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Has Fabian Delph been given a career lifeline at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola?



Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Fabian Delph – spot the anomaly.

If you asked 100 people to come up with their strongest Manchester City line-up from the current crop of players it can almost be assured that Delph wouldn’t feature in many – if any – of the sides.

The 27-year-old has been facing fierce competition for midfield spots since his surprise arrival from Aston Villa back in 2015 and it hasn’t got any easier this season after Pep Guardiola’s summer spree.

Bernardo Silva was added to Manchester City’s central midfield options in a £43 million move just weeks after the end of last season, meaning that Delph is now battling with the former Monaco man, De Bruyne, Silva, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan for just three starting positions.

And, in somewhat predictable style, the former England international was left on the side-lines for City’s first five Premier League matches as the destructive duo of Silva and De Bruyne caused chaos.

He has failed to make a true stamp for first-team football in recent seasons – admittedly partly due to injury problems – and in Guardiola’s debut season he made just seven Premier League appearances.

Yet he has been handed the most unexpected reprieve in recent weeks, being utilised in a left-wing back role for City’s past three matches as a result of an untimely injury to first-choice man Benjamin Mendy.

The £50 million summer signing from Monaco had proven to be a revelation in his first few games since making the move from France, giving City a new dimension in attack with his natural wing-back play.

However, an injury picked up during the 5-0 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend has proven to be a worse knock than first thought and, speaking after the Shakhtar Donetsk victory on Wednesday evening, manager Pep Guardiola expressed his fears the 23-year-old could face a ‘long spell’ out on the side-lines.

Speaking to Sky Sports post-match, the Spaniard confessed:

“He is travelling to Barcelona and we are going to see what he has. Our first impression is that it will it be a little long, longer than we expected which is unfortunate. But I am pretty sure it will be longer than we would like. The way we want to play, we will miss him a lot. He is a unique player, the joy he gives on and off the pitch. I think it is a major setback.”

In Mendy’s five appearances the Blues have only conceded once – scoring 22 goals at the other end – on their way to winning all five games, and it is fair to say that he’ll prove to be a big miss at the Etihad.

Guardiola has shown the flexibility of his squad in the past two matches by utilising Delph in a defensive position, and he went on to say in his interview that ‘we have alternatives’ in the squad.

Whilst the 27-year-old has made a name for himself as a box-to-box midfielder, he is no stranger to playing on the left side of defence, and he actually played against his current side there back in 2011.

On that occasion, he was one of few players to come out of Aston Villa’s FA Cup fifth-round exit able to hold his head high, and despite the eventual 3-0 score-line he adapted well to the make-shift role.

Reflecting on his previous experiment in defence to the Manchester Evening News, and talking about his potential return to that role for Manchester City this season, Delph recently said:

 “I’ve played left back before, not many times, under Gerard Houllier when I was a young kid of 20 or 21. If I can help the team I am happy. I am a team player – if we win I go home happy.

“All the players know the system of how the manager wants us to play. I have played left-back in training, and at Aston Villa, and as a young guy coming through at Leeds. I’m not a left-back but I feel can do a job there, but there are others in the team who can do a job at left-back as well.

“Leroy can play there as well, but if I’m selected you will get nothing less than 100 per cent and if I’m not selected I’ll be on the bench screaming and shouting, pushing the lads on to do well.”

It is certainly not a strange move by Guardiola to try him there, as for the majority of the last Premier League campaign defensive midfielder Fernandinho was utilised in a make-shift right-back position.

But, whilst it will no doubt be intended as a short-term fix whilst Mendy rehabilitates from his latest injury set-back, Manchester City’s top-six rivals have shown in recent years that these sorts of experimental measures can quickly develop into something much more beneficial in the long-term.

Antonio Conte has converted former midfielder Victor Moses into a fully-fledged wing-back, Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia has been a revelation since his transformation into a right-back whilst James Milner – so often a dependable midfielder – played last season as a left-back for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

It seems that the modern game of football is creating more and more of these experiments, with a number of them working better than expected, and this new role could be the making of Delph now.

He has made an early claim for a regular starting berth with his displays against Palace and Shakhtar Donetsk over the past week, with the England international man-of-the-match against the Ukrainian champions on Tuesday night after a display full of attacking nous and good old-fashioned discipline.

He managed to complete 90% of his 62 passes in an incredibly end-to-end encounter, showing he can have an impact going forward by being successful with four take-ons and making three chances.

His natural defensive instincts as a central midfielder stand him in good stead when facing the opposition, and against Shakhtar he made two key tackles, four interceptions and three clearances.

Tougher tests will undoubtedly come, starting with the visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday to face Premier League champions Chelsea, but his promising start will give him confidence moving forward.

What is more remarkable about Delph’s turnaround in fortunes though is that there was a point over the summer where he looked destined to leave, with a number of Premier League rivals pursuing him.

The Telegraph reported in the midst of the transfer window that Stoke City were almost nailed on contenders for the signing of Delph, set to beat off the competition from West Brom and Newcastle.

The Potters had already secured the services of Darren Fletcher from West Brom and they looked towards Delph to add more experience and steel to their midfield, with a guarantee of more regular first-team action than he was getting at the Etihad, but the 27-year-old had a late change of heart.

The Stoke Sentinel reported on deadline day that he had instead decided to fight for a role in the Manchester City side and – to his credit – that is something that Delph has already managed to do.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News over the past week about the interest in him from rival clubs over the summer, Delph said:

“There was talk of me going, but I’m here and happy, and as long as I can contribute I will stay happy. No player would ever want to leave a club like this. If you do leave the club it’s because your services are no longer required.

“That wasn’t the case for me – I wasn’t being pushed out of the door, and I’m so happy to be here and contributing.”

It is this final statement that has arguably been the foundation of Delph’s recent revival, with the fact that he wasn’t ‘pushed out of the door’ by Guardiola or the Manchester City hierarchy during the summer inherently suggesting that the Spaniard sees him as an important part of his ongoing plans at the club.

If there was ever a second that Delph was deemed surplus to requirements in Manchester he would have been straight through the exit door in the same vein as Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and the rest.

Guardiola has clearly seen potential in the former Aston Villa man that is worth clinging on to, particularly as his team looks to challenge on all fronts, and Delph needs to take this second chance.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @willypearson.


Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City: Three talking points from Anfield

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Liverpool ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League record and climbed to third spot after breathtaking encounter at Anfield.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s fabulous early strike was cancelled out by Leroy Sane as the two teams went into the half-time break level-pegging. Three goals in nine second-half minutes looked to have given Liverpool an insurmountable advantage, with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all striking.

However, City mounted a late comeback and set up a grandstand finish thanks to goals from Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan. Liverpool, though, held on for a deserved victory as Pep Guardiola’s men suffered their first defeat of the campaign. Here are three talking points…

Rampant Liverpool turn on the style

If any fixture was going to prove City’s undoing, it was this one. Liverpool are unpredictable but when on top of their game, few teams can live with them. They were respectful of City but undaunted by the challenge they faced, taking the game to their opponents right from the kick-off.

In their first match since Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona, Liverpool showed the Brazilian is not irreplaceable. The Fab Four may have been reduced to three, but each of Mane, Salah and Firmino found the net. The movement and pace with which they attack is frightening, as City found to their cost.

Record signing Virgil van Dijk was ruled out of the clash and Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies were magnified in his absence, with recalled goalkeeper Loris Karius also unconvincing. The Reds are still a work in progress in that regard, but under manager Jurgen Klopp they are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.

City succumb but remain in the driving seat

Many believed it was City’s destiny to become only the second Premier League team to go through a season undefeated, following Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2003/04. But such talk can now be consigned to the rubbish bin. Despite their sensational form, it would have been a monumental achievement not to lose a single fixture.

In one respect, Guardiola will be glad it has happened. Their advantage at the top of the table remains 15 points, albeit perhaps only for 24 hours, and there is no indication this result will spark a poor run of form. City fought back valiantly after the shock of conceding three times in quick succession, which will please the Spaniard greatly.

Guardiola was philosophical in defeat and recognised his side had played their part in a magnificent contest. Sometimes, a reality check is a good thing. City may no longer be invincible, but they are still the overwhelming favourites to be crowned Premier League champions in May.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is proving his worth

His Liverpool career did not start the way he would have imagined after completing a summer switch from Arsenal. In a quest to play regular football, Oxlade-Chamberlain moved to pastures new and hoped he would be rejuvenated. Initially, he struggled for game-time and his brief performance were often derided. As a result, he lost his place in the England squad.

However, Oxlade-Chamberlain is growing in stature and produced arguably his best display in a Liverpool shirt against the runaway Premier League leaders. Nothing builds confidence like a goal and his long-range strike that gave the Reds a ninth-minute lead did just that.

Playing in the central role he had coveted, Oxlade-Chamberlain was a dominant figure, using his strength and pace to great effect. His transfer to Liverpool was greeted with scepticism, but it’s clear to see that working under Klopp is having a positive impact. The former Southampton man will hope it’s enough to help him regain his place in the national team.

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Champions League

Are Manchester City potential 2017/18 Champions League winners?

Rob Meech



Manchester City
Photo: Reuters

With a seemingly unassailable advantage at the top of the table, Manchester City are all but guaranteed to be crowned this season’s Premier League champions. However, manager Pep Guardiola, not to mention the club’s fiercely ambitious owners, will have an even greater prize on their minds.

The Cityzens have never won the Champions League, but such has been their form in all competitions that they must surely be in contention to lift the most coveted trophy in European football. Here, The Boot Room analyses Manchester City’s prospects of becoming the first English club to win the Champions League since 2012.

Performances so far

Mirroring their fortunes in the Premier League, Manchester City dominated the first stage of the Champions League, qualifying for the last 16 with ease as Group F winners.

Drawn with Napoli, Feyenoord and Shakhtar Donetsk, City won their first five fixtures – scoring 13 goals in the process – before an unexpected defeat with a weakened team to the Ukrainian outfit ended their 100 per cent record and removed some of the gloss.

The two wins over Italian giants Napoli – 2-1 at the Etihad and 4-2 away – were particularly impressive given their form in Serie A. Paired against Swiss side Basel in the last 16 – the round at which they bowed out of the competition last year – City are very highly fancied to book their spot in the quarter-finals.

Squad strength

Guardiola has assembled one of the strongest squads in European football; one to rival the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Since last season, the Spaniard has focused on strengthening his defence. Out went Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy, who were all deemed surplus to requirements, while in came upgrades Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy. Goalkeeper Ederson has been a revelation since arriving from Benfica and shored up a back line that had been their Achilles heel.

Another summer arrival, Bernardo Silva, has been used more sparingly but provides depth in central midfield. City also boast in their ranks arguably the best player in Europe this season, Kevin de Bruyne, who has been a tour de force in central midfield alongside the guile and subtlety of David Silva.

Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, currently sidelined through injury, provide genuine potency in front of goal.


Although the investment has been substantial, Guardiola must take credit for improving his young stars. The rise of Raheem Sterling is a pertinent example. The England star flattered to deceive last season but has been rejuvenated, scoring for fun and providing real creativity in City’s all-conquering side.

As a player, Guardiola never experienced Champions League glory with Barcelona but he twice guided them to the trophy as manager, in 2009 and 2011. He could not repeat the feat at Bayern Munich, although he did capture the Bundesliga title on three successive occasions.

Now in his second season in Manchester, the 46-year-old is yet to win silverware. However, given City’s current position as runaway Premier League leaders, that is sure to change – perhaps in spectacular fashion.

Chances of winning

It’s no surprise City are rated favourites by bookmakers to lift the prestigious cup later this year. One only needs to look at their record this season to see they are the form team in Europe. In a division as competitive as the Premier League, their 19-match winning sequence was an extraordinary feat.

With a favourable last-16 tie, City will believe they can progress to the last eight and beyond. Football is an unpredictable game, but nobody would be shocked to see them walking out in the showpiece final in four months’ time. And with Guardiola at the helm, they have the ideal manager to mastermind the club’s maiden European title.

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Why Manchester United must go all out to steal Alexis Sanchez away from Manchester City



Photo: Reuters

In the midst of winter, things are starting to heat up.

It seemed for all the world that Manchester City were finally going to get their man in the January transfer window after missing out on Arsenal talisman Alexis Sanchez on deadline day in late August.

On that occasion they offered £60 million to lure the Chilean to the Etihad, only to see their offer rebuffed by the Gunners after Arsene Wenger failed with his pursuit of replacement Thomas Lemar.

Instead, it seemed inevitable that Pep Guardiola would finally persuade Arsenal into selling once January came around, a feeling that has grown due to a lack of contract negotiations between Sanchez and his current Club – although it may not be as straightforward a move as first seemed.

Quite sensational reports from around the globe over the past two days have now suggested that City’s bitter rivals Manchester United are also in the race to sign the soon to be out-of-contract Arsenal forward.

Sky Sports Italia were the ones that broke the news on Thursday, claiming that United have now entered advanced talks with Sanchez’s agent ahead of a proposed move to Old Trafford this month.

The report also claims that United are preparing to offer a larger transfer fee – which the The Guardian believe to be in the region of £25 million – than Manchester City, and that any deal that would see Sanchez move to Old Trafford could also see the out-of-favour Henrikh Mkhitaryan go the other way.

And quite frankly, if there’s any truth behind these reports, United should go all out to get him.

After starting the Premier League season in fine form, setting the pace with City at the top of the table, United’s form has derailed somewhat and it seems that their pre-season hopes of the title are a distant memory.

That’s not to say that they’ve been poor, because they haven’t.

Not many teams only lose three times in the opening 22 league matches yet find themselves 15 points behind the leaders, and the size of the gap is testament to just how good City have been.

Yet it’s hard to deny that there has been a spark missing at Old Trafford this season since their blistering start to the 2017-18 campaign, and a player in the mould of Sanchez could be exactly the tonic required for a mid-season boost.

There’s a distinct lack of width in the United side, something that boss Jose Mourinho has been aware of for a while after trying – and ultimately failing – with his pursuit of Ivan Perisic last year.

Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata have all played their parts in wide areas but none are fully comfortable there, and United are in need of a fully-fledged winger who possesses the talent to deliver consistently into the area for the likes of Romelu Lukaku to work with.

And in Sanchez there’s few better options around as of now.

His Premier League pedigree is anything but a secret, scoring 31 times in his last 57 appearances since the start of last season, and he can add 13 assists to his impressive record during this period.

Mourinho is on the hunt for a creative hub and the Chilean forward is just that, and despite coming in for criticism this season for his performances he’s still created 50 clear-cut chances for Arsenal, only second to Mesut Ozil.

For a point of comparison United’s most creative player this season has been Mata, crafting 31 opportunities for his teammates, and that just shows the impact Sanchez could have upon arrival.

Yet, a move for Sanchez would run far deeper than just his creativity.

He’s a player ideal for Mourinho, one that’s determined, willing to give his all until the final whistle and leave nothing behind on the pitch, and his never-say-die attitude could lift the Old Trafford dressing room no end.

It seems to be a viewpoint that is shared by those with an avid interest in United too, with ex-defender Phil Neville telling Sky Sports that it could be an ‘unbelievable’ coup for them should they pull it off.

Addressing the transfer rumours yesterday, he said:

“It’s pretty obvious he’s not going to stay at Arsenal. I think if United were going to buy him, £25m would be an absolute snip.

“United missed out on buying Ivan Perisic in the summer, and with that missed out on a winger. I think Sanchez provides the quality, the goals and the world-class ability he has got.

“I think it would be an unbelievable signing. If you look back at the big signings over the decades, [Eric] Cantona came out of the hat, [Robin] Van Persie was a surprise, and they both helped United win titles. I think this could have a similar impact. He’s got the character to play at Old Trafford.”

His point on Cantona and Van Persie is a hugely valid one, and whilst a move for Sanchez now isn’t likely to help them overhaul Manchester City this season it sets them up perfectly for next time out – and could help their Champions League push in the latter part of 2017-2018.

However, perhaps more than anything, being able to hijack Manchester City’s proposed move for him would almost give them an air of having something over their rivals in a season where Guardiola has dominated.

Should the rumours be true, and should both Manchester sides be in for Sanchez, then ultimately the Chilean’s choice of final destination will be down to his personal preference – and this would say a lot.

January is often known for being a more mundane transfer window than the summer installment but that’s certainly not the case this time around, and Manchester United could be drawing ever closer to one of the most memorable hijacks in Premier League history.

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