The Ped New Year Report City 3-1 Watford
With the latest storm off the coast of Ireland, it was a torrent of rain that welcomed in the New Year at the Etihad when Watford came to town. City smarting in more ways than one from their 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace amazingly paraded De Bruyne, cut in half by Puncheon, but not de Jesus, left in a heap by Dann.
By far the greatest welcome was for David Silva, who we now know was forced to return to Spain where his son, Mateo, had been born prematurely, the poor little fellow battling against whatever forces are trying to work against him.
Delph returned on the left and importantly, John Stones was back in the centre. The starting eleven was therefore, Mendy excepted, the one you might call Guardiola's best eleven, at least for now.
If the Hornets were expecting City to have a South London hangover, their hopes were immediately dashed as City fashioned the quickest goal of this Premier League season after just 38 seconds.
Otamendi is clearly showing himself to be of great value to the team this season and from the kick off he played the ball into City`s dangerous midfield area. It found its way to Silva who helped it on to Sane whose drive across the six yard line found Sterling unattended to stroke home his 18th goal of the season.
That was more or less end of story except that City were scenting more to come. After a couple of obliging misses from Sane and Aguero, De Bruyne and Silva combined setting the Belgian clear in the inside right position. His stinging cross was destined for Aguero before Kasabele turned it into his own net. Thirteen minutes, 2-0 for City and no history of three goals against so far this season.
You got the impression that City could score more or less at will as they went on auto-pilot for the remainder of the first half in a cruise-control kind of way. Sane couldn`t take whatever chances fell his way, often lacking a poor first touch and Aguero, with the goal at his mercy and all four corners to choose from his what looked like a tame back pass to Gomes. Stones also got in on the act scooping over the top when a goal looked a safer option. De Bruyne also had a freekick from the edge of the box, tipped on to the bar.
At least Watford came to try to play football, unlike most recent visitors to the Etihad, but in so doing left gaps all over the field for David Silva to exploit and for De Bruyne to tear into.
Just after the break, KDB did precisely that and rifled a shot at Gomes whose handling has never been great. Once more he spilled the shot and this time Segigol was on hand to turn the ball into the net.
Would City really give it a go and look for a record score? It was on the cards, but they elected to stroll through the rest of the match. Guardiola was able to remove Fernandinho, once again in majestic form, for Yaya, De Bruyne for Bernardo Silva and Stones for Danilo, once again showing his versatility at centre back.
Watford really looked as though they didn`t believe they could win. Their last two attempts against City had seen them concede eleven goals without reply so it was probably a bit of a surprise when Walker only chased a left sided break at half speed allowing Carrillo to get clear and his short cross was prodded home by Gray.
In fairness the Hornets could`ve made it 3-2 moments later when City got into a bit of a tangle, but the Blues saw it out easing to a 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Once again it was difficult to award man-of-the-match because everyone did their jobs, but Silva was the masterclass coming close to ten-out-of-ten. The Magician may need to head back to Valencia today to be with Yessica and Mateo. I`m sure it`s not only City fans who are sending their best wishes right now. Silva remains easily the best creative midfielder in the Premier League and is a vital cog in the juggernaut wheel. I`m sure he`ll be ready for the clash away to Liverpool, where other traumas exist as the exit of Countinho seems to be gaining momentum, with him once again expected to be out of the squad when they meet Everton in the FA Cup on Friday evening. Susan is not a happy teddy.
Watching the efforts of Fernandinho is one of my favourite experiences this season. And he was majestic once again here. I`m seeing some similarities with Pep`s great Barcelona team. The way the centre forward starts the press, Sane and Silva stand guard on the left, De Bruyne and Sterling doing likewise on the right, forcing the opposition towards Fernandinho who duly reclaims the football and sets the channels working. If they try to get into the corners, Walker and Delph are willing runners in closing down that space and failing everything, they still have to outwit Ederson.
This week we get into Cup mode and no doubt we will see other players given their chances. I would prefer to see the full team out against Bristol City to try to win the tie in the first leg, allowing Pep to field a shadow side at Ashton Gate.
The pundits are already licking their lips at the Liverpool-City clash as this is one they`ll have marked down for a City defeat based upon their awful record at Anfield. Will it be different this time? Will City have captured Sanchez? Will Klopp unleash Van Dijk? All will be revealed in your Ped Report.