• Benjamin Wolfe

Academy players shine in City win – Manchester City 6-1 Wycombe Review

A youthful Manchester City side was called upon to defend their crown in the Carabao Cup. Job done on the night as many young City prospects impressed in front of the fans and Pep. Phil Foden was imperious. Goals from Ferran Torres, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Cole Palmer and Riyad Mahrez won the game.

Pep Guardiola was not kidding when he said he did not have many fit players for this one. An entire back four of youth players were selected to play ahead of Zack Steffen in goal. Conrad Egan-Riley (18), Finley Burns (18), Luke Mbete-Tabu (18), and Josh Wilson-Esbrand (18) made up the defence. Kevin De Bruyne captained the side from midfield with Phil Foden and Romeo Lavia (17) for company. The front three looked more like you would expect with Ferran Torres central, flanked by Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling. This means that more Manchester City academy graduates started this game than non-graduates.

City began their quest for a fifth successive Carabao Cup on the front foot, with majority of possession as normal. Lavia was a particular bright spark early on, looking composed and suited to the task.


A great ball through from Riyad Mahrez couldn’t be capitalised upon in the 9th minute, with Raheem Sterling failing to convert the chance, or even connect with the ball. He isn’t helping himself at the moment.


It would not have counted had it gone in, but a smart save from Zack Steffen denied Adebayo Akinfenwa. The man-mountain judged to have committed a foul previously. City immediately responded with some lovely attacking play through Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling. Phil Foden saw his shot blocked and Ferran Torres’ follow up was also blocked.


City ramped up the pressure on Wycombe and another effort from Ferran Torres was denied in the 17th minute. The cross from Conrad Egan-Riley was lovely. At the other end in the 21st minute, Zack Steffen tips a Wycombe shot around the post for a corner. Entertaining stuff.

In the 21st minute, Wycombe took the lead. From that corner, Brandon Hanlan found the ball at his feet after what was essentially a mess. Zack Steffen could do little about it.


Wycombe didn’t have long to celebrate a lead at Manchester City as captain Kevin De Bruyne levelled things up at the half-hour mark. It’s a shame City have barely had Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne fit all season. Their link-up play for the equaliser was sublime.


Raheem Sterling almost put City in the lead a minute later, but he saw his effort strike the post and go to safety. Phil Foden in that midfield role continued to impress as the half wore on.


Riyad Mahrez followed in Raheem Sterling’s footsteps just before halftime. Striking the post of the Wycombe goal. Some lovely footwork from the Algerian created the space for the shot and he was unlucky.


He would not be denied, however, and Riyad Mahrez put Manchester City in the 43rd minute. Some exceptional wing play from left-back Josh Wilson-Esbrand created a shooting opportunity for the Algerian in the middle of the box and he slotted home. Keep up like that Josh lad and you’ll be fighting Zinchenko for the starting left-back position.


On the stroke of halftime, Phil Foden grabbed his goal to put City 3-1 up. A lovely strike from all of 25 yards out capped off a great first half for him. A goal and an assist, not bad at all.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Yates/Sportimage/Imago

Pep opted to make no changes at the break and City started the second half as they started the first, in control. A nice tackle from the impressive Romeo Lavia started an early City break but Riyad Mahrez was unable to finish off the Sterling pass. City creating chances but regularly missing them is becoming too common.


Wycombe appeared to have had the stuffing knocked out of them by those two late first-half goals. For a period at the start of the second half, they struggled to muster much fight. City continued to probe for another goal. As James McAtee prepared to come on in the 67th minute, Zack Steffen denied Jordan Obita a way back into this game for Wycombe. The American impressing as usual.


Before City could make their change Ferran Torres grabbed City’s fourth of the night. Yet another fantastic ball from Phil Foden. Yet another assist for Phil Foden. He’s magic. City then took the time to replace the scorer with James McAtee and Cole Palmer came on for Josh Wilson-Esbrand.

Photo courtesy of Action Plus/David Blunsden/Imago

In the 78th minute, Phil Foden almost grabbed himself another assist, but Raheem Sterling was judged to have been offside. No VAR tonight so that flag ruled it out immediately, but it was close. Shortly after however, it would be five. Riyad Mahrez grabbed his second of the evening in the 83rd minute. Raheem Sterling provided the assist after a ridiculous through ball from De Bruyne found him in the box. His cutback found Riyad and Riyad found the net. Sublime.


Cole Palmer got in on the action in the 88th minute to put City 6-1 up. It was a classy finish and goals rained at the Etihad. Manchester City loves a 6-1 win.

Photo courtesy of Action Plus/David Blunsden/Imago

Up next for Manchester City is the first of a tricky trio of games. A visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, September 25th at 12:30 is up first. PSG at the Parc Des Princes and Liverpool at Anfield follow on. Tough.

FODEN THE MIDFIELDER


I think many of us expected Phil Foden to become a midfielder at some point, whether it be sooner or later. The arrival of Jack Grealish may have accelerated this process as we saw Phil Foden take up a central midfield role tonight. As you would expect, and no offence to Wycombe but with the quality of opposition, he shined in that role. During periods of the game where City perhaps struggled, it was this lad who looked like he might be the spark that was needed. He ended the game with a goal and two assists from central midfield. Is there a better player in his age bracket?

Photo courtesy of Barrington Coombs/Imago

JOSH WILSON-ESBRAND


Maybe it is just because City have struggled with the left-back role for so long, or just because expectations were generally lower for the teenagers we had in defence, but this guy looked very good. Since we have one left-back permanently out, and another that is a midfielder, I would not be opposed to testing Josh in some league games once in a while. You never know what could happen. Why else is the academy there?

Photo courtesy of Action Plus/David Blunsden/Imago

MAN OF THE MATCH


It has to be Phil Foden, and on a night where so many academy players started or came on, it is fitting. This is what they should be aspiring to be. He has been where they are and look at him now. Goals, assists, key passes, chance creation, ball progression, dribbling, etc. He’s a machine and he’s still only 21. Let that sink in. Great work tonight, Phil, man of the match. Now get rested and ready for Chelsea.


PLAYER RATINGS


Steffen – 8

Egan-Riley – 7

Burns – 7

Mbete-Tabu – 7

Wilson-Esbrand – 9

De Bruyne – 8

Foden – 10

Lavia - 7

Mahrez – 7

Ferran – 7

Sterling – 7


Subs: McAtee – 6, Palmer – 7

Photo courtesy of John Bradley/Imago

Written by: @CityReportBen


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