Manchester City were without four regular first-team players in training on Thursday ahead of the New Year’s trip to Arsenal.
Kyle Walker was a welcome return home after missing the last four games with fitness issues, but there did not appear to be any sign of John Stones and Rodri in footage of training released by the club after the pair were absent from the last two games.
City have taken control of the Premier League title, making it 11 league wins in a row with a win over the Emirates in the first match of 2022. They will know the importance of three points as rivals Liverpool and Chelsea play against each other. next day, which means that at least one will lose more points in the title race.
Pep Guardiola was ready to give advice during a shooting practice as he put his players through their pace during the quick turnaround between the win at Brentford and the Arsenal trip.
We have reviewed the footage and selected the notable discussion points:
Two players return
Kyle Walker only smiled as he returned to training, and looked sharp as the team participated in shooting and crossing exercises. The right-back has missed the last four games and was on the bench in the previous game when he was sent off in RB Leipzig in his last outing almost a month ago.
Also back for City was the young James McAtee, who seems to have overcome any problem that has seen him miss some recent matches for the first team and the Elite Development Squad. Now the offensive midfielder is back in the match and looked in great shape as he converted some smart finishes during the cross-country exercises.
Four players absent
There were no signs of John Stones or Rodri in the footage, where the pair had missed the last two games with an injury. That could mean Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte continue in midfield, with Nathan Ake an opportunity after impressing at left-back against Brentford.
Rodris’ absence raises another issue, as Fernandinho may be asked to step down for the third time in a week, while City fans may be concerned that Kevin De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo were not seen in the footage either. Both could have worked elsewhere or joined the group later, where players like Jack Grealish also do not appear to be fully involved in the session.
Cancelo later revealed a shocking facial injury after being broken into his home, which could put his involvement with Arsenal in doubt, although it is not clear whether the incident took place before or after the training session. City said they support Cancelo and his family.
When four players – Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Cole Palmer – took turns shooting at Zack Steffen in an exercise, they were closely monitored by their manager, who gave them plenty of advice.
Guardiola could be heard saying: “quality, quality, faster, where is the movement?” and: “enjoy the pleasure of scoring, feeling the ball to shoot … good goal,” as Gundogan finished well.
Other quick messages from Guardiola as players continued their shots included: “short passes, relax” and: “this is the one, difficult situation, no time, opening, attack, fast.”
Later, when Cole Palmer ran into the box to meet a post, Guardiola asked him to wait and hold his run for the ball to come to him before meeting it perfectly and finishing well.
Carson catches the eye
Scott Carson is a popular figure in the City squad and he showed his value as a good goalkeeper as players combined to create a crossing opportunity for two others in the field. There were plenty of good headers and strikes as Carson and Zack Steffen rotated into goal, with Carson encouraging the outfielders as he watched the practice.
And since it was his turn to keep the goals out, Carson in particular made one save that attracted plenty of vocal praise from the observing coaches and players. He still has it.
The city’s training team confirmed
These were the 20 players seen in training pictures on Thursday:
Ederson, Carson, Steffen, Dias, Laporte, Ake, Walker, Zinchenko, Mbete, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Bernardo, McAtee, Foden, Grealish, Palmer, Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus, Kayky