Manchester City tend to swipe even teams at the upper end of the Premier League aside with will. So when they’re drawn against lower-level opposition in domestic cup competitions, which happens fairly regularly, they can be foregone conclusions.
It’s no surprise that these games can get dull, even if a parade of goals is scored. And in circumstances in which strikes don’t flow so freely, the matches can become like an attacking vs defence training drill in which City keep the ball for ages as they probe and pry for an opening.
Not that any Blues fans would complain about victories or seeing lots of goals but the really exciting aspect of these sorts of match-ups is the chance to see the next generation in action. For City’s wealth of young talent to be given a chance to shine alongside the pros.
It’s in the cups that Phil Foden first got his real taste of senior action and now there are plenty of others in the academy who are looking to follow in his footsteps.
Cole Palmer, James McAtee and Liam Delap are the standouts who are becoming more regular fixtures within the first team and could be permanent members come next season. But elsewhere in the current campaign, Romeo Lavia, Josh Wilson-Esbrand, CJ Egan-Riley, Finley Burns, Luke Mbete, Kayky, Ben Knight, Oscar Bobb and Sam Edozie have all had a taste of the big time this season.
City have a thrilling crop of youngsters pushing through so when they were drawn against a third lower level side in succession in the FA Cup this season in the lowly Peterborough United, there was excitement about some of them getting a chance. That wasn’t to be the case.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, really, when those hopes were dashed on the Monday before the match as McAtee, Delap and Kayky were all named in the starting XI for the Under-23’s match against Leicester. When it became clear that none of them would play at London Road.
After being knocked out of the Carabao Cup uncharacteristically early, Pep Guardiola seems intent on winning the FA Cup this season instead and has named very strong sides in the two previous rounds against Swindon Town and Fulham. Palmer is the only youngster to have started in either of those games and that was only against the League Two side.
Otherwise, his starting XIs have consisted of his senior stars and that remained the case against Peterborough, with none of the promising outfielders even named on the bench. There was a sense of frustration from some within the fan base that the opportunity was passed up but Guardiola was proven correct in his assessment.
Although the Posh sit bottom of the Championship, even below Derby County, they played above their station against England’s reigning champions and held their own for large portions of the match. They had even been the more threatening team in the first half as they caught their opponents out with quick counters on several occasions.
Eventually, City managed to wear down their resolve and labour to a 2-0 win thanks to two excellent goals from Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish, but the match was far from the cakewalk many might have expected. Had Guardiola have played a weakened team by giving chances to his teenage prodigies then they might have just been on the wrong end of an unthinkable upset.
But no matter how right Guardiola is, it still remains naturally frustrating not to see at least a couple of hot prospects get given a chance. Even if just off the bench. Unless the manager decides to hand some out in the Champions League last 16 second-leg against Sporting, with the Blues already 5-0 up, then there are unlikely to be any more chances to do so this season.
Fans love seeing young players come through, to see them at the start of their journey and flourish into brilliant footballers. If they come from the local area then that sense of attachment and pride is only enhanced further. Guardiola has undoubtedly been proven right by not selecting them but it is still a bit of a shame.