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Manchester City left rattled after Wigan defeat: Is there still hope for their rivals?

After Manchester City’s Monday night defeat to Wigan Athletic, Martyn Cooke questions whether there is still hope for their rivals in the race for silverware this season.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Reuters

For much of this season Manchester City have appeared almost unstoppable with Pep Guardiola’s side nonchalantly brushing aside both domestic and European opposition with apparent ease.

This is demonstrated by City’s sixteen-point lead at the top of the Premier League, their progress to the League Cup final and the knock-out stages of the Champions League – all of which have been achieved without breaking sweat.

Guardiola is undoubtedly building something special at the Etihad and the exciting, dynamic and extravagant attacking style of play that he has implemented is something that should rightly be applauded.

The Spaniard looks certain to begin re-filling City’s trophy cabinet this season, after his debut season in English football ended without silverware, and his team’s performance this campaign continues to enhance his reputation as one of the leading coaches in the modern game.

City have been the proverbial run-away train this season and a host of the most prominent club’s in England and Europe have so far been unable to so much as dent their armour.

However, where others have failed, League One side Wigan Athletic succeeded on Monday evening as Will Grigg’s late goal knocked City out of the FA Cup.

It was a night that City lost their composure both on and off the pitch.

Fabian Delph’s red card in first half stoppage time was debatable, although admittedly his challenge was reckless and could have easily have been avoided, but it set the tone for the evening.

On the pitch, City dominated possession despite their numerical disadvantage but were unable to break down their resilient hosts before Kyle Walker’s mistake gifted Grigg the opportunity to be Wigan’s hero for the evening.

Off the pitch Guardiola appeared to lose his composure on the touchline immediately after Delph’s sending off and was embroiled in a confrontation with Phil Cook that continued in the tunnel as the team’s headed for the dressing rooms at half-time.

The final whistle sparked a pitch invasion from the home supporters that saw Sergio Aguero confronted by a Wigan fan as he attempted to leave the field.

The Argentinian appeared to swing an arm in response and was clearly unhappy by whatever he had seen or heard, with the stewards and police nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, a small group of City supporters reacted to the pitch invasion by hurling bottles, coins and advertising hoardings.

It was all rather unsavoury, from all parties involved, and it will not go down as one of City’s most memorable evenings.

Clutching at straws?

On Monday evening, for arguably the first time this season, City looked rattled.

Credit will go to Wigan Athletic, who were organised, resilient and able to capitalise on the numerical advantage that they were handed, but this result will also provide City’s rivals with a timely boost.

This was a reminder that Pep Guardiola’s side are not an invincible force and that they can be beaten.

For the first time a chink has appeared in City’s armour.

Guardiola and his players will not have time to digest Monday’s defeat and now head into a challenging run of fixtures that will possibly determine their season.

On Sunday they have an opportunity to claim the first silverware of the season when they face Arsenal in the League Cup final before facing The Gunners at the Emirates Stadium five days later in the league.

Then there is Chelsea and the second leg of their Champions League tie against FC Basel at home, before potentially tricky back-to-back away games at Stoke City and Everton.

If City’s season is going to unravel then it will happen over the next month or so.

However, the upcoming run of fixtures also provides City with an opportunity to win silverware, further cement their position at the top of the Premier League and capitalise on a four-goal advantage from the first leg of their Champions League tie against Basel.

Even a handful of defeats would not necessarily totally derail their season.

In effect here, we are clutching at straws, but Wigan provided a glimmer of hope that City’s dominance can still be stopped.

It may seem unlikely, but the dent that the Latics made in the armour of Guardiola’s side is the first sign of weakness or frailty that we have seen all season.

Guardiola and his side may still romp to a treble by the end of the campaign, but a League One side had provided the Premier League and clubs in the Champions League that there is still plenty to play for this season.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Manchester City

Oleksandr Zinchenko will thrive if given first-team football at Wolves next season

Wolves are reportedly interested in bringing the talented youngster to Molineux.

Liam Thomas

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Oleksandr Zinchenko
Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City‘s talented youngster Oleksandr Zinchenko looks set to leave the Premier League champions this summer in search of first team football.

According to the Telegraph, Wolves boss Nuno Espírito Santo is keen on bringing the wing back into his exciting setup, for a reported fee of £16 million.

Zinchenko started only six times for Pep Guardiola’s record breaking side last season and showed glimpses of what he could achieve if given a sufficient amount of game time.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Wolves seem the perfect destination for Zinchenko at this stage in his career and the ambitious west Midlands club are showing no signs of fear going into the new Premier League season.

At 21 years of age, Zinchenko has already featured 16 times for his country; Ukraine and filled in for the absent Benjamin Mendy last season for City and proved he was more than capable of mixing it with the leagues best when needed.

The chance to play under the enigmatic Nuno Espírito Santo certainly puts Zinchenko in an environment to thrive, and the Ukrainian international will in no doubt take with him to Molineux what Pep Guardiola has taught him during his time at the Citizens.

“He is a talented player, so clear, so clean. The way he plays, his decisions are always perfect. As a young player, I hope in the future he will help us.”

– Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola, speaking about Oleksandr Zinchenko last season.

Given the opportunity to play week in, week out will only improve Zinchenko’s already undeniable talent, and his versatility to play anywhere in the midfield would be a real weapon for Wolves to have at their disposal.

Zinchenko is undoubtedly a coaches dream, with a high footballing IQ and never ending relentless energy he could become a valuable member of Wolves’ set up for the 2018/19 Premier League season.

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England

Manchester City talent Phil Foden is the missing piece of the jigsaw for England

Phil Foden is the midfielder England need to unpick opposition defences.

Mathew Nash

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It seems football is not yet coming home as England’s World Cup dream ended at the hands of Croatia last night. Despite taking a 1-0 lead the Three Lions could not find the necessary fortitude to win the game after extra-time, with Mario Mandzukic scoring the winner. But there is still great hope for the future and in Phil Foden, Manchester City may hold the key.

One area where England were lacking compared to their opponents was in midfield. Whilst Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard are both dynamic and abrasive and Jordan Henderson neat and tidy they did not have a world-beater in the middle of the park.

Croatia, on the other hand, did. Real Madrid star Luka Modric began to dictate play alongside the Barcelona pendulum Ivan Rakitic. With Marcelo Brozovic, arguably the best midfielder in Serie A post-January, also in midfield England could not get control of the game.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Which is where Foden comes in. The 18-year-old is the player that England were missing. The England under-17 World Champion and BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year from 2017 is the future of England’s midfield.

He won a Premier League winner’s medal last season and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is a huge fan of his.

All the indications are that City will not loan Foden out next term. Instead, they plan to have him as part of the first-team squad.

If Manchester City can nurture his talent correctly then England will have that man in midfield who can create from nothing, find the incisive pass and provide for the players up top.

In four years time, he will be 22 and will have hopefully worked under Pep Guardiola for a number of years. Fitness and first-team football permitting, he could be the missing link that brings it home from Qatar in 2022.

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Germany

Has Leroy Sané been wrongfully dropped from Germany’s World Cup squad?

The 22-year-old will not be featuring in Russia.

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Leroy Sane
Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City winger Leroy Sané has been left out of Germany’s 2018 World Cup squad.

It was today announced that the 22-year-old – who made Joachim Löw’s original 27-man provisional team – did not make the official 23-man tournament squad. This arguably comes as the biggest shock of the squad announcements so far.

Sané made 40 appearances this season in all competitions for City, scoring 14 goals and gaining 19 assists along the way in what was undoubtedly the best season of his career.

His performances and statistics were enough to gain him the Premier League’s ‘Young Player of the Year Award’ for the 2017/18 season, further adding to the surprise of his absence from Löw’s World Cup squad.

Germany’s record in recent tournaments is as unquestionable as the strength and depth they have within their squad. To make the final cut of Löw’s World Cup team is a feat within itself and Sané deserved that accolade this summer.

(Photo by Miguel Medina/Getty Images)

Making the squad at the expense of Sané; Mesut Özil (Arsenal), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Julian Draxler (PSG), Mario Gomez (Stuttgart) and Timo Werner (RB Leipzig).

Sané has similar attributes to these five players which is why it is difficult to comprehend any argument for the City wingers absence.

With the exception of Leipzig’s Werner, all of the above scored fewer goals last season than Sané and, on top of that, every player also had far fewer assists than the City winger, with the next closest to him being Arsenal’s Özil with 12 (seven behind).

In fact, if you add Rudy, Draxler and Gomez’s assists together (13), you’d still have six fewer than Sane’s. Combine all of the major statistics relevant to an attacking midfielder/forward’s role, Sané is ahead of every name on this list.

It obviously isn’t all about the statistics, however, and when you consider the calibre of attacking teammates Sané had to work with this season, it is understandable why his personal statistics are so high.

However, a World Cup squad should be the 23 best men at that time to represent their country.

When you consider the jaw-dropping football Manchester City played in this record breaking Premier League season – and Sané’s significant impact in that – surely it is inconceivable to think that he is not within the best 23 players of his nation.

It is difficult to second guess an international manager with the record of Joachim Löw. However, compile all of the statistical evidence with the eye test and it is difficult to understand how Leroy Sané will not be representing Germany in Russia this month.

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