the first 45 minutes at Old Trafford last season when they drew rave reviews for the way they dismantled Jose Mourinho's side.
Guardiola seemed intoxicated by the way his team had played. Everything about his demeanour suggested a belief that his players have begun to grasp his teachings and his tenets and that the uncertainties and vulnerabilities of last season are fading into the memory.
It was telling, too, that he did not just eulogise City. He was confident and happy enough to talk about how well Spurs are playing – the Harry Kane team, he called them – and about how Manchester United are starting to bear the impressive, redoubtable stamp of Jose Mourinho's personality.
He was complimentary about all City's title rivals and in a way that gave every impression he thought his team had the measure of all of them. He saved his most extravagant praise, quite rightly, for Kevin de Bruyne, his match-winner and the player of the season so far. 'He can do absolutely everything,' he said.

Until this clash at Stamford Bridge, City have looked on a different level to a series of lesser teams and 10-man Liverpool but as the rain anointed them in the closing minutes in west London, they looked on a different level to the champions, too.
Everyone watching knew it. The Chelsea fans who grumbled and groaned as their players failed to live with City's pace and intensity and technique knew it. And Antonio Conte knew it, too. He knew it in everything he did and in the way he reacted to the way his team was outclassed. 
Conte parked the bus here but even the bus couldn't stop City. This is a team too good to be frustrated often by massed defences. This is a team that is starting to purr to Guardiola's football philosophy. This is a team which, quite rightly, are favourites to win the title. This time, Guardiola and Manchester City are not going away.
Guardiola is such a forceful personality that everything that happens at City is seen through the prism of whether it is a vindication of his footballing principles or an indictment of them. There is no doubting the ambition of what he is trying to achieve, just whether he will be able to impose his style on the English game.

'In Spain,' he said in an interview with Gary Lineker last week when he discussed how deeply he was influenced by the teachings of Johan Cruyff, 'the value of the ball is so important. Here, the ball doesn't travel with the team.'
When Lineker asked him whether he would make compromises to satisfy the different demands of the Premier League, Guardiola shook his head. 'I won't concede one centimetre of the way we play,' he said.
His stubborn adherence to his principles, his refusal to yield an inch in his pursuit of football nirvana has endeared him to purists everywhere but City's failings last season have also spawned a legion of sceptics who persist in the belief his methods will not work in England's rough and tumble.
At this stage last season, it seemed that Guardiola and City were going to take the Premier League by storm. They won their first six league games, playing the kind of champagne football that did, indeed, threaten to redefine football aesthetics in this country. 'At the start of last season, I was so excited,' Guardiola said, laughing. 'I thought this was easy.'
But then it all went wrong. City lost at Spurs in their seventh game, they dropped points in successive draws, they lost at home to Leicester and away to Chelsea. All before Christmas. Suddenly, their football wasn't so sexy. They finished the season 15 points adrift of Antonio Conte's champions.
The same kind of scenario has played out at the start of this season. City had been all but unstoppable in their first six league games, scoring 21 goals and conceding only two. They earned rave reviews but everyone remembered what happened in the seventh game last season.

Facing Chelsea was the biggest test so far of whether City, who are the title favourites, will last the distance this season. Chelsea beat them home and away last season and they were fresh from their outstanding victory over Atletico Madrid in Spain last week so were City about to be found out again?
City were missing Sergio Aguero, who broke a rib in a taxi crash in Amsterdam on Thursday night. Many suggested that a trip to the Dutch city was an unusual way of preparing for the biggest match of the season so far but Guardiola dismissed that idea.
And the City side that he sent out at Stamford Bridge looked far removed from the team that fell away last season. City have lost left-sided defender Benjamin Mendy to a long-term injury but they have bolstered by the signing of Kyle Walker on the right flank, John Stones has matured and they look altogether less vulnerable.
They dominated possession in the first half as everyone surely knew they would. And after they rode their luck when Alvaro Morata headed over from an early N'Golo Kante cross, City asserted their superiority. This is an English team that does value the ball. This is an English team that doesn't just travel with the ball, it makes sure it travels first class.
They started to pass Chelsea to death. They probed and they worked and they harassed and they pulled Chelsea out of shape and gradually the chances started to come.
They should have taken the lead midway through the half when Raheem Sterling sprinted clear down the right wing and saw Gabriel Jesus and David Silva hurtling into the box. Sterling clipped the ball across but it was just too far ahead of his teammates for either to apply the finishing touch.
Chelsea struggled to keep pace with City. They could not live with the speed of their play and when Morata went off injured, Conte did not replace him with another attacker but with a midfielder, Willian.

Chelsea packed men behind the ball and redoubled their efforts to interrupt City's passing and movement. Their own forays forward became more and more rare as they limited themselves to a policy of containment.
They were still indebted to a wonderful reaction save from Thibault Courtois on the stroke of half time when he pushed away a bullet header by Nicolas Otamendi from a De Bruyne corner but it seemed only a matter of time until City scored.
Twice in the space of a minute midway through the second half, City should have taken the lead with lightning breakaways down the right. Both times, they could not convert the opportunity, although it took desperate defending from Cesar Azpilicueta to block Silva's goalbound shot.
The inevitable breakthrough came in the 67th minute when De Bruyne played a 1-2 with Gabriel Jesus, advanced to the edge of the Chelsea area and unleashed an unstoppable left foot shot past Courtois. It was the goal that City's dominance deserved.
Conte brought on Michy Batshuayi and Chelsea at least carried the game to City a little more than they had. But it was too late to make a real difference. In fact, City nearly extended their lead when Jesus shot beyond Courtois only to see his shot headed off the line by Antonio Rudiger. The evidence so far this season suggests City are no longer going to be a team that lets things slip.

"How you gonna live your dash?"
Man City Fan TV Mod

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