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.

Haaland ready to fire club and country to glory once football resumes

By the end of the summer, Erling Braut Haaland’s stratospheric rise to the upper echelons of football could well be complete. Perhaps only the spread of the Coronavirus could stop the emergence of the great Norwegian talent.

Because of the pandemic, gone are the stories of Haaland playing part in Euro 2020, and even the aspirations for him to top the scoring charts in the German league must be put on hold. He could still emerge as a league champions if BVB can recover the four point gap separating them from first team Bayern Munich.

The young attacker bludgeoned eleven goals in his first seven appearances for Dortmund, and that incredible output has led fans of BVB to think that he could fire their team to glory on the domestic front – they are into odds of 11/2 in the outright Bundesliga winner betting market.

A key matchup, if and when the league resumes will be the clash between BVB and Bayern Munich. That may well settle the title race. 

Norsk Power

It’s been 20 years since Norway appeared in a major international tournament. They were dumped out of Euro 2000 in the group stage back then, and will be desperate to make up for lost time this time around.

The Norwegians are just three games away from booking their spot at Euro 2020 (since postponed to 2021). They must first defeat Serbia in a two-legged tie, which they should be able to according to football betting odds, and then get the better of either Scotland or Israel in an all-or-nothing clash. Again, the betting market would favour Haaland & his teammates over either of those potential opponents.

The winner’s reward? A spot in Group D alongside tournament favourites England and World Cup finalists Croatia.

Haaland, at 19, is a curiously late starter in international football given that he was rattling in the goals for Red Bull Salzburg as far back as January 2019.

He has only made two appearances for his country, and at one point it looked as though he might choose England as his preferred international team – he was born in Leeds after all, and his father Alf Inge spent many years in English football playing for Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.

But in the end he opted to follow his Norwegian roots, and after representing them at youth level – scoring plenty of goals, naturally – Haaland made his senior debut in August 2019 as part of their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

That was the start of a long international career you suspect, and while Norway aren’t giants of the international scene what a fillip it would be if they could take their place in Group D of the European Championships.

For Haaland, it might just cap the most unbelievable of trophy-laden seasons.