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Eye On The Enemy – Man City (a)

By on August 27, 2016 in Interviews, Match Preview

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After our disappointing start to the season continued with a defeat to Astra, which left us tumbling out of Europa with a bitter taste in our mouths, again we find ourselves travelling to The Etihad. Marvellous. Pep Guardiola is slowly but surely raising the levels at City, so, perhaps playing them before they get ‘too’ set in hs new philosophies is a blessing in disguise. We came here and won last season, so we can do it again.

I spoke to the Dan from @TypicalCity – www.typicalcity.org – before the game to get the City perspective coming into it. As always, a massive thank you to them for getting involved.

Pep Guardiola, already top of the League and through to the Champions League group stages. How has he gone down so far with the City fans?

Extremely well. We were all incredibly excited about his arrival, as you can probably imagine, and he’s won every competitive game he’s taken charge of so far and hasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

There seems to be a fair bit of scepticism from non-City fans about Pep’s ability as a coach and you get the feeling he still has a lot to prove in the eyes of many people. After a rather fractured and dis-jointed pre-season, I think a few City fans (myself included) felt we might have to reign in our expectations for this season somewhat and give the new manager a bit of time to get his team playing the way he wants them to play. As it happens, the team has adapted to Pep’s methods and taken his ideas on board a lot quicker than anyone expected and as good as they’ve been, I think there’s still a fair way to go before they reach their optimum performance level, which is very encouraging.

I feel like I’m learning more and more about football every time I watch Pep’s City play and every time I listen to him talk. His tactical innovations (such as the “inverted fullbacks”) have been revelatory so far and the transformations he’s already inspired from the likes of Raheem Sterling and Aleksandar Kolarov have been nothing short of miraculous.

There will undoubtedly be some tough tests and bumps along the road ahead, but so far so good!

 

What have you made of West Ham’s start to the season?

I thought you were unfortunate to lose at Chelsea in your first game and perhaps a little fortunate to beat Bournemouth last weekend but I’m anticipating a hard fought contest at the Etihad on Sunday. The less said about your aborted Europa League campaign the better, I suppose. On the plus side, at least you’ll now have fewer distractions in your quest to try and qualify for it again next season.

 

One player I was hoping we may have been able to be cheeky enough to get on loan earlier in the window was Iheanacho. Brilliant young player. How good was it to see him sign up for a new long contract?

Yeah, that was fantastic news. He’s a 19-year-old lad blessed with both a great deal of raw talent and the cool-headed composure of a seasoned pro. He has a great range of finishes in his locker and his link-up play is very good too. What’s more, he has a sensible head on his shoulders and seems very likeable and down to earth.

It might not be saying much, but he’s probably the most promising youth prospect I’ve seen come through the ranks in all the time I’ve been watching City and I’ve absolutely no doubt he’ll be a future star.

You never had any chance of getting him on loan though I’m afraid, he’s our second choice striker behind Aguero!

Aguero has been very much involved in front of goal so far this season. Is he thriving off the new manager and set up?

He’s been excellent so far, particularly when we played Steaua Bucharest away in the Champions League qualifying round and he scored a hat-trick despite missing two penalties. Our system seems to be more geared towards creating chances for Sergio than it ever has been and he’ll take them more often than not, which must make the rest of the League rather nervous.

That said, as ever when it comes to Aguero, his achievements this season will hinge on whether or not his body lets him down. He’s had far too many muscle injuries over the years and there’s always a fear that at any moment he could pull up and face several weeks, if not months, on the sidelines.

Last season it was reported that he’d made drastic changes to his diet in an attempt to finally sort his muscles out and he had probably his least injury-hit campaign since he came to the club so we can only hope his troubles are now a thing of the past.

 

Joe Hart is handling his situation very admirably, what’s your take on it? And, how will the fans feel to see him leave the club?

Yes, the way he’s conducted himself during the past couple of weeks has been very admirable but I expected nothing less from a man who has been nothing but honest and professional throughout his career.

If he does leave this summer, it will be a very sad day for everyone involved with City. He’s our longest serving player who has performed fantastically for us over the years and seems to genuinely care about the club as much as we do. At one point during what was possibly his last appearance in a City shirt against Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday night, the whole stadium rose as one to show their appreciation for him and many people, including the man himself, were moved to tears.

However, I don’t speak for every City fan when I say this, but I think in footballing terms, replacing Hart with Claudio Bravo is the right thing to do. When it comes to stopping shots and one-on-one situations, there aren’t many goalkeepers in world football who are better than Hart (unless the shots are struck to his left side, in which case he can be very poor, as you might have noticed during the European Championships this summer) but Guardiola’s grand plan requires a ‘keeper who’s good at playing the ball out with his feet and sweeping up after the defence. Hart’s dreadful distribution has been a bone of contention amongst City fans for as long as I can remember and though his axing may seem callous, the reasoning behind it is obvious and understandable.

We did a poll on Twitter this week and 70% of the people who voted agreed that Pep’s decision is probably the right one. We’ll always love Hart and his contribution and commitment to the cause will never be forgotten, but it’s time for a change.

One player we’re looking at getting in, whether it be loan or permanent, is Wilfried Bony due to our injury issues. What do you make of that move, and do you think it would work out for all parties?

As I write this, it would appear that a deal for Simone Zaza is imminent so perhaps this question is redundant but I’ll answer it anyway.

Wilfried Bony’s spell in Manchester has been something approaching a disaster and I think it’s a real shame. I thought we’d signed a great player when he joined us from Swansea but unfortunately, it would appear he isn’t suited to our style of play at all and it just hasn’t worked out. It hasn’t been for the want of trying though, and there’s definitely still a talented player in there somewhere so I sincerely hope he can get his career back on track somewhere else soon.

Apparently City want somewhere in the region of £25 million for him, which seems absolutely mad considering his form over the last couple of seasons. If yourselves or Everton, who’ve also been linked with him, can manage to convince City to let him leave on loan then I think you’ll be getting a very good deal and a player who’s capable of at least 10-15 goals a season. His confidence is shot at the moment, but a fresh start could be just what he needs.

 

Do you think the whole League will be a lot more competitive and closer fought due to the amount of money readily available to all clubs this year?

Every year there seems to be the suggestion that we’re about to witness “the best/most competitive Premier League season ever” and it never really materialises, but I think this time around it might actually happen. We’ve got some of the world’s best managers doing their thing in England now and some very strong teams. Any one of five or six teams could realistically be in with a shout for the title this season and I really wouldn’t like to call which way it’s going to go.

I’m not sure the influx of new money into the Premier League has quite had the impact that many predicted it would, though. All it’s really done is inflated players’ values (£20 million is the new £10 million, £30 million is the new £20 million and so on and so forth) and made it even more difficult to strike a deal than it was before.

City have been paying over the odds for players for years due to the fact that selling clubs know we aren’t short of a few quid and I think everyone in the Premier League is now going to have the same problem.

 

If you could pick one West Ham player to have at City, who would you pick and why? 

I’m sure everyone says this so apologies in advance, but it has to be Dimitri Payet. I absolutely love watching that guy play and his technique from dead ball situations is up there with the all-time greats. I’m really glad he’s staying at West Ham this season as his talent deserves to be on show week in week out and I’m not sure he’d be guaranteed that had he moved to a so-called “bigger” club.

It’s still early days, but, where do you see both clubs finishing this season? 

I wouldn’t bet a significant amount of money on it happening, but I have to believe that we’ll win the league this season. It’s going to be extremely tough but we have a capable squad and a more than capable manager, so fingers crossed.

As for West Ham, I fancy you to finish somewhere between 6th and 10th. I think anything higher than that will be extremely difficult this season but Bilic is a very good manager and if you can keep your best players fit, you’ve got every chance of having a very good first season in your new home.

 

Finally, what’s your prediction for the game? 

I think City will win 2-0 or 3-1.

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