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.

Premier League: Fantasy Picks for the Weekend

The first ever winter break is taking place in the Premier League in England and it has been something managers have been calling for for some time. However that doesn’t mean that the league is taking a total break. Instead what will happen is that some teams will have 2 weeks off and then the ones playing this weekend will then have two weeks off- that is the plan anyway.

In total there are 4 Premier League games taking place this weekend, are your players playing? If so you could be in luck for some extra points, or you might want to be very shrewd and take a look at who we are picking this weekend to earn maximum fantasy league points.

Goalkeeper: Simon Moore- Sheffield United

Sheffield United have been brilliant this season and are in 6th place. This is a risky choice to pick Simon Moore here because he has been injured for the season, but he has recovered now so the manager needs to make a choice. At one point surely Moore will get his chance and the Blades are playing Bournemouth at home and will be the favourites to win.

Defender: Yerry Mina- Everton

Yerry Mina is playing his best football since arriving with Everton. Not only is he helping his side in defence he is also scoring goals, and got 2 last weekend. He has helped keep 6 clean sheets so far and Everton will be at home to Crystal Palace.

Defender: Kyle Walker- Manchester City

Manchester City will play West Ham at home and everyone is thinking they can win and score a lot of goals too. But they also have a good chance to keep a clean sheet against an under confident West Ham side. Walker has kept 6 clean sheets so far this season.

Defender: Lucas Digne- Everton

Lucas Digne has 20 points so far this season and he is Everton’s best defender. He has kept 6 clean sheets and even though he hasn’t scored a goal, that is not his job and yet he has assisted for 5 goals this season. A versatile player that would only cost you 5.5m and Everton play at home to Crystal Palace so there is every chance he could keep a clean sheet.

Defender: Adam Masina- Watford

Watford do not have an easy game away to Brighton, but the club have shown so much promise that they could be a threat here. Despite losing to Everton last weekend and being 2 goals to the good, Adam Masina did score and one would hope his confidence will be good for this game.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott- Everton

We have liked the look at Walcott’s form for some weeks and he came on through last weekend scoring the last minute winner against Watford. Everton being back at home against Crystal Palace should present the home side with a few opportunities and Walcott has notched up 13 points so far.

Midfielder: Bernardo Silva- Manchester City

When Manchester City lose games they usually bounce back and get a big score and they will be at home to West Ham, a club who currently look in crisis. There is potential here for Silva and City to do very well. And we have tried to pick out a good value player for the club who would cost you 8.5m and he has acquired 39 points this season.

Midfielder: Pascal Groß- Brighton

Pascal Groß scored a goal last weekend against West Ham as Brighton stunned the Hammers coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3. He has been involved in six of his clubs goals this season and Brighton will need this win at home as they could get sucked into the relegation battle.

Midfielder: John Lundstram- Sheffield United

John Lundtstram is a reliable midfielder who has 30 points this season and should be brought into many teams when you think his cost is just 2.5m. He has scored 3 goals and also assisted in another two and looks a real find for the club.

Striker: Gabriel Jesus- Manchester City

Gabriel Jesus looks like a bargain at 8m and with City being at home to West Ham we would think there could be a lot of goals for the home side and Jesus has every chance of scoring. He has netted 9 goals so far this season and also assisted in another 4 games.

Striker: Richarlison- Everton

The Brazilian was linked with a surprise move away to Barcelona just last week. But Everton rejected this. What has been important is his manager Carlo Ancelotti who has stated how important Richarlison is to the club, Brazilian’s love to feel wanted and it is very possible that Richarlison will act in a very positive way when his club play Crystal Palace at home. He has scored 8 goals so far and assisted 3 times.

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FA Cup: Team of the 4th round

The Premier League took a break at the weekend to make way for the 4th round of the FA Cup. Some Premier League teams were involved and whilst, as ever, there were some lower league teams looking to become the new giant killer of the famous competition. Below we take at the team of the 4th round of the cup based on performance.

Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero- Manchester United

Manchester United pick Romero when playing cup games and United easily beat Tranmere 6-0, but it was still important for Romero to stand firm and focus and brilliant for his confidence to keep a clean sheet.

Defender: Robert Dickie- Oxford United

Oxford United produced one of the ties of the round drawing 0-0 away to Newcastle who put out a strong side. Robert Dickie in central defence saw a lot of the ball and did a sterling job.

Defender: Elliott Moore- Oxford United

Keeping with brilliant Oxford United Moore also had an exceptional game and was focused as the Premier League stars remained frustrated and Moore deserves high praise.

Defender: Conor Townsend- West Bromwich Albion

Possibly the player of the round. Conor Townsend not only helped keep a clean sheet away to West Ham, but he also scored what turned out to be the winning goal as Albion knocked out West Ham 1-0.

Defender: Ryan Tafazolli- Hull

True Hull were knocked out by Chelsea, but the gulf in class and budget was there to see and Hull held their own for long periods of the game. Ryan Tafazolli was a rock in defence and played well, he got unlucky a few times but helped to keep the score low.

Midfielder: Olivier Norwood- Sheffield United

Oliver Norwood did his confidence very well as his side advanced to the 5th round of the cup by beating Millwall 2-0. He also helped keep a clean sheet and scored a goal, for a perfect cup game.

Midfielder: Curtis Jones- Liverpool

Curtis Jones did it again as he scored for Liverpool when given the chance to play. He now has 2 goals in two cup games and is full of confidence. One for the future perhaps?

Midfielder: Ben Close- Portsmouth

Close got the ball rolling and opened the scoring for Portsmouth who went on to score 4 goals and beat Barnsley 4-2. It’s already quite an achievement for the side to reach the 5th round and they will try and go further. His goal was a cracker too.

Midfielder: Sofiane Boufal- Southampton

Sofiane Boufal scored against Tottenham and played a pivotal role as his team Southampton frustrated last seasons Champions League finalists and the game finished 1-1.

Striker: Jason Cummings- Shrewsbury

Jason Cummings will never forget this game as long as he lives. The striker that not many people would have heard of scored 2 goals against Liverpool, who had been cruising and were leading 2-0. Cummings converted a penalty then sealed a draw that will see the club play at Anfield in the replay.

Striker: Gabriel Jesus- Manchester City

A more familiar name, but nonetheless Gabriel Jesus was on top form for Manchester City who made light work of Fulham and beat them 4-0. Jesus scored two goals in what ended up being a stroll for the Premier League champions.

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Manchester City’s quest for a cup treble continues

Manchester City are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup after an emphatic 4-0 win against Scott Parker’s Fulham. Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and a Gabriel Jesus brace ensured City’s quest for a cup treble continued in a season that could still be an impressive one.

Despite being 16 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City find themselves in good stead in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and the Champions League, a trophy that has eluded the blue side of Manchester. Continue reading

Are Manchester City feeling the brunt of VAR?

With the Premier League having 2 games in the matter of a few days Manchester City, the champions could well be aggrieved about some of the decisions that have not gone their way. VAR has struck again and whilst the technology is getting decisions correct, there does seem to be fine margins and a lack of consistency.

This past weekend City made heavy weather at home once again to Crystal Palace. Palace had infamously beaten them 3-2 last season at the Etihad and with a little under 20 minutes to play on Saturday Palace were again winning this time it was 1-0 and whilst City dominated the game it looked as if they were going to have one of their frustrating days in front of the goal. And then there was a penalty….

The referee Graham Scott had no problem pointing to the spot and City looked saved. The incident occurred when Jairo Riedelwald in defence for Palace had handled the ball. Now this wasn’t an intentional hand ball and the ball had ricocheted from his own body- in other words there was nothing he could do. Common sense would have said no penalty. The referee who obviously saw it in real time said penalty. But when the decision went to VAR it was overturned and the decision was no penalty.

However rarely has VAR used common sense to when looking at decisions. It has gone straight for the rule book. So if  players knee is offside then VAR would go along with that, the same with handballs. There have been many examples of players handling the ball and goals being disallowed. West Ham’s last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. The ball came off of Declan Rice the Hammers player, he never meant it and there was no malice, but VAR ruled no goal, he had handled the ball.

And so when VAR did make the right decision in the City-Palace game it felt off. Where did the rule book go? All of a sudden City’s hopes were resting in what some one thought about said incident, and they thought no penalty. Another referee in the room could well have said penalty. So we come down now to a massive lack of consistency for all involved. City to their credit didn’t let the decision affect them and did score 2 goals through Sergio Aguero, but Palace scored again to add a sting to the tail as the match finished 2-2 and City slipped further behind league leaders Liverpool.

But the controversy did not stop there for Pep Guardiola’s team. In midweek City had to play Sheffield United. Again a must win game even if the title looks doomed for them. This time City were awarded a penalty, and no one was about to change their decision. The problem was in the actual penalty itself. Dean Henderson the Sheffield United goalkeeper was clearly off his line when Gabriel Jesus struck the ball and this looks like the only reason he saved it.

At the end of the day City won the game 1-0, had it finished 0-0 this story could well have exploded costing City another two points. The rules clearly state that the penalty would have to have been retaken. There was no intervention from VAR and the keeper was a long way off his line and prepared.

The problem is not really with VAR itself but the people who are using the technology. They are making the same old tired mistakes that officials were making without VAR, there is simply a total lack of consistency. It’s caught even the champions out and the worry is that it could play a vital role in the pressurised environment of the relegation battle.

Another batch of Premier League games, some great ones, good goals, incidents but five months into the new season and VAR is still the talking point. That’s fine as an after thought, but it is the main talking point, and surely no one who is in love with the game wants that?

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Premier League Weekend Picks for Matchday 23

Based on form and the fixtures for the new weekend in the Premier League we take a look at the players you should be adding for this weekend and the upcoming fixtures.

Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno- Arsenal

A goalkeeping job is all about clean sheets and Bernd Leno is hardly on top of his game with only 4 clean sheets this season. But the last time Arsenal were at home he kept a clean sheet against Manchester United. The Gunners prefer to play at home and under Mikel Arteta will be focused. They are playing Sheffield United and would be tipped to win and keep the score and defence tight. Leno can be brought in for 8.5m.

Defender; Jetro Willems- Newcastle

Jetro Williems has started the most games in defence for Newcastle and has the most points with 16. Newcastle will play Chelsea at home where the Blues usually have a hard time. It’s their longest trip of the season for example. In all Newcastle have only lost 3 games at home this season, and perhaps they can keep a clean sheet this weekend.

Defender: Lucas Digne- Everton

Lucas Digne has had a solid season for Everton and a really good week. He has been involved in 6 clean sheets this season, two under Carlo Ancelotti already. The club face a test as they are playing West Ham away, but this could be a low scoring game, and Everton could get their tactics right over the Hammers. Digne is only 5.5m to bring into your team and has 20 pts so far.

Defender: Yerry Mina- Everton

It’s as clear as daylight that Yerry Mina has improved as a player since Carlo Ancelotti became manager. His confidence has grown and with it his displays. He could well partner Digne well in their match against West Ham and help the club to a clean sheet.  He is valued at 6m.

Defender: Lewis Dunk- Brighton

Brighton will be at home to Aston Villa two teams in need of a win, and a possible game that could even end 0-0. Lewis Dunk has been Brighton’s best defender so far with 21 pts and has been involved in 5 clean sheet games. Villa have real problems in defence, and not much confidence up front and this being an away game means Dunk and Brighton could well win or draw and keep that important clean sheet. He is valued at 7m.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott- Everton

Theo Walcott’s Everton will play West Ham and Walcott still feels like that London boy when he terrorised West Ham’s defence when playing for Arsenal. He will fancy his chances to provide goals and get forward and could be worth being in your team for this weekend. He hasn’t scored this season yet though but is 7m to bring in.

Midfielder: Bernardo Silva- Manchester City

Bernardo Silva has played a very pivotal role in City’s midfield especially recently and the club are playing excellent football. We have also picked him out as he still looks like a bargain price at 8.5m. City are at home to Crystal Palace at the weekend.

Midfielder: Abdoulaye Doucoure- Watford

Abdoulaye Doucoure has been brilliant in recent weeks for Watford as they have climbed out of the relegation zone. He has become one of the most important players for the club and is scoring goals too. He now has 3 and has assisted in one goal. The Hornets are full of confidence and will take on Tottenham who haven’t always performed so well and Watford will take the comfort they are at home. Doucoure can be brought in for 8m.

Midfielder: James Ward-Prowse- Southampton

James Ward-Prowse is always a handful and currently he has the most points with 21 so far in the Saints midfield. His price looks good value at 7m  and he has been involved in 6 goals so far this season and Southampton are in great form , the club are at home to Wolves.

Striker: Gabriel Jesus- Manchester City

All of the talk at Manchester City is about Sergio Aguero and his goals and that is fair enough. But for value Gabriel Jesus is a good player to bring into your team. He scores goals like last weekend, has 9 so far and assisted in a further 3. And he is 8m.

Striker: Richarlison- Everton

Richarlison is valued at 7.5m and his performances have really picked up in recent times. Everton will be away to a leaky West Ham defence so he could get on the score sheet once again. He has 8 goals so far this season and is no stranger to assisting in goals having done so 3 times this season.

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Gabriel Jesus is ready to become Manchester City’s main man

Shirt numbers don’t always mean a lot. Asamoah Gyan, for instance, always wore the number three on his back despite being a forward. But there was a certain symbolism to Manchester City handing Gabriel Jesus the number nine shirt this summer.

Jesus has long been viewed as the next big thing at the Etihad Stadium, signed for £27 million (a fee that represented a massive investment in a teenager at the time) from Palmeiras as one for the future. Now, however, as the Brazilian enters his third season at the club he is expected to deliver.

This is why the award of the number nine shirt was significant. It shows that Pep Guardiola has faith in Jesus to become the striker City believed he would be. This could be the season in which he becomes the club’s main man, their primary centre forward to match the shirt number now on his back.

Jesus demonstrated during the Copa America for Brazil this summer that he can handle the pressure with being the main goal-getter for a frontrunner. Before this summer, Jesus had never actually scored for the Selecao at a major tournament, but he broke that duck and then some, leading Brazil to their first piece of silverware since the Confederations Cup six years ago.

Guardiola demands a lot of his centre forwards. We saw that at Barcelona, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic was cast aside after just one season at the Camp Nou. There were also suggestions at the start of Guardiola’s stint at Man City that Sergio Aguero would be sold as the Catalan wasn’t convinced he could perform the role he wanted from his centre forward.

This makes all the more impressive that Jesus has managed to stick around at the Etihad Stadium. Guardiola clearly has faith in the Brazilian and the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss is very rarely wrong about the potential of players.

Injuries have previously derailed Jesus’s challenge to become Man City’s centre forward, but now things finally seem to be falling into place for him. Aguero is still one of the best goalscorers in the European game, but there has long been a sense that Guardiola wants something a little bit different from the man leading the line. In Jesus, he might well have that and the Brazilian is ready to truly flourish.

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EPL Best XI – Week 34

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With the Premier League now very much entering the business end of the season, and with just a few matches remaining to decide the respective fates of several teams, there was a full schedule of games in England’s top-flight this past weekend. Once again, the spread of fixtures was great with Newcastle winning at Leicester on Friday night, six games taking place on Saturday, title challengers Man City and Liverpool winning their respective games on Sunday and Arsenal travelling to Watford on Monday. Results this weekend meant that both City and Liverpool are guaranteed to finish first and second in either combination. With that in mind, let’s take a look and see which players performed the best in their position, using a 4-3-3 formation.

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Manchester City: International duty watch

Leroy Sane

Just as Manchester City regained control over Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title, international football kicked in. Let’s face it, we all love it at such a vital stage in the season. A total of 13 players from Pep Guardiola’s first team have been called up to their respective nations with Euro 2016 qualifiers, friendlies, Africa Cup of National qualifiers and U21 in full swing. Continue reading

Etihad Stadium’s Expansion: Worth it or Futile?

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etihad_stadium09English giants Manchester City have gone from strength to strength since 2008 when the club was acquired by billionaire Sheikh Mansoor with the constant struggle in the initial years’ largely forgotten by the supporters. The same opponents who deemed the prospect of acquiring 3 points against the Citizens as nothing short of a cakewalk earlier now shiver in fear at the prospect of battling it out against Pep Guardiola’s outfit.

This has been largely possible due to the finances pumped in at regular intervals by the owners who have ensured a regular flow of finances through thick and thin. At the same time, there have been astute investments at play as well especially in the transfer market. Manchester City opted to invest in quality acquisitions like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany during a stage when clubs were increasingly orthodox when it came to pulling off transfer deals with the benefits increasingly evident currently.

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