City missed out big time.

Published: Monday, 21 February 2022

Fine margins. How many times have we heard sports coaches talk about how vital they are? Big moments in sport that don’t come often - but when they do it’s big players/athletes (some can be trusted to be clean) that settle big matches/events.

We saw such an event at the weekend. Because of its context as much as anything - we watched the best game of the season so far at Man City.

What a match. It ebbed and flowed dramatically. City thought they’d scrambled a point after a late and generous intervention by VAR. Having got level, they even fancied winning it. Of course they did. It’s what they do.

None of us thought Spurs would win. None of us. I don’t believe that even Conte fancied his team. He was desperate for the whistle so he could get back on the bus (yes - some teams even travelled to matches by coach this weekend. Whatever next for our pampered luvvies?) and head for London with a point.

But I’d wager good money that Harry Kane was thinking ‘one more chance. Create me one more chance’. Spurs did. Kane scored. That’s what big players do. That’s what separates them from the rest. That’s why Spurs stole it. Fine margins at moments that really matter.

Guardiola. His bench. The City hoards. The players. They were all looking at the officials hoping they’d conjure another moment of VAR magic for them. Not this time. The man who should’ve been playing in light blue and not Tottenham white, had blown the title race wide open.

Twitchy bum time has come early for Guardiola and his team, although they probably don’t know that yet. And they might not even have realised yet exactly what Kane did Saturday evening. From being nailed on they’re now by no means certain. I fancy Liverpool. And I fancy Liverpool in Europe as well. Why? Because they’re better. They’re stronger. They can grind wins and they’re not afraid of City. There’s a reason Guardiola called them a ‘pain in the arse’ before the Spurs game. He knows.

He also knows his team are pretty. They they’ll win nine out of 10 games by three or four goals. And in those nine games they don’t need a proper centre forward. But in the big ones they do. At crucial moments they do. ‘Aguerooooooooo’. I can’t think of a better example.

Guardiola dropped a bollock last summer. Actually he dropped two. He didn’t need Grealish. There’s a separate argument on this subject and I haven’t changed my mind since the blog when I said ‘he’ll slow them down. They’ve already got better’. So why? Why spend £100m on a player you don’t need?

Grealish is 26 now. He should be in his prime. Sadly he’s nowhere near good enough to play for City. What does he do? Who should he play in front of? Foden? Sterling? De Bruyne? They can’t find a position for him and he certainly doesn’t get into their best X1.

De Bruyne joined City aged 24 - already an established ‘nuisance’ on the scene. He’s got better and better. When have you ever seen him out in the wrong place at the wrong time? Exactly. Never.

But Guardiola wanted to make a statement. For some reason he spunked £100m on an unnecessary luxury. Yes - I’ve previously said ‘England should build a team round Grealish’. I stand by that. England aren’t as good as City. And there’s no cost involved.

I guess you’ve already worked out where I’m going with this?. Why? Why didn’t City push on with a fifth bid of £140m and buy Kane? No. Why did they need to make four bids - all of which Spurs turned down? They knew the player was ready to join them. Do it. Meet Tottenham’s valuation straight away. Spend the Grealish money on Kane. They spunked more than the £40m extra that it would’ve taken on Nathan Ake for goodness sake. And a whole lot more on other bang ordinary centre-backs.

Kane would’ve made a difference. He might just have won them the CL. He’d have had them clear - well clear - at the top now. And he obviously wouldn’t have inflicted that damage at the weekend. Can you imagine how he felt? After all the embarrassment City caused him last summer. After the way they messed with his head before letting him down. No wonder he was happy to show off his new teeth with that enormous grin post match at City. ‘Ave it.  Job done. Vindicated.

Andy has argued long and hard that If City had had a proper centre forward in last seasons CL final they might just have won it. He’s right. What chance that Guardiola will have deeper regrets than Saturdays’s frustrations later this season?

Few teams have spent more than Everton in recent seasons. I won’t go over old ground here, but I’m afraid they’re going to have to go again if Frank Lampard has got half a chance of success at Goodison.

They’ve got a gem in Anthony Gordon. I’ll say again - ‘new’ Steven Gerrard. He reminds me so much of the former Liverpool skipper. His gangly teenage gate is the same. He loves a tackle. He can spray passes about and run all day. He’a also got an eye for a goal He’s special. But he’s about all they have got despite the big spend - and he was for nothing!

If I’m Lampard my priority is a goalkeeper. I’m afraid Pickford isn’t good enough. He frightens me anytime he’s near the ball - and he’s too often not near enough to it. He shouldn’t have let Trippier’s free kick in at Newcastle - and he shouldn’t have been letting Armstrong’s goal in at Soton. There’s too many mistakes in him.

He must give his defence kittens. He’s a nervous mess - edgy, twitchy, anxious - all the time.

It’s too late this season - but what chance Lampard goes back to Chelsea for Kepa? I would. I know Lampard didn’t fancy him at The Bridge, but he’s better than Pickford, Henderson or any other option you can think of that’s available right now. He’s also too good to be No2 at Chelsea.

Lampard knows him. Watch this space…..