Positives and negatives: Manchester City 4-1 Fulham

Cameron Ramsey 6th February 2022

Water is wet, taxes are unavoidable, and so is an early FA Cup exit to Manchester City. We won’t dwell on this game too much, however Cam’s happy to dive right in and he’s inviting you along.

Pep Guardiola extolled the virtues of Marco Silva’s Fulham before kick-off, praising our impressiveness with an admiring recognition, and though his side progressed fairly comfortably, with a cushy score line to boast, our Championship table-toppers made sure that the Premier League leaders perspired for the dub. We cannot be downcast about this result, because in stages, we played some of the best football City have witnessed from a visiting team.

Without a win against the Sky Blues since April 2009, in all competitions, a defeat for the Whites at the Etihad was inevitable and I couldn’t give a solitary fuck about it either. The FA Cup is almost certainly rigged, but at least our travelling fans did the club immensely proud. We’re bashed for our following, sometimes unfairly so, and for an encounter where a loss was nailed on, those that attended should be commended. See you on Tuesday for some riveting Sky Bet entertainment.

Positives

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Fabio Carvalho

His proposed switch to Liverpool on Deadline Day fell through, with reports of the teenage sensation having reservations of linking up with the Merseysiders, but in Manchester there was no suspicion of cold feet for Fabio Carvalho. Superpowers across Europe are tracking the 19-year-old, a bidding frenzy will commence as soon as the current season’s run its course and against one of the continent’s most decorated outfits, Fabio displayed his highly sought-after virtuosity to an incredible standard. Flashing clean sole plates as he burst out of congestion, Carvalho manipulated convincing scenarios to his team’s benefit, driving possession deep into City’s half while maintaining an evasive awareness. Charged and focused, the starlet tampered with the hosts’ expertly-drilled shape, and when he was impelled to bite back defensively, he latched onto the meat of the matter dogmatically. His efforts were measured and balanced, as well as game altering, too.

The game’s opener, devised by Aleksandar Mitrovic’s magnificent squad-slicing sweep up field, was prodded past Zack Steffen by the boy wonder himself. The goal was synchronised; Harry Wilson fed the ball across the target and Fabio, tapping into his extraordinary intelligence, sealed the move efficiently. A textbook poacher’s finish, judgement and timing demonstrated flawlessly, and he was unfortunate not to have ended the meeting with a brace. Each game is effectively an audition for Carvalho, the footballing world is familiar with his flourishing impulsiveness and until his future is set in stone, once and for all, he’s constrained to exhibit the best version of himself for the betterment of his career aspirations. Within an environment spoiled with accomplished pioneers of the modern game, tomorrow’s maestro made himself comfortable at the big boys table.

Chalobah rattles cages

Collecting Jack Grealish’s tears, Nathaniel Chalobah’s afternoon of shithousery was the tonic proceeding’s desperately needed and his underlying quality, previously masked by lengthy spells on the physiotherapist’s bench, returned with a desirable competitive edge. Fulham’s midfield double pivot of Chalobah and Harrison Reed was a recipe for provocation, and it was the former Watford man that rattled cages as his red-headed associate unhinged City’s ever-present momentum. Nathaniel’s primary objective was to antagonise, to get up in the hosts’ business like a nosy neighbour and I’m satisfied to say that he played his inflammatory role imposingly.

The 27-year-old offloaded possession judiciously, hard yards were covered in order to plug unmanned gaps and when it came to confrontation, with Brummie accents screeching from the deck, Chalobah enjoyment was distinct. Denis Odoi is no longer with us, so somebody had to take it upon themselves to tarnish Grealish’s day out, and nestled between his disruptive duties elsewhere, the multifunctional midfielder still found the time to waft the flames with a fan drenched in gasoline.

Neeskens Kebano

While we’re on the topic of mild irritation, let’s talk about Neeskens Kebano’s deeds and how he pestered Kyle Walker to the point where the England international was basically blue in the face. Walker opted to tighten the press as he closed Kebano down, and he soon realised that his compulsion to squeeze was a sizable mistake. Neeskens’ centre of gravity enables him to shimmy and slalom at full tilt, he’s a notoriously troublesome winger to track and while he may have been entrapped briefly, the nimble 29-year-old’s infiltration of City’s flanks was a regularity.

This season, Kebano’s improvements have been pronounced, he’s elevated his performances to compliment Silva’s blueprints and he was a predominant instigator against the Citizens. He may not be a Raheem Sterling or a Riyad Mahrez, but he is a uniquely gifted assailant in his own right and in fleeting instances, free from deterrents and parrot-faced fullbacks, the man from DR Congo had pulses racing and arses elevated from seats.

Neco’s suitable debut

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Plopped into the deep end on his debut, Neco Williams’ showing pledged improvements but honestly, the Liverpool loanee did just fine in company that could’ve exploited his rawness to a state beyond repair. Perhaps rawness isn’t the correct term, as he’s a defender that’s plied his aspiring trade in the Champions League before now, but with a fresh challenge to scale in SW6 for the remainder of the season, the Wales international will want to make an instant impact and in the Championship, I’ve no doubt that he’ll thrive and evolve.

The 20-year-old will need to be nurtured, expectations will need to be managed and errors will be analysed. For City’s second, he conceded the preceding corner when he could’ve allowed the ball to whistle out of play for a goal kick, but really, that’s an ingrained defensive trait and I’m not going to make an example of him for fundamentally doing what he’s employed for. At a glance, Williams coped adequately against problematic offenders, and as he learns to mediate his actions rationally, adapted to Fulham’s procedures, he’ll raise the club’s status as well as his own.

Negatives

Giving goals away

City do not need second invitations to widen the deficit and due to slack, unperceptive defensive lapses, the hosts established an intense stranglehold that promised punishment. On the parameter of our 18-yard box, as Kevin De Bruyne and company forged avenues, Tosin Adarabioyo and Tim Ream, in particular, struggled to clear their lines adequately, with loose balls straying from black shirts and simple passes being systematically intercepted. We’ve a system of our own to adhere to, Silva encourages total football but there is such a thing as a time and a place for cute, methodical patterns and it isn’t at the Etihad against a squad that prides themselves on suffocation. That is why they’re the country’s pre-eminent monopolisers, they lure teams into basic mistakes and they promptly repossess. Guardiola’s assembled a throng of bailiffs that bang on doors and ransack unsuspecting victims of their own fate.

I can’t begin to recount the number of times detectable balls were thrust into snare traps. City observed the Whites’ suspect attempts to escape, holding fire from their vantage points and, when play had deviated from the visitors’ neglectful clasp, they gained territory, pincer manoeuvring their way into the ascendency. From uncontested headers at the front post to self-inflicted torment in dormant, elementary scenarios, Fulham lived dangerously, enticing the Citizens to respond, unrelentingly, and when your stall’s set-up to be burgled in broad daylight, laid bare for one of Europe’s finest assortment of highwayman to ogle, substantial losses will be forthcoming, and the presiding jury will not be forgiving.

Early doors exit

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Is this a credible negative? No, not really, however as we’re no longer participants in the FA Cup, the greatest knock-out competition in existence, we’re bound to feel slightly aggrieved. All we ask for is one campaign where we’re not coincidentally drawn against City, away, at the same period of the tournament, a defeat is nailed on weeks in advance, and it was no different on Saturday afternoon. This copy-and-paste fixture should not be allowed to take place again for at least another 60 years, with Premier League meetings being the only exception.

Our efforts were committed, but in vain. City didn’t have things all their own way, the first half was an alluring advertisement to Fulham’s never say never inclination however the mileage in our bravado and courage soon emptied at the “Emptyhad”. It wasn’t a comprehensive savaging, a 90-minute pillory where the bones of our being were strewn; our latest defeat in a barren 12-game winless streak against a boring business consortium is nothing more than a mere formality, a ritualistic alignment of the stars and next season, when hopes and aspirations are sky-high once more, we’ll rejoice, tears streaming, as Havant & Waterlooville FC are plucked from the bag and placed next to our corresponding number. One day, we’ll sample and savour the so-called “magic of the cup” ourselves.