One door has already been opened

Sunday 25th February will forever be associated with  Pep Guardiola’s  first trophy ( The Carabao Cup) with the Blues. We will explore the Cup Final later in the piece.

Looking back on a week of real contradictions for all Cityzens, with the uncharacteristic performance once again against Wigan in the FA Cup, following a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad on the 10th March 2014. Wigan once again spoiled the party in the 2018 campaign, as they proved yet again difficult opponents, causing City’s well drilled squad to suffer an unforeseen 1-0 defeat to a late winner from Will Grigg, and ending the hopes of a clean sweep of domestic silverware for the Blues. However Pep, during the build up to the game emphasised the difficulty of challenging on 4 fronts and said “the quadruple is a Pipe Dream” and it could be argued the real priority for the club and the hierarchy, is in fact, the Champions League.

The Wigan game was full of controversial incidents, the turning point being the Red Card issued by  Anthony Taylor  shown to  Fabian Delph;  Taylor appeared to take the Yellow Card from his pocket and proceeded to write  Delph’s  name down, and then under pressure from the Wigan players pulled out the Red sending him off. The replay clearly shows that the tackle was reckless, His leading leg was a little high but didn’t make any contact with Max Power; it was in fact  Delph’s  trailing thigh that made the actual contact.  Power was looking for the foul and made the most of the tackle. In my opinion this was a definite Yellow. Pep and the Wigan manager Paul Cook had animated words in the tunnel as the whistle went for Half Time; the tunnel cam caught Pep’s frustration at the sending off, and in my opinion the Wigan strategy was to frustrate both manager and team thus affecting their composure.

In both the Cardiff and Wigan games the irony of these tackles, in both games, wasn’t lost on Pep and all City fans showing the inconsistency of different Premier League match day officials

This tackle by Joe Bennett of Cardiff City on Leroy Sane  shows an obvious parallel. The tackle was much worse and could have put Sane out for 6 weeks, yet no Red Card was shown by referee Lee Mason. Pep called for duty of care for all players regardless of their team by all officials at all times. The result of this tackle meant Pep had to manage a depleted squad facing four major competitions. The two incidents in both games must have appeared to be a total injustice to Pep. However, he is on the record stating that “we accept the Wigan result and move on to the next game”

The Carabao Cup Final as we all know was a resounding 3-0 victory over Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. The squad in the 1st Half  weren’t firing on all cylinders, and the tension of a Cup Final was evident for all to see. However, the old guard led by  Sergio  stepped up to the challenge, chipping  Ospina  from a direct assist by  Claudio Bravo  (route 1 for a change) really settled the nerves. City outplayed Arsenal throughout the game and the flowing rhythmic passing began to show as the game progressed.

The 2nd Half continued as the 1st Half  had ended, pulsating and entertaining and “ Vinny”  popped up to latch on to a  lkay Gündoğan  shot/cross to guide it home, making it 2-0. Wembley erupted and the  “Capt”  celebrated like it was his first ever goal for the Blues. I myself was so pleased for  “Vinny”,   given all his injuries and prolonged  lay offs, it takes real mental strength and character to keep recovering and returning time after time.

Then finally to top it all off  “Merlin”   popped up and took on the defence with sublime skill and technique, from the left side into the 6 yard box, and calmly slotted it past  Ospina  into the opposite side of the net for number 3.

Resulting in a 3-0 Cup wining victory to remember, showing a true example of Pep’s version of “Total Football”, the runaway train that is Manchester City keeps on moving onto the Premier League Title, and towards the priority challenge of the Champions League.


Article by Stuart Stott