Well, where do we go from here. Shambolic displays every game so far this season in whatever competition and we’re going to the new home of Pep Guardiola. A challenge I was relishing after our outstanding away performances last season, the time has finally arrived and I’ve bought brand new extra large cushions to hide behind for 90 minutes on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, we can’t forfeit a 3-0 so we must field an eleven players to combat City.
As expected Adrian should play in goal, maybe a clean sheet here could even earn him a starting spot ahead of De Gea over the International break, I doubt either of them occurring.
Byram obviously at right back, probably our best player so far this season, not a difficult award to win. Bilic needs to decide on who his two starting centre backs are soon so they can develop a partnership. My choices would be Collins and Ogbonna, against City Ginge can defend his own box like a tank. Masuaku clearly like Byram is the other full back as both are the only fit choices, thankfully both equally impressive.
Decision: Adrian, Byram, Collins, Ogbonna, Masuaku
Much has been made of Pep’s fascinating tactic of bringing the full backs into centre midfield when in possession which has side effects that are devastating. The idea essentially creates space for De Bruyne and Silva as the central midfielders of opponents are over run and push onto the full backs thus leaving holes for the two maestros.
How to counter this is a huge task, but this would be my solution, you play 4-3-3. The 3 central midfielders must stick tight and not get dragged wide or forward, fullbacks 40 yards out can have the ball all day. Because City’s fullbacks come narrow they don’t offer overlapping support to wingers, this means you can be brave and keep your 2 wingers higher up either tracking fullbacks inside or playing chicken and sit wide in the space. This leaves fullbacks one on one, but it’s the risk you must take. The striker must run channels and stretch in behind, there’s no point coming short and being surrounded, turn the defenders. This isn’t fool proof and I’m not suggesting it will guarantee clean sheets, but City’s weakness is on the fast counter and exploiting the space out wide is a good option for that.
Noble is and will be an ever present in my selections, leadership and mental attributes are undervalued in this modern age of fantasy teams, Noble brings determination that can ripple throughout the side. Accompanied by Kouyate and Obiang who’d both be my first choices anyway but an injured Nordtveit makes the decision an easy one.
Decision: Noble, Obiang, Kouyate
Our most potent threat currently is Antonio and no prizes for guessing he is my selection on the wide right. If considered fit enough to play Payet needs to be starting, someone who can actually keep the ball and create something, but, if he’s not i would be very tempted by Fletcher. I realise it’s not his favoured position but he won’t have to go back past his own fullback and he has an unknown x-factor about him that could really spark the team. It early days to make a decision on Tore, but, he just doesn’t look up to the pace and competitiveness of the Premier League, certainly not as of now anyway. Perhaps give him a starting 45, or the second 45.
With Zaza just missing out on being registered in time it poses the conundrum of who to play up front on Sunday. I’ll write off Valencia straight away, the poor guy has lost whatever technique and confidence he when we signed him, for the sake of both parties we really should move him on after the arrival of Zaza.
Calleri hasn’t found the net for us in the brief set of games he’s played for us. Now you could argue the whole team has been dreadful and a striker like him requires service so suffers as a result. This being said he’s had two games against Astra and failed to score. Although the old cliche of being in the right places to score comes into play here.
The final option is Fletcher who’s recently arrived from Manchester United. It was be a daunting task for the lad to go up against City, his first start in the Premier League. For a relatively unknown quantity we do know he’ll bring an energy and enthusiasm to the side that is much needed. The niavety and confidence of youth may play in our favour.
Ultimately I’d have to side with Calleri, a little more experience and pedigree than Fletcher. But no doubt he’ll get some minutes in this game.
Decision: Antonio, Calleri, Payet