Let’s face it. Manchester City is great. This is a fact. Let’s also face the fact that they have spent a lot of money to become great. In order to be great in club soccer, you must. That is an absolute fact. Manchester City has a lot of money. That is also an absolute fact. Sure, they are owned by the United Arab Emirates and should be re-named Abu Dhabi City. Should we hate them for being great or should we enjoy greatness for greatness sake?
Ask soccer traditionalists and they will say “Hell no!” and give you double middle fingers. They will cheer wildly when that team loses and are quick to give greatness to another team. Ironically, that team, in this case, also has a lot of money, has a big crown of their own and are owned by Americans.
Last weekend, Abu Dhabi City lost. Liverpool was handed the crown, and everyone danced. Meanwhile, we waited for their response. The response that comes when greatness is challenged.
Saturday, Manchester City had their official F-U game. Feel free to place any set of letters after the ‘F’, but you know the word I am using. When a championship team gets punched in the face while being blatantly exposed like Jim Carrey’s career as City did when they lost to Norwich City last weekend, they either continue to stagger or they have a F-U game. City had that game.
Dippy and I watched the match together in a poorly lit room somewhere in suburban Atlanta. I had to say some type of code just to enter the room. Dippy was ready with crushed Tic Tacs and a hunting knife on a red ottoman. He did not look like he had slept for three days. Dippy advised that if Pep Guardiola came out wearing a gray sweater, white T-shirt, and brown khakis then City should win the match. He called his bookie/agent/girlfriend/head-hunter (just think Wanda Nara with jet black hair and 15 piercings) to prepare his bet based on Pep’s wardrobe decisions. I thought I should ask if his bet should have been based on City’s defensive line-up, but I thought twice about it after looking at the knife on the ottoman.
Pep came out in a gray sweater, white T-shirt, and brown khakis. Dippy sighed in relief.
The match was over in seven minutes.
In the first minute, Kevin De Bruyne crossed a tremendous ball into the box for Inter Miami’s newest signing, David Silva, to crush through the net in the first minute. 1-0 Abu Dhabi City.
Three minutes later, Watford had their only chance to make something of the match as a shaky City back four leaked an opportunity to tie it up. Because Watford is Watford that chance was not converted.
Two minutes later, Watford goalie Ben Foster took out Mahrez in the penalty area out of self-defense or frustration or a traumatic brain injury, nobody knows, which led to Aguero killing a penalty kick. 2-0 Abu Dhabi City.
City scored five goals on five shots in eighteen minutes. This was the quickest 5-0 run in the history of the Premier League. Pep began posing in his seat on the Etihad touchline so many times that Dippy started singing in a slurred southern accent: “Taaaakkkkkeeee a pooosee!”
The goals racked up and I wished for the mercy rule or a tap out to be called while Dippy started saying; “Yes….Yes”; like a Sith Lord.
8-0 Abu Dhabi City. End. Fade to hot blue.
One of the questions leading to the match was how Pep tactically was (if at all) going to adjust to the fact that his back line was as leaky as pipes made in Chernobyl before 1986. His response was to set the phasers for “kill” versus “stun.” He went with his typical 4-3-3 package and attacked and countered at will. The idea was to strike first and multiple times. In the first games of the season, City was in “stun” mode where they slept walked on offense, passing side to side in the opponent’s zone waiting for the perfect time for ball into the box. The graphic on the left shows City’s attack on Saturday and the right graphic shows their attack against Norwich City:
Pep stated himself that his squad did not have the urgency in the final third that we “normally have” after the loss last weekend. This obviously changed on Saturday.
City attacked at will at the weakest points of the Watford defense, which were both flanks. The siege that resulted was second to the German siege of Stalingrad in WW II in its mind-numbing destruction. Watford showed virtually no attack at all with their attempts into City’s half mostly coming from long balls in. The graphic below shows the stark difference:
City’s xG (expected goals) for the match was 6.83 while Watford’s was 0.34. It could have been much worse. City had 11 shots on target (Watford had 4). Watford allowed, on average, 33.23 City passes in their half per defensive action (Norwich City allowed an average of 18.2 last week). Watford knelt before the throne and were given no mercy. Norwich City was insolent and got away with it.
People may argue that Watford is the worst team in the league (they are in last place), but they are not as bad as they seem. Their overall xG for the season thus far is 8.42 goals, which is 6th in league. However, they have only four goals to show for it. So, I would expect if this trend continues there will be some shock results in the future. In the Premier League, it is not safe to look past anyone, even the clumpy cat litter box teams.
This is just one match. City’s backline has not magically fixed itself. They are one injury away from a complete meltdown. For example, Kevin De Bruyne is probably their best player, but he has a history of being injured (just like Val Kilmer). In the end, City is still good, maybe great, even if they are owned by the United Arab Emirates and everyone hates them. Except a lonely pirate bear on the 14th floor of a Virginia beachfront hotel.
Author: Keith Lisenbee, mental health professional, writer, and soccer enthusiast is from Atlanta, Georgia by way of Virginia. I was in love with soccer until Agüero destroyed my soul and Manchester United's title hopes in 2012. Came back for the World Cup in 2014 and through the use of DVR I am back with the force of orange Tic Tacs and IPAs covering the EPL, Bundesliga, MLS, and La Liga. You can follow me on Twitter @keith_lisenbee and Instagram @lisenbeekeith got more random soccer thoughts.