When Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City last summer, there was a quiet optimism among City fans that their side could dominate on all fronts.
However, come April and City have done the exact opposite. They were knocked out of the League Cup by rivals Manchester United, knocked out of the Champions League by Monaco and are now battling for the European places in the Premier League rather than the title.
City do have one last chance of winning silverware this season and that is the FA Cup, but, they will have to get past Arsenal on Sunday 23 April in the second semifinal at Wembley Stadium.
The Blues have always had history with the trophy and it was the FA Cup that was the first piece of domestic silverware to be won during the Sheikh Mansour era back in 2011.
This season has been no different – City have showcased dominant performances throughout the competition, but there is a prime reason for it: Guardiola has taken the competition very seriously.
Over the past few seasons, more of the top teams have been knocked out in the earlier rounds because they are treating England’s greatest competition with little respect by putting out teams made up of reserve players. This has not been the case with City as Guardiola has been putting out a side made up mostly of first team stars.
A 5-0 win at the London Stadium against West Ham in the third round was a dream start to City’s FA Cup run and it was down to a side made up of City’s general Premier or Champions League starting XI. The likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva were on the pitch, setting the tone for how much Guardiola wanted to add the FA Cup to his collection of silverware.
Then came Crystal Palace in the fourth round at Selhurst Park. It was routine 3-0 win for the Blues in a match where there was more interest in a City fan streaming the match on Periscope. Again, there were heavy hitters on the pitch as the likes of Yaya Toure and Leroy Sane showed that City were going to be ruthless in this cup competition.
Huddersfield were next in the fifth round in what could have been a potential giant killing. After a tense first match at the John Smith’s Stadium, which ended 0-0, City welcomed Huddersfield back to the Etihad.
Not everything went to plan as Huddersfield took the lead seven minutes into the match, but after the shaky start City switched on and continued their ruthless performances against cup opposition putting five past the promotion chasing side. Yet again, this was a team consisting of first team regulars except for Alex Garcia in midfield who was the only academy player to make the squad in the 5-1 win.
In the quarter finals, it was Middlesbrough at the Riverside. The last time these two sides met was back in 2016 at the Etihad, where City were knocked out in the fourth round. This was match that went the opposite away. City came out on top, 2-0 winners, but the score line could have easily been more in a match where the Blues created a lot of chances, but just could not manage to put them away.
Now City face Arsenal in the semifinals of the competition in what should be an interesting match. The sides last met on Sunday 2 April, in a match where City took the lead twice, but that ended 2-2. There is no doubt that Guardiola will put out a strong side to face the Gunners, but hopefully it will be a ruthless performance similar to the rest of this cup run.
Written by Matt Astbury
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