Jack Pierce takes a closer look at a Manchester City side going through their own transition.
A man to show us a football we've not seen on these shores before.
A man to make the grey jumper this year's must have.
A man to make those not losing their hair want to lose their hair.
Since the announcement of his impending arrival came earlier this year, the buzz around the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager was been incessant. All sorts of hopes were put on his head and but unfortunately for him, the season started.
Through no fault of his own, the media are aghast that Guardiola's City aren't beating everyone by four or five each week and that the title hasn't been sewn up yet. He's been here five minutes and already the novelty of having a hugely successful coach, perhaps the world's best in our top flight, has been replaced by the usual hyperbolic, misplaced damnation that the British media, print, audio and visual, seems to now thrive upon. It's ridiculous.
City's new incarnation has already shown that their is huge promise with performances against city rivals, United and at home to Barcelona in The Champions League demonstrating that Guardiola's tactics are being adopted by his new players and when all does click, they'll be a pretty formidable monster. For now, there are teething problems, as seen with the goalkeeper and issues with the defence's use of the ball, but this an appointment the club's hierarchy has yearned for, for years. It's been seasons in the making and there's unlikely to be a manager in Europe with greater job security.
This City side could, if all things fit into place for them on Saturday, make us look stupid. As shown in glimpses this season, when Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Sergio Aguero want to know, they are on almost another planet to other Premier League players. De Bruyne, in particular, has been exceptional thus far. His performance in the 2-1 win at Old Trafford in September was one of the best individual displays I’ve seen in the Premier League for many a season. It’s difficult to see how Jose Mourinho was so unfussed by the Belgian at Chelsea when you watch De Bruyne. He makes the game look effortless and is able to control a game’s pace with ease; when he and Silva knock it around between each other and find space with consummate ease, you do wonder why anyone else bothers playing the game.
Sterling, a player who splits opinion for fun, has found a new lease of life under Guardiola. Better use of the ball and having an impact in most, if not all, matches has seen Sterling transform from someone whose price, of nigh on £50 million, was questioned on a weekly basis to someone that has become an integral to City’s attack. He was very good for England on Tuesday night and if he gets near to that sort of form on Saturday afternoon, Martin Kelly may well want a hole to swallow him up.
Sergio Aguero, often lauded as the best player in the Premier League, is a superb player and one that all football fans would want at their club. That’s not enough for his new manager who has insisted that improvements be made to his game despite his prolific early season form. A lot was made of his omission from the side for the trip Barcelona earlier in the season and whether that was right or wrong (probably wrong considering they lost 4-0), a message appears to have gotten to Aguero. Statistics indicate he is doing a lot more running, or pressing as I’m told it’s called, in an effort to show his manager that he is, as well as an expert finisher, keen to be the first line of defence. He’s a wonderful player and City fans will be hoping he lasts a little longer than the 20-odd minutes he did last September when City visited. Palace fans might not mind if Scott Dann does what he did then again.
At home to City should be a free hit for a side like Palace but given the inability to beat the likes of WBA, Bournemouth and West Ham earlier in the season, the pressure is slightly increased; in terms of fan expectation and the requirement for points. You shouldn’t be going into a fixture against one of the best resourced sides on the continent needing a win to improve the mood around a club but after the 2016 we’ve had in the league, a defeat on Saturday will add further cause for a moan.
A win, however…