Wednesday December 14th 20.00 GMT
These are strange days indeed for Pep Guardiola. His team began the season by taking the league by storm, assuaging doubts as to how long it would take his new charges to adapt to his famously dense system. Unfortunately for Manchester City, the wheels have exploded off the bandwagon of late and the term ‘dense’ is now being bandied about in a not-altogether flattering way.
Strange days have found us
Anyone who watched them in their 4-2 loss to Leicester City last weekend will have been left either puzzled or bent over double with laughter. If we remember nothing else from last season it is that Leicester were at their very best when breaking into space against a high line. Most teams have understood this simple principle and have adapted accordingly. As a result, both Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have had next to no success in their attempts to replicate last season’s form. Pep and Man City had other ideas, however.
Too smart for their own good, i.e. brainless
Without going into any detail, City set up in such a way as to allow a heretofore struggling Leicester to replicate the form of last season. It was the first time since then that they’ve even come close to doing it. Pablo Zabaletta was unmoored from his fullback slot and drifted lonely as a cloud. John Stones was doing his best impression of George Weah’s, ahem, cousin. In short, no-one seemed to know what the hell they’re doing and they really should.
So-so, they’ll do
Watford seem to have a much clearer vision of what it is they want and how to go about getting it. That’s not to say that they’re pulling up trees but they helped themselves to a restorative win against Everton at the weekend, scoring three goals in the process. The win was needed as they were coming off the back of three losses in four matches and it doesn’t take much to begin a quick slide down the table. The points secured on Saturday moved them into 7th, just one place behind Manchester United.
The smell of meat in their nostrils
The Hornets haven’t had much success in replicating last season’s form of front pair Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo and whilst a bit more net-bulging from the pair would be welcome, only the top five and Crystal Palace have scored more this season so the goals are coming from somewhere. One (relatively) new source has been Italian striker, Stefano Okaka. The forward helped himself to two at the weekend and will be positively licking his lips at the prospect of coming up against this City rearguard.
It is nearly two months since City last won a home game in the league. Two months! Their form over the last 15 across all competitions doesn’t make for good reading either – W4 D6 L5. Without the suspended pair of Sergio Ageuro and Fernadinho, things look worse still. Are Watford capable of winning? Maybe but they’re definitely capable of scoring. City are capable of winning but keeping a clean sheet seems improbable – the aforementioned 15 match form contained a solitary shut-out. This column suggests betting against City winning, be that a draw or a Watford win. The former result has a price of 11/2 from BetWay and the latter a price of 12/1 from BetVictor.