Man City’s risk-vs-reward style paying off for Guardiola

first_imgMANCHESTER, England (AP): Manchester City’s risk-versus-reward approach under Pep Guardiola was summed up in one passage of play during a Champions League match against Celtic. With two opponents closing in, City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo coolly slid a pass between them to midfielder Fernandinho on the edge of the area. Pressured by two more hounding Celtic players, Fernandinho produced a Cruyff turn to create space for himself and burst upfield. Just like that, Celtic was opened up and City was launching another attack. Guardiola acknowledges his possession-based style is fraught with danger but it’s been getting results, with City making its best-ever start to a season in winning 10 straight games and scoring 30 goals in the process. It sparked talk of City winning the Premier League at a canter. However, a 3-3 draw at Celtic on Wednesday that ended City’s winning run exposed potential fallibilities in Guardiola’s side. Bravely standing toe to toe with City, Celtic pressed high, hassled relentlessly and looked to outmuscle City’s ball-playing defenders. It worked, with City enduring an uncomfortable night at atmospheric Parkhead, especially at the back. Sitting deep against City and attempting to soak up pressure has got teams nowhere so far. Celtic have shown fellow sides the blueprint to trouble Guardiola’s side: Take them on. As it happens, Tottenham one of the best proponents of a high-energy, high-intensity pressing game are City’s next opponents in the standout match of the Premier League this weekend. It’s first versus second in the standings, a meeting between two unbeaten teams. Tottenham will know Bravo isn’t great under the high ball and takes risks with the ball at his feet. They’ll know the likely centre-back pairing of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi can be brittle. And they’ll know the absence of injured playmaker Kevin De Bruyne takes some creativity out of City’s side. Tottenham beat City home and away last season, but it will be a huge task to stop the new-look City juggernaut. Guardiola has got City operating at previously unseen levels. The team’s biggest problem under his predecessor as manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was its work rate. But under Guardiola, City is second behind Liverpool in the “distance covered” category, according to sports data company Opta. Dropping Yaya Toure has helped City in this regard. Guardiola is getting the best out of winger Raheem Sterling, who was a disappointment last season after signing for $76 million, by giving him self-belief and playing to his strengths by getting him one on one with defenders as much as possible. He has five goals already. Likewise, Aleksandar Kolarov is looking like a different player under Guardiola, who has even turned the Serbia left back into a ball-playing centre back with mixed results. Playmaker David Silva looks liberated now that he is playing more centrally. Then there’s Sergio Aguero, a scorer of 11 goals in seven games this season. Guardiola is still asking for more from the striker, saying he has to work harder when City isn’t in possession to help the team. That sums up Guardiola’s demanding approach. As does his removal from the first team of goalkeeper Joe Hart and Toure, who were mainstays for the past six years. They didn’t fit his philosophy Hart for his poor footwork and Toure for his lack of intensity in midfield so they’ve been banished. “I want to have control,” Guardiola said after City beat Manchester United 2-1 this month. He was talking about his ball-possession, but he could so easily have been referring to his grip on the squad. WALCOTT’S REVIVAL Theo Walcott’s future at Arsenal looked bleak after a disappointing last season when he was mostly used off the bench and lost his place in the England squad. Now it appears he’s back to his best. Walcott has started all of Arsenal’s league games, and has scored four goals in his last three games ahead of Sunday’s match at Burnley. The pacey winger credits his improved form to a chat he had with manager Arsene Wenger during the off season. “I want it more than anyone else,” Walcott said. Arsenal is unbeaten in eight games since losing to Liverpool on the opening weekend.last_img read more

Jamai Raja will go all the way

first_img FASTANDFLASHY has never won going this far, but represents the lone speed and could scramble home. OH MY GRAND PA won easily over 1400 metres on September 24 while CAMOUFLAGE finished second to out-of-class MISS DOROTHY, some weeks ago, and if fully sound enough, should be able to to beat this field with connections calling up Harvey for the ride. JAMAI RAJA, who impressed when leading home WILL IN CHRGE in a fast-run 1500-metre race on October 6, clocking 1:30.2, should give Harvey and his apprentice master Azan another winner in the third race for the Royal Dad Trophy over 1820 metres. Given the additional real estate, the free running JAMAI RAJA, who finished a close second to BIGDADDYKOOOL in the Lotto Classic over 2000 metres back in May, should be wary of old rival WILL IN CHARGE over the longer distance and a good race is anticipated. FREE RANGE, who beat all baring FIERY PATH over 1400 metres last Saturday, is even more effective over the 1200 metres of the fourth race and Harvey seems gifted with yet another winner, despite the presence of LEGAL ARENA, CRUCIAL VALOR and QUICK CHIC in a field of 10. LEGAL ARENA, who was second to BIG BUCK over 1400 metres on August 1, looks the principal danger coming from the in-form stables of Steven Todd. The last two races in the first Super-6 should see the recent winner UNRULY TEXAS repeating at the expense of SWEET DIMENSION while HE’S A MACHINE, the mount of leading jockey Omar Walker, is tipped to go one better in the sixth race following his good second to LEIGHTON REID on October 3. Both the Pick-9 and Super-6s were caught on Monday’s Heroes Day programme at Caymanas Park, ensuring there are no carryovers going into tomorrow’s meet. The Pick-9 will embrace races two to 10 with a guaranteed minimum of $1 million, the first Super-6 from race one to six, the late Super-6 from race five to 10, both offering minimums of $750,000. We look at the first Super-6 which gets underway with a two-year-old maiden special over 1000 metres round to be contested by eight starters, including DUTY FIRST to be ridden by Paul Francis for trainer Gordon Lewis and the well-forward first-time runner SUPERBOLT with top apprentice Bebeto Harvey riding for trainer Richard Azan. DUTY FIRST has finished second in her two races to date, the more recent when 11/4 lengths second to FOOT SOLDIER over the straight on October 6. She has been administered Lasix for the first time, will report even better and is poised to fight out the finish. However, preference is for SUPERBOLT who has travelled nicely at exercise in the company of his more experienced stable companion TOUGH COOKIE. The bay colt by Adore The Gold out of Patty Girl looked fluent out of the straight in 1:01.2 by 47.1 easily at exercise recently and should get off the mark immediately. Next on the programme is a one mile race for $180,000 claimers in which down-in-class CAMOUFLAGE, the recent winner OH MY GRAND PA, YES SHE WILL, YES WE WILL, and the front running FASTANDFLASHY should decide the outcome in a field of eight. FIRST SUPER-6 FANCIES (1) SUPERBOLT/DUTY FIRST (2) CAMOUFLAGE/OH MY GRANDPA (3) JAMAI RAJA/WILL IN CHARGE (4) FREE RANGE/LEGAL ARENA (5) UNRULY TEXAS/SWEET DIMENSION (6) HE’S A MACHINE LONE SPEEDlast_img read more