Wednesday’s lacklustre display against Brighton did not bode well for tomorrow’s visit to the Etihad. We struggled with our passing, were less than clinical in front of goal and there far too many occasions when our defence was outnumbered by swarming Seagulls who luckily were too incompetent to take advantage.
Saturday will of course be an entirely different affair with an entirely different set of expectations. Citeh’s 15 match winning run has been built on the energy and fizz of Sterling, Silva, de Bruyne, Sane, Aguero, the other Silva, Jesus…. you get the picture. How does anyone find enough fingers to plug the holes in the dyke that that lot can create?
So what do you do? How do you make sure that they don’t get so much of the ball in dangerous areas that you end up being overwhelmed?
Looking at their defence, Otamendi, Mangala, Kompany, Walker, Delph, one obvious way appears to be to put them under enough pressure that the rest of the side gets distracted from creating mayhem in the other half of the field. Easier said than done though. Their pressing game is first class and I think both of their goals against us last year came from mistakes we made in defence. We need confidence and a sureness of touch when playing out from the back that’s good enough to get the ball to Harry, Son and Dele in good areas.
Dembélé and Winks will surely start with Trippier and Davies wide of Dier and Vertonghen. With no Alderweireld, Sanchez or Wanyama that’s far from our best defensive line up, but it’s the best we can do. Maybe there’s profit in thinking about playing Rose or Aurier as supplementary wing backs (I suspect Rose would love a battle with Walker), maybe even with Llorente starting with Kane? Having two forwards to aim at might make it easier to ease pressure at the back and would also allow us to have a strong bench should we still be in the contest late on.
So, a lot for Pochettino to ponder.
The form of Son and Kane means that we should be confident of scoring, it’s hard to see us keeping a clean sheet though so we’ll have to produce more than one rabbit from the hat. Dele Alli has often been our big game player of late.
Getting something from the game looks a formidable task, remember Madrid though and remember Dortmund.
Bring it on.
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