Fan Zone: Kartik on City’s Sterling, Bernardo & David Silva as well as Fernandinho & more

A special guest for the latest Q&A is Kartik Krishnaiyer- heavily involved in soccer and politics in the state of Florida- and the author of Blue with Envy: My American Journey with Manchester City.

Instead of starting with how it all began for Kartik, the focus in this part of the Q&A is mostly on current Manchester City topics, in particular the key players. We discuss current stars such as David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero as well as some of the club’s key figures in the past such as Vincent Kompany, the former captain who left last summer, and of course Francis Henry Lee.

Kartik’s wealth and depth in information when it comes to discussing the Citizens is even more evident when you cover not just the club’s current era but the history of Man City. You can reach Kartik and Rami Soufi on their social media accounts and feel free to discuss further any of the points raised in the Q&A below.

1)  Choose 2 players from David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez for your team. Explain why?

I am going with Sterling and Bernardo Silva though at one point it would have been Sterling and David Silva. Sterling’s off-the-ball runs are among the best in world football, something England fans and many in the British press didn’t quite understand in the World Cup in 2018.

Sterling didn’t score so they couldn’t understand why Gareth Southgate kept picking him then came the Colombia game. Sterling was replaced by Jamie Vardy and that absolutely gutted England’s play going forward. It was then that people started to notice Sterling’s role and significance. Bernardo Silva has a different game than peak David Silva did. Bernardo has more bite to his play without the ball but he is not as creative a player in the final third. They aren’t like for like, but both complement Sterling very well.

2) Choose one from Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho, and explain why?

Fernandinho is the heart and soul of Manchester City. An outstanding two-way player, he’s a master of keeping the ball moving, winning the ball and if needed cynically breaking up play. Also, he is a leader on and off the pitch.

3) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the City shirt, and why?

So this is a difficult conversation because it’s probably Franny Lee – who also later as Club Chairman presided over the worst era in the club’s history largely due to his decision making. Don’t get me wrong he inherited a really bad situation from Peter Swales but he had no idea how to fix it. The most lamentable era in City’s history coincided with his tenure.

Still, as a player he was brilliant. A forward who could score and link play and seemed to reserve his best for the biggest occasions – cup finals, Manchester derbies and other key matches. His partnership with Colin Bell was off the charts.

4) What are City’s weaknesses? Is it the full-backs or the central defensive pair looking shaky? Did losing Kompany hurt City’s title defense?

It is the central defense for sure. Losing Kompany has taken away an important dressing room figure and deprived the Starting XI of the glue that keeps together the team’s core defensively. This has continued to be an issue with City’s transfer failures in the center-back position go back to selling Matija Nastasic to Schalke and buying Eliaquim  Mangala as a replacement. The miscalculations in the market have finally caught up with City.

5) I know you follow Bundesliga closely so you’ve seen Erling Haaland & Achraf Hakimi play. Would you rather sign Haaland or Hakimi? 

Hakimi fits Pep Guardiola’s style of an advanced fullback working a lot in terms of crossing and tucking into midfield. Cancelo was a bad experiment and will likely be moved. Hakimi can be explosive going forward, but I am not in love with his defending.

6) City built a reputation playing the possession game. Do you think this focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic has hurt City’s quest to defend the Premier League title?

Yes, and even hurt City’s chances in Europe to be honest even more since counter-attacking wins trophies, particularly in critical and tight games. Frankly, same thing happened to Pep at Bayern Munich. His Bayern teams kept the ball all day long but whenever faced with the counter-attacking ability of the Spanish opponents they played in the semi-finals, the Spanish clubs tended to counter them to death.

7) What do you make of Gabriel Jesus? His stats are great despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you keep Jesus or go for someone like Harry Kane?

Jesus is a better all-around No. 9 for the modern game than almost anyone we could sign. It’s the stuff he does off the ball and his ability to adapt tactically (as seen in Madrid) that make him suitable for Pep.

Sergio Aguero scores a ton of goals and he’s tough to drop but I would argue Jesus is a better overall footballer at this stage of their careers. At the same time Kane is a wonderful player who doesn’t have to be a No. 9. He can play deeper and already understands Sterling’s game from England duty where the two of them lead the line.

Rodri is a boring, sensible signing, but that’s why City are so good in the transfer market

It had been rumoured almost from the very moment the 2018/19 season came to a close for Manchester City. In fact, there had been rumours even before then that the Premier League champions had identified Rodri as the man they wanted as their marquee addition this summer.

It’s easy to see why they were attracted to the midfielder. He is a player very much in the mould of a Pep Guardiola team, with many seeing Rodri as the natural successor to Sergio Busquets for Spain. At Atletico Madrid, Rodri showed his quality and capacity for the big time, but under Diego Simeone it felt like he was being held back somewhat.

Rodri

This won’t be the case at the Etihad Stadium. Rodri will now receive a footballing education like no other. Even players who have played at the top level for years talk about the shock of coming into a Guardiola side, but it is often players like Rodri, young, talented and hungry, who stand to benefit the most from this.

Not much fanfare greeted Rodri as he was officially announced as a Manchester City player earlier this week. That was largely down to the protracted nature of the transfer, with City’s pursuit of the 23-year-old reported as long ago as April. He is not a goalscorer or a flashy winger either.

Some might even say that City’s addition of Rodri is boring. But this is a symptom of what makes them so effective in the transfer market. Rodri was an obvious target for them. There was no surprise factor to their targeting of the Spanish international. He is a sensible, entirely logical addition.

Of course, City didn’t really need Rodri in the immediate term. Fernandinho had one of his best seasons for the club last term as the defending champions retained their crown with another incredible points tally. But Fernandinho is approaching his 35th birthday and so Man City saw the opportunity to secure his successor while they could.

The plan will be to ease Rodri in gently to his new surroundings. There is no need to drop him in at the deep end and perhaps by the end of the season he will have replaced Fernandinho in the City starting lineup. If not, that transition will happen some enough. The Etihad Stadium side might not be making many headlines with their transfer moves, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing the right thing.

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EPL Best XI – Mesut Ozil stars

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Manchester City and Liverpool have 23 points after nine games of the 2018-19 Premier League season, while Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham trail them by just two points following another incident-filled weekend in England’s top flight. Let’s take a look at which players made our Best XI from the last three days…

GK: Jordan Pickford, Everton – seven points
Jordan Pickford has recovered from a slow start to the season to pick up 14 points in two of his last three games. He earned another seven in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace – a match in which he also saved a penalty.

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John Stones: the next Kompany?

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2024703-1170x658While it is hardly a surprise these days to see defenders like Harry Maguire command reported bids worth £100million following noteworthy performances in the world cup, it was hardly the case till recently. Clubs were increasingly hesitant when expected to indulge in big-money deals for defenders who did not enjoy a proven track record with a largely orthodox approach at play.

At the same time, they were more than happy to invest a lion’s share of their finances behind attacking recruits who were considered safe investments in comparison. The underlying belief rested on the misconception that the acquisition of quality attackers had the ability to determine the overall fortunes in the long run, considering their commercial value with the defensive department deemed expendable in nature.

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Is Fernandinho in the mould of Patrick Vieira?

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870529256Every football fan worth his salt will be well aware of the significant development that Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles played a key role towards heralding in modern day football. While modern-day football fans were quick to criticise the Frenchman for even the smallest of things during the last few years of his tenure, the game owes much of its current sheen to the exhilarating gameplay which Wenger encouraged despite resistance from the traditionalists.

In the 2003-04 season, Arsenal gave the footballing world a true glimpse into a team which was built on the back of a solid foundation with the defenders more than capable of snuffing out any attack and attackers who could conjure moments of brilliance singlehandedly. The side went on to finish unbeaten in the league throughout the season, emerging as the first outfit to threaten Manchester United’s hegemony.

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Brazil bow out following defeat to Belgium

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Five-times World Cup champions Brazil bowed out of the World Cup last week after a mediocre campaign was finally brought to an end by Roberto Martinez’s Belgium side in Kazan.

In a crunch match in which Brazil would have to show their mettle and championship-winning credentials if they were to continue into the latter stages of the competition, the side found themselves behind early on when Nacer Chadli’s corner struck Fernandinho’s arm, beating an unsuspecting Alisson.

Brazil had conceded just one goal in their past four games in Russia and their opponents took advantage of the malaise that followed the surprise goal – creating a Continue reading

Brazil make a strong statement with an impressive win over Mexico

Brazil v Argentina - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier
Undoubtedly, Brazil were the most comfortable winners in the last-16 stage of the FIFA World Cup. Out of eight games, three were decided on penalties, and four teams registered a single-goal over their respective opponents in normal time. Continue reading

World Cup 2018: Redemption on the menu for hopefuls Brazil

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Following on from last week’s look at Germany’s approach to this summer’s World Cup, we will now be taking a look at one of the tournament’s other favourites – South American outfit Brazil.

The five-time world champions disappointed while hosting the previous tournament in 2014, crashing out to Germany in the semi-finals. The disappointment didn’t necessarily stem from them “only” reaching the semis of course – though most were expecting them to win – but that disappointment came largely from the manner of their exit. That was a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of eventual winners Germany, and for that to occur on Brazilian soil was almost unthinkable. Continue reading

Fernandinho enjoying fantastic start to the season with Manchester City

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Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho has started the 2015/16 season in fantastic form, leading the Sky Blues to the top of the Premier League table with a series of brilliant performances in the middle of the park. The Brazilian international, 30, has been a regular in the side, playing in every league game under manager Manuel Pellegrini this campaign, and finds himself among the division’s best combative players on recent showings.

Fernandinho has operated alongside Fernando and Yaya Toure at the heart of the midfield, providing the protection for the City backline, as well as retaining possession and providing extra creativity in the final third. The industrious South American isn’t one to dribble on the ball, or provide moments of individual brilliance, but he does the simple things well, and has been a trusty performer for the Sky Blues this season.

Boasting good tactical awareness and fantastic timing of his challenges, there are few midfielders in the Premier League better defensively than Fernandinho this campaign. The City man has averaged a tackle or interception every 17 minutes, and has even created 12 chances for his troubles too. He’s a composed head in the midfield, making more than 65 passes per game in the Premier League, and won’t overplay in his role.

In a side full of world-class attacking talent and players providing more of a threat in the final third than defensively, Fernandinho provides the balance to ensure Manchester City aren’t too top heavy. It’s no surprise why his struggles last season saw the club failing to retain the title, and why an in-form Fernandinho is helping City atop in the division. Pellegrini held pep talks with his squad ahead of the new campaign, which is said to have the desired effect, and the Chilean has been full of praise for his combative star.

“Fernandinho has returned to being the player we saw in his first season at City. He is a very important player as he is the midfielder who is more obligated to stay because we have more freedom with Yaya. He had some criticism last season but if he carries on like this, he will once again show why we brought him here,” said the City boss.

A World Cup hangover was blamed for Fernandinho’s poor form last season, but the Brazilian midfielder looks to have put 2014/15 behind him, and is playing a pivotal role in Manchester City’s title-contending campaign. Just how good has Fernandinho been for Manchester City this season?