The Ped Report City 3-0 West Bromwich Albion
It was pretty routine stuff at the Etihad last night, when amidst the hails, rain and sleet, Manchester City demolished bottom-placed West Bromwich Albion with ease.
Fresh from their FA Cup defeat of Liverpool, Pardiola brought his charges to East Manchester with a masterplan derived from that deployed by Cardiff City, because City don't like hard tackles, those that we call fouls, and the wintry weather, certainly wouldn't suit a team that continues to play champagne-style football, everywhere they go.
And virtually from minute one it was clear that it was City v Foster as the Baggies net minder did a lot to remind Gareth Southgate that he was still around, despite the position of his side in the league table.
Amazingly, Guardiola paraded new signing Aymeric Laporte who was to end up as City's only first team signing of the transfer window and in fairness he looked as though he'd been playing for City for years. He easily fitted into the pattern of things, looked unflustered despite the big lads up from for the Throstles, bringing the ball out at will and applying an array of short and long passes in what was the most accomplished first-team debut I've witnessed at City in years. While other footballers elsewhere were making their Premier League debuts and doing nothing except collecting half-a-million quid, Laporte showed us precisely why he was purchased and what lies in wait for City for the rest of the season. Stones was left out completely as Kompany and Adarabioyo adorned the defensive seats on the bench.
City were quickly into their stride and it was evident that one goal would be enough. Despite their heroics at Anfield, the Baggies were never at the races at the Etihad as the Blues bombarded their penalty area. De Bruyne and Silva were in majestic mood and the revamped front line of Sterling, Aguero and Bernardo looked lively. Foster's one-man show kept City at bay for a while but it wasn't really that long before the scoreboard was rattling.
De Bruyne must have lasers for eyes as he spotted an unlikely run by Fernandinho in traffic at the edge of the box. A delightful diagonal ball into the space saw the Brazilian anchor man outwit McAuley and slide it through Foster's legs to open the scoring.
For the rest of the first half it was shooting practice for City and but for a series of excellent saves by Foster and a bit of easy missing by City it would have left West Brom needing boundaries. One particular save from De Bruyne was simply brilliant, but as with many goal tenders ahead of him this season, it was not going to be enough.
City were easing through the gears. Bernardo continued his impressive run with some footwork and David was simply superb until he took a dig in the hip and was withdrawn for Gundogan.
The almost robotic De Bruyne could have been taking the ball home as either side of the break he brought saves from Foster and chipped one on to the top of the bar. It was surprising that it took the Belgian Master almost an hour to make his mark on the scoreboard.
Collecting the ball on half way he strode through the Albion midfielders attempt to McClean him out, playing it quickly into the path of Sterling. As the doors around him started to close he slid it back into space occupied by De Bruyne who drove it straight through Foster to secure the points for the night.
City continued to flourish, the Premier League title now starting to appear on the horizon, especially with news filtering through that the Stretfords were 2-0 down against Tottenham and Chelsea were getting whacked 3-0 at home to Bournemouth.
Everyone tried to get in on the act, even the impressive Zinchenko who in the continued absence of Mendy and Delph, is making the left-sided berth his own. He has slotted into the team well and has a range of passes and vision which makes him a dangerous contender, as well as the pace to keep the defence solid.
With Phil Jones on the Wembley scoreboard with an own goal, it was key that Aguero should get himself on the scoresheet here and he duly obliged as the game drew to a close. With Diaz having already survived a despicable foul by Phillips, which warranted a prison sentence rather than the yellow card brandished by the appalling referee Madley, City again applied the pressure. Sterling was by now in a roaming berth, sliding the ball into Aguero in his favourite inside right position. Despite the attendance of three gigantic Albion defenders, Sergigol drove the ball across Foster and just inside the far post to cap off another night of beautiful football for City and another night in which the opposition's tough-guy tactics failed to pay dividends.
So, they tried to match City and only Liverpool have achieved anything. They've tried parking a depot full of buses and all gone away empty-handed and they tried the bully-boy kick-em-to-death tactics and while a number of players have been hobbling around on crutches, the three points have stored themselves in the City sack. Yes, Crystal Palace and Everton might have secured a point, but in fairness with this level of football City are technically untouchable.
Given the tactics deployed by the Baggies, this could have been a bit of a banana skin for City, but it was simply further evidence of the Guardiola masterclass breathing a different life into the Etihad Stadium. Despite his proclamation that the quadruple is impossible, make no mistake, that is what the Catalan wants. Already at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final, every competition is in his sights.
The soap opera surrounding emergency signing Mahrez was played out over two days, with City simply telling Leicester that they were not prepared to meet their outrageous terms of something like £90 million for a player that effectively cost them footballers pocket money. Mahrez is a player I like and the added security that he might've brought could have proved useful for City. But one thing this has done is forced Guardiola to look closer to home. We already have the players at the Club. Diaz has been on the fringes for a while and his cameo for De Bruyne last night showed why Pep doesn't really have to look outside the shores of the City Football Academy. The confidence he showed in trying to chip one over Foster, but finding only the top of the net, was excellent. After the horror foul he shook off, he really deserved a goal.
Of course, once Segigol completed the scoring the Inspiral Carpets song used by the horrible Stretford fans to ridicule City for years came back to haunt them again. I don't think it was in the Carpets mind that City should use the songs to ridicule the Stretford, but the words ring true at the end..you signed Phil Jones, we signed Kun Aguero. Well both were on the respective scoresheets last night and both contributed to putting a 15-point gap between City and the rest of the field.
With last night being a six-point evening, City now need a further 8 victories to secure their open-top bus parade. Maybe they'll use the one Mourinho keeps on parking.