James McAtee moment gives Man City a Premier League bonus at Norwich – Simon Bajkowski

McAtee minutes to bonus

It was already an immensely enjoyable evening for the Manchester City fans at Carrow Road as the game entered the final 20 minutes.

They had seen their team score three good goals and had cycled through a catalog of songs including the Poznan and odes to Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, when the fourth official lifted the board above his head that signaled that James McAtee was coming on.

Bringing on promising young talent when the scoreline is comfortable is something every supporter loves to see – especially when they are local prospects – but equally they have been around long enough to know that Pep Guardiola does not just do this because it is popular; many times he has refused to do the same in similar circumstances.

That this change was made was a win-win-win: McAtee wins because he gets minutes that he craves in the biggest competition, Guardiola wins because the player has earned the opportunity in his mind, and the fans win because they get to see the future of their club to top off what had already been a good night.

City on the front foot

Guardiola was jokingly asked recently if City are a defensive team, given his teams nearly always have the best defensive record in the division.

They are not, but they are too often characterized as the boring robotic drones in contrast to the helter-skelter Liverpool side.

The reality is that City are a chameleon, capable of adapting their game to any opposition tactics they face, but if they are given the space their instinct is always to play exciting football on the front.

This was in evidence again at Carrow Road where they pummeled the Norwich box right from the first whistle looking to attack at every opportunity, as they had at Watford and Villa in similar games.

It shouldn’t need saying, but you really don’t have to watch City for very long to know how good they can be to watch.

Norwich fans spot Sterling danger

“Get on Sterling, for goodness sake,” came the cry from the crowd as the City forward evaded Max Aarons again.

It was too late by then, with the player having already put the Blues ahead to become the club’s top league scorer this season, but the home fans were desperate not to see more damage inflicted.

City’s matchwinner against Brentford, Sterling was excellent again as he worked well with Aleks Zinchenko down the left side. He still has many critics but there is no doubting how valued he is by Guardiola at the moment.

Ake outshines Days

It is a sign of more depth with City’s centre-backs that Guardiola could afford to leave John Stones and Aymeric Laporte on the bench for this one and Ruben Dias wasn’t even the best defender on the pitch.

Nathan Ake is still some way from being considered as a regular starter but he has made himself much more useful to City this season and looked far more comfortable whenever he has been brought into the team.

Norwich rattled Dias early on and he was booked not long after for a cynical foul, but Ake held firm and was good in the air and with his reading of the game to ensure that City were as solid as they needed to be. An increasingly handy squad player to have around.

Norwich deserve credit

It takes two teams to play a football match and Norwich played a full part in this one.

They may be at the opposite end of the table but the players took on Dean Smith’s encouragement and went out to prove that City are indeed human, picking their moments to attack and defend with everything they could.

City could have scored before Sterling netted but Norwich also hit the post before then as well from a Grant Hanley header. And if it ultimately didn’t bring them any points, not only was it a performance for the fans to be proud of it was one that will get them points in future games if they can maintain that level.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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