Manchester City will arrive in south Wales for Saturday’s game against Swansea as firm favourites to continue their perfect start to the Premier League season. The fledgling stages of Pep Guardiola’s reign at Eastlands could scarcely have gone any better; five wins from five in the league, a 4-0 win against Borussia Monchengladbach in their first Champions League group game, and safe passage to the next round of the EFL Cup by beating Swansea on Wednesday night. The repeat fixture this weekend promises to be even harder for the Swans, with Sergio Aguero set to return following suspension.
Francesco Guidolin managed to keep Swansea up last term, and it seems as if this season will bring another long battle for survival. The Swans are struggling for goals, and will be hoping that record signing Borja Baston can make a difference at the top end of the pitch. Their recent 2-2 draw with Chelsea was a good result but one that came as a result of poor officiating and Chelsea’s profligacy in front of goal. Ahead of Saturday’s game against the league leaders, we suggested three things to keep an eye on.
Will Neil Taylor get a recall for Swansea?
Guidolin played a 5-3-2 system against Chelsea to give his side more defensive assurance, but they were thoroughly outplayed for the first 45 minutes. The Italian coach took the brave move of making a first half substitution, hooking left wing-back Neil Taylor for Mo Barrow. Swansea turned the game around in the second period to earn a 2-2 draw so Guidolin deserves some credit for this switch, with Barrow impressing after his introduction. Early substitutions are always a little humiliating for the player who is sacrificed and there were signs he did not take it very well. Guidolin claimed after the match that there was no problem between he and Taylor. The Welsh international hasn’t played a minute of league football since, but did start in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.
Will Guardiola’s full-backs play like full-backs?
One of the fascinating things about Guardiola is that he provokes quite polarising reactions from the British footballing public. Some are evangelical in their praise of the former Barcelona manager, and pore over every tactical machination and alteration as if he has the ball and the players on a string. On the other hand, there are those who think it’s all a big bluff and that his philosophy is just a case of the emperor’s new clothes. One aspect of his management that has attracted plenty of attention is his deployment of full backs as central midfielders.
His reasons for doing so are twofold; to clear space for his wingers to enjoy one against one situations and to have bodies behind the ball to stop counter attacks. In some games he has used this formula while in other, notably the Manchester derby, his full backs have taken up orthodox positions. This is something to watch in the early stages of any City game.
Who will play on the left in Nolito’s absence?
Nolito has been an understated presence in City’s side, and one of the summer’s underrated signings. The Spaniard hasn’t been spectacular, but carries out Guardiola’s instructions to the letter by holding his position near the left touchline. When available he has been a regular starter. City have an embarrassment of riches to choose from in his absence. Leroy Sane could start in the right, with Raheem Sterling switching to the left. However, the England international has been in fine fettle since the start of the season so Guardiola may be reluctant to move him. Alternatively, with Aguero returning through the middle, Kelechi Iheanacho could be moved the left hand flank to give City additional goal threat. Whatever combination the former Bayern coach opt for, it will give Swansea plenty of trouble.
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