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Friday 30 August 2013

Owen Hargreaves: Man City will bounce back against Hull

BT Sport pundit says City should beat Hull, despite competitive 'beauty' of Premier League

  • Hargreaves (right) will be giving his expert views on Man City v Hull for BT Sport on Saturday

  • Hargreaves says former clubmate Robbie Brady, of Hull, boasts a 'great' left foot

  • Cardiff stymied the threat of Man City's 'Merlin' David Silva last weekend

Ahead of Manchester City's live home match against Hull City on Saturday lunchtime BT Sport pundit and former City midfielder Owen Hargreaves told why he thinks City will bounce back against Steve Bruce's side after defeat against Cardiff City, why Manuel Pellegrini will not be feeling the pressure and why Hull's Robbie Brady is one to watch this season.

"That's the beauty of the Premier League – it's competitive'
Owen Hargreaves Manchester City lost to Cardiff last Sunday. How surprised were you by that defeat?
Owen Hargreaves:
Well, I think everybody was. I know I was, especially after City's convincing win against Newcastle, and it just goes to show that you can never underestimate anyone in the Premier League. Goals on set-pieces have a big impact. I know Fraizer Campbell from his time at Manchester United. He was a young buck coming through and he's had moments when he looks like he's going to be great, but he's just never been able to do it consistently. So it's a great moment for him but definitely a big surprise for City.  How much did City miss the injured Vincent Kompany against Cardiff? As a former team-mate, how important do you think he is to the side?
OH: He's been the best centre-back in the country for a while now. He’s consistent, technically very good and powerful. He's a captain and City look very different when Vincent and Joleon Lescott aren’t playing together. Javier Garcia has filled in there but he doesn’t look as comfortable there and doesn't have the pace and the physicality that Vincent has to play in that position. So it's an area that City will look to address. Vincent's only downfall is that he’s had a few injuries over the last couple of years but the team looks very different when he isn’t at the heart of the defence.

'Natural width'  With another newly promoted side in Hull up on Saturday what are the chances of another shock?
You'd be surprised. But that's the beauty of the Premier League – it's competitive. The Hull fans know they're underdogs but as we saw with Cardiff, if you stick to the gameplan and try and frustrate City, not allow them to create so many chances, anything can happen. One of City's biggest weaknesses is the fact that they lack that natural width. They've tried to address that with [Jesus] Navas, but still he's been coming inside and the full-backs have been giving the width on the overlap. So that's something that Hull will have recognised and they're probably going to try and make it difficult for them, try to get everyone to come inside and try to break on the counter-attack.

"City need that natural width. If the playmakers had more space to operate they'd create more chances"
Owen Hargreaves  So what must City do differently against Hull to what they did against Cardiff?
The problem is, all the wingers want to come inside. All the players are such good footballers but there's only one ball and the other guys need to make runs to accommodate Yaya Toure and David Silva, who are the playmakers, so you need your strikers to make the runs in behind. Edin Dzeko has started great, which is good news for City, [Sergio] Aguero is one of the best on his day, but they need that natural width. If they had more space to operate they'd create more chances, but everyone wants come inside and play one-twos in attack and it just gets a little bit too tight. So if a side is having a good day in defence they can frustrate you. Does Pellegrini knows his best XI after a raft of signings this summer?
No, I don't think a lot of the managers in the Premier League know. I don't think Jose Mourinho knows. I don't think David Moyes knows. I don't think Pellegrini knows and I don't think Arsene Wenger knows. But that's why managers get paid the money they do, because their job is to make something of the quality players that they have at their disposal. Already this season I've seen a few games where the balance of the team hasn't been right. The players need to play well but the coaches need to find the right balance between attack and defence. City, Chelsea and Man United probably have to do it more than any because they have so many different options, whereas a team like Hull have only probably got 13 or 14 players who will be able to compete.

Toure strength Who are going to be the key players in Saturday’s contest?
OH: Yaya Toure is the best central midfield player in the Premier League. He can be dominant on his day, but City's greatest downfall could be themselves: set-pieces, individual mistakes. I’m sure they'll address the centre-back position. [Matija] Nastasic could come back in the side as he was on the bench [last week]. But they just have too much going forward. Unless they make some catastrophic mistakes I can't see how Hull can win the game but if they defend well and threaten on set-pieces you never know. There have been a few penalties this season and red cards as well and they can impact on games as we saw in Aston Villa v Arsenal in the first game.

'Yaya Toure is the best central midfield player in the Premier League'
Owen Hargreaves Robbie Brady has made an encouraging start to the season, scoring against Norwich last week. What can you tell us about him? Did you see much of him when he was coming through at Manchester United?
Yes, he's got a great left foot. He's an interesting player, probably more of a central player really because I'm not sure he's got the pace to be an out-and-out winger but a very intelligent football player, good balance, good striker of the ball, good crosser. You have to find a way to get him in your team because he will have a positive impact, which will be as a central midfield player but not a defensive one because it's probably not his greatest attribute. It must be difficult for Pellegrini because it's a new league, he has a raft of players to accommodate and his side have already lost a match. Do you think he is already under pressure?
Not at all. He's had a ton of success. Just look at his face. His expression doesn't change whether he’s winning or losing; he's calm and comfortable in himself and knows what he brings to the table. Good managers don't panic, they’ve got to exude confidence and he does that. The result was probably a surprise for him but that's the beauty of the Premier League. He will have known that after coming from Spain where the league has been a two-horse race for the last 10 years. If you don't show up to compete and do the little things right, which in their case was set-pieces, you can get beaten by a team like Cardiff. Will City have been working on defending set-pieces this week then?
Well, he probably wouldn't have experienced that as much before because he's always been a coach who likes his sides to play football, and if you look at the way the game is played in Spain, you don't see many set-piece goals because people tend to take quick short corners and these smaller sides against the talented teams need to maximise their opportunities against these sides. Despite last weekend, City beat Newcastle 4-0 in their last home match. Can we expect a similar result on Saturday?
OH: It's hard to judge from that because we don't really know how good Newcastle are this season, but City have had a good pre-season, they are still looking to find the balance of the side and I still think they will be there or thereabouts to win the league, but they don't want to be dropping any more points after losing so early in the season.

BT Sport will provide live coverage of Man City v Hull, on air from 11.30am, kick off 12.45pm, Saturday, as one of their 38 exclusively live Barclays Premier League matches this season. BT Sport is free with BT broadband, to find out more visit

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Key Points

  • BT Sport's Owen Hargreaves previews Manchester City v Hull City
  • Hargreaves believes Man City need to play with greater natural width
  • Manchester City v Hull City is live on BT Sport on Saturday, 12.45 kick off