In the greater narrative of this season, there are definitely elements of Manchester City’s recent run that need to improve. They can waste no time in continuing to develop their game.
While the execution of possession in the final period of last week’s match against Bournemouth was inspiring, the Blues will need to continue to develop their ability to maintain dominance across the pitch.
As they prepare for their cup match against Huddersfield Town, here are 3 things to watch:
1 - Using “Second String” Players
Pep Guardiola’s decisions for the squad on Saturday will shed light on how he trusts his men to ensure an place in the next round of the FA Cup and a desire to be fully prepared for Monaco’s upcoming challenge.
After constant rotation in the setup of City’s staring XI and the sudden absence of Gabriel Jesus, Pep could announce an aggressive lineup against the Championship side as a dress rehearsal for the Champions League match at the Etihad on Tuesday night.
The manager has lamented the unavoidable fact of leaving players on the bench or off the matchday squad, so the game against Huddersfield could serve as a parade for the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Nolito, Fabian Delph, and others.
In addition to traditional roles, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Guardiola could use an unorthodox option in order to give others rest.
Lastly, everyone would love to see Vincent Kompany reappear to test his legs for another 90 minutes.
2 - A Fierce Challenge from the Championship Squad
Huddersfield manager David Wagner, might use his experience alongside Jurgen Klopp to mount an upset against City. Although he said Klopp can’t help him beat the Blues, Wagner emphasized the fact that his team will play aggressively against the Citizens. He said they will be brave and that they are capable of unsettling City, despite their obvious status as underdogs.
Huddersfield have appeared potent in pursuit of promotion to the Premier League. They have won six matches in a row with a 12 wins in 14 games in all competitions since the start of December.
They know how to capitalize on space in the final third. In a recent win over Rotherham, their vitality in front of the net should stand as a clear warning to Sky Blue defenders. They have the technical facility and the instincts to apply serious pressure if City is not diligent.
3 - Can City keep their edge?
The Sky Blues have looked excellent since their draw with Tottenham Hotspur — which happened to be the first match in which Gabriel Jesus was eligible. Can they keep up the spark that he brought to the club?
If David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne or Yaya Touré get rest, will City be able to pull the strings that unleash a flurry of goals?
In one sense, the game against Bournemouth proved that the Blues need to be more decisive without the young Brazilian. Their ability to disorient opponents with high frequency passing and long periods of possession has to result in an effect on the scoreline.
The match against Huddersfield with demonstrate the depth of understanding within City’s squad. It is likely that the underdogs will not accept their fate — that they will seek to put City on the back foot and steal a match from the Etihad’s elite.
The cup title could potentially be the most accessible silverware to City this season. It is possible that they will pursue this match and the entire tournament with sincere vigor.