The debate continues to rage over whether Manchester City should have signed a striker after their dominant win over Club Brugge.
City struck five as they got Champions League campaign back on track following defeat to PSG, with the result never in doubt once Phil Foden and Joao Cancelo had combined exquisitely for the opener.
Riyad Mahrez had doubled the lead from the spot after earning a penalty just before half-time – but a 2-0 lead by the interval wasn’t enough for some observers.
Pep Guardiola’s side had barely allowed Brugge a sniff of the ball, and former City right-back Danny Mills complained that summer target Harry Kane “would have had a hat-trick”.
“I don’t know what he’s doing, but if Harry Kane’s watching this game, he’s thinking, I’d have had a hat-trick by now,” Mills told talkSPORT.
“There’s been four or five balls put across the six yard box where there’s been nobody in there.”
Any fears of City failing to capitalise on their chances were put to bed in the second half, as Kyle Walker and academy graduate Cole Palmer added further goals before Mahrez scored his second late on.
Against a Brugge side that had held PSG to a 1-1 draw, City showed they were not suffering from their failure to sign a top-class striker – just as they did when they hit five past Norwich and Arsenal, and when they fired six past RB Leipzig earlier in the campaign.
They didn’t even need a centre-forward when they beat Chelsea 1-0 after pinning Thomas Tuchel’s side back in their own half for much of last month’s blockbuster showdown.
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But Mills still had a point about City’s lack of a clinical finisher.
It didn’t matter against Brugge, but it mattered against PSG when City lost despite dominating the game.
It also mattered against Liverpool, when Guardiola’s side could have been clear by half-time – even if City’s second-half fightback showed they had the mentality of champions.
But what has become apparent is that when Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy demanded too high a price for Kane, City decided they wouldn’t be held to ransom.
And Guardiola insisted he was happy to put his trust in the players he already had.
The City boss has a history of backing players he believes in over big-name signings, going back to his early days as Barcelona manager when he promoted the likes of Sergio Busquets and Pedro to the first-team squad.
Against Brugge, Foden excelled in his false nine role, popping up all over the place as he orchestrated City’s best moves.
The goals from Cancelo and Walker were perfect examples of Guardiola’s innovative use of underlapping full-backs, while Palmer’s strike just two minutes after coming on was a hint at the talent waiting to follow Foden into the first-team picture.
There is more where that came from, too, with James McAtee also seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough, and Cancelo praised both teenagers.
“Cole is a big talent. Cole is a special player,” said the 27-year-old, who is in the form of his life and has made City’s left-back spot his own this season.
“I also like James McAtee, he’s a great player. Phil Foden proves the academy works. They are very promising. Creating and developing some special nights.”
None of them are strikers, of course, and it remains to be seen whether Ferran Torres can continue to grow into that role, with the Spain star not expected to return from his metatarsal injury until the new year.
City will of course be expected to join the race for Erling Haaland when the Borussia Dortmund star’s release clause comes into play next summer.
But until that time, Guardiola will continue to back the talents he already has at his disposal – and his decision to do so was certainly rewarded on Tuesday night.Internet Explorer Channel Network