February 27, 2018

FREE KICKS: Guardiola’s first of many pieces of silverware?

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Manchester City didn’t have too hard of a time dealing with Arsenal to win the Carabao League Cup on Sunday. The Gunners looked like amateurs against a truly great side.

This marks the first silverware for Pep Guardiola at City after failing to capture any titles last season – a rare shutout for one of the world’s best managers.

Now the questions will begin in earnest: Can this City side capture a treble?

With such a big lead in the Premier League table, sitting on a 13-point with a game in hand on Manchester United. Oh, and that game in hand is on Thursday against the same Arsenal side that City just destroyed.

We’d be remiss to point out that the Sky Blues just suffered a huge upset last weekend, losing their bid for a quadruple by falling to League One side Wigan Atheltic. So that means a domestic treble is out of the question and City will now have to focus on winning Champions League to get that prestigious claim to fame.

Of course, the previous time an English side won the tournament was in 2012, when Chelsea bested Bayern Munich on penalties. No EPL side has even made the final since.

So, with the league nearly wrapped up, will Guardiola focus more on Europe? Will his top players get more rest than usual in the run-up to key games? He’d be smart to make sure of it.

It’s one thing to dominate the Premier League or win the League Cup. It’s something else entirely to be the best team in Europe – and we’re sure the Sheikhs in City’s ownership will feel that way as well.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Romelu Lukaku finally did it: He produced against a top four side.

The knock against the Belgian striker for his entire career was that he couldn’t produce against top opponents, that he was racking up his big goal totals against the lesser teams of the Premier League. Well, for one week at least, Lukaku came through.

He first scored the equalizer against Chelsea and later setting up Jesse Lingard’s winner.

While the Red Devils have lowly Crystal Palace next, we’ll see if Lukaku can come through against Liverpool in a massive match with second place likely on the line.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Harry Kane sure left it late to score the winner against Crystal Palace, but credit to the Eagles for holding the fort against their London rival … Palace is now winless in five games and the absence of Wilfried Zaha is hurting more than ever. His injury may have sunk their season … With another goal this weekend, Mohamed Salah has now equalled Luis Suarez’s best season at Liverpool – and it’s still February … Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have also been in fine form since the sale of Philippe Coutinho. Perhaps the wantaway Brazilian wasn’t as influential as we figured he was … The pain continues for West Brom, which looks more relegation-bound by the week. This week it was fellow relegation-battlers Huddersfield that did the honours and, to make matters worse, the Baggies lost at home, too … Swansea’s solid run of form came to an abrupt end. How does a team that has looked so good in recent weeks lose 4-1 in Brighton? And the Swans only goal was an own goal by Lewis Dunk.

THE LAST WORD

Maybe Jose Mourinho should start a feud with every manager in the Premier League.

The Special One once again got the better of a fellow gaffer he has been firing shots at in the media, Antonio Conte.

We’ve seen time and again how Mourinho has put away Arsene Wenger whenever possible and those two have perhaps the frostiest relationship in football.

So, if it has proven to work against his nemeses, why wouldn’t Mourinho crank this racket up against more of his foes?

Could he not attack Jurgen Klopp before the key clash between United and Liverpool in a few weeks? How about criticizing Spurs’ lack of budget to get under Mauricio Pocchetino’s skin?

The only manager who isn’t phased seems to be Guardiola. Perhaps this is just another aspect of Pep’s style that other managers should look to adapt.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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