Media Watch

Media City: A true battle of wits

STRIKE FORCE: Sergio Aguero
As the weekend approaches, attention turns to the return of Premier League action.

City travel to West Brom on Saturday, seeking a return to winning ways after six games without a victory, and media outlets have been sharing their opinions of the clash.

Michael Cox of ESPN is especially interested to discover how the game pans out, with two contrasting managers going head-to-head in Pep Guardiola and Tony Pulis.

He writes: “This will be the greatest stylistic contrast of the Premier League season, and perhaps one of the greatest in Premier League history too. It's difficult to think of two more opposing managers than Guardiola and Tony Pulis: the former a young, cultured, smartly dressed footballing philosopher, the other a back-to-basics veteran who dresses in tracksuit and baseball cap, and tells his players that the opposition don't like it up them.

“Well, there's slightly more to it than that. Pulis is a highly effective training ground coach, and regularly assembles amongst the most settled, organized and miserly defences in the Premier League. There are never gaps between the four defenders, while the midfield screens the backline excellently, generally forcing the opposition to go wide.

"If the opposition is compelled to cross the ball, Pulis' players are happy coping with aerial balls - although he's often used a specialist full-back this season, it's not uncommon for Pulis to field a defence featuring four natural centre-backs, who play extremely narrow and defend the width of the penalty box manfully. Last season, Pulis also experimented with centre-back Jonny Evans in a midfield role, determined to get aerial power and defensive solidity in the team wherever possible.

“Of course, this considerably boosts West Brom's performance at set-piece situations, too - both defending and attacking. They've already scored four goals from dead ball situations this season, the most in the Premier League.

“Guardiola cares primarily about technical quality, and confidence in possession. Indeed, it's no surprise to learn that while Manchester City lead the way in terms of possession this season, averaging 63.7% so far, West Brom's average share is the lowest in the division, just 36.9%.

WATCH: Goal of the Day: Dzeko v West Brom

“The most interesting aspect of the game, however, will be whether Guardiola decides to change his approach slightly to guard against West Brom's threat. While Guardiola insists upon a brand of short passing football, he's also a studious manager who scouts the opposition thoroughly, and tinkers with his system accordingly.

“Guardiola must show he can cope with the type of aerial bombardment he'll rarely have encountered in Spain or Germany, and it would be another string to his bow if he proves able to build a slightly different type of side, to adjust to a different challenge in a different league. Heterogeneity is vital to keep football exciting.”

In other news, youngster Pablo Maffeo’s impressive display against United in midweek is still making headlines, with the Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke posing the question: have City found their answer to Hector Bellerin?

An article reads: “What Maffeo gave City was something they have lacked for the last few years, relentless speed down the right hand side.

“Pablo Zabaleta is 31 now and has lost his burst of pace ever since missing the first half of last season with knee problems. Sagna is almost 34 and is not as quick as he was at his Arsenal peak either.

“On the opposite side, Aleksandar Kolarov, now learning to play at centre-back, is 30.

“This is why Maffeo is so attractive to City, and why his big display at Old Trafford could not have been better timed.

“There is now clamour for him to start at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, City’s next Premier League game.

"That would only be his third City appearance, having made his debut against Steaua Bucharest in the dead Champions League play-off second leg game in August. But Guardiola clearly rates him highly, and his success is a testament to City’s policy of signing the best Spanish talent at 16."

WATCH: Every touch: Maffeo v United

Finally, there’s some transfer gossip as usual, as Shoot suggest three forwards ‘City should sign in January’.

According to Marcus Oades: “Alexis Sanchez's incredible form for Arsenal this season has not gone unnoticed from those around the Premier League.

“The Chilean has scored six goals and laid on three assists in 12 games this season for the Gunners, and has adapted excellently to the more advanced central role that Arsene Wenger has deployed him in so far.

“It is believed that Sanchez wants to see what ambitions the Gunners have before agreeing to stay in North London, but any delay could give City an opportunity to sway the forward's mind.

“City have reportedly been linked with a move for Edinson Cavani in the past, when he was at Napoli and at current club Paris Saint-Germain, yet no deal ever materialised.

“The Uruguayan's class is evident. He has scored at least 25 goals in each of the last six seasons - three at Napoli and three at PSG - and already has 13 goals in 12 appearances so far in this campaign.

“Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been one of the most in-form players in world football over the past few seasons.

“The Borussia Dortmund forward scored 36 goals for the German side last season, including two hat-tricks and six braces for Thomas Tuchel's side.

“Unsurprisingly, the 27-year-old is attracting interest from a number of top European sides, and Guardiola has reportedly been given the green light to spend big on the attacker.”

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