Trevor Sinclair on Man City: Cup optimism, Pep praise & memories

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Injuries may have hampered Trevor Sinclair’s time at Manchester City, but the former Sky Blues midfielder produced his fair share of big moments for the club.

From netting against Manchester United, to playing in that 4-3 win at White Hart Lane, and scoring the club’s first goal in Europe for over 24 years, the boyhood City fan remains a favourite amongst his fellow supporters.

Ladbrokes News caught up with ‘Tricky Trev’ to get his view on the upcoming Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, the Pep Guardiola revolution, the battle for Champions League spots, and more. Here’s Trevor’s take…

Ladbrokes News: Man City v Arsenal has been a very entertaining – and close – fixture in recent times. Each of the last five meetings have produced at least three goals. Do you think this will be another expansive match, or will it buck that trend?

Trevor Sinclair: I think it’ll be exactly that. Manchester City only know one way to play under Pep – they don’t have a plan B.

City play passing football throughout the side, and you’ve always got the likes of David Silva in midfield looking to create. They have absolute faith in the manager’s philosophy, and I can’t see them struggling to score against this inconsistent Arsenal team.

But Arsenal are still an attack-minded team, whatever kind of form they’re in – so I certainly don’t think we’ll see any let-up in terms of goals.

LN: Arsenal have been on something of a poor run recently. Do you fancy the Citizens to come out on top here, or is Sunday the day the Gunners turn things around?

TS: Both clubs are familiar with playing at Wembley and the big occasions – it’s a big stage and a big pitch! So I think they cancel each other out on that front.

But City really have the wind in their sails right now. The results and performances recently have been great, and they dominated the game at the Emirates earlier this month [a 2-2 draw].

City dominated that match, and they really let Arsenal off the hook. They missed a slew of chances after going 1-0 up and didn’t take them – and eventually, Theo Walcott grabbed an equaliser.

Missing those chances kept Arsenal’s hope alive – whereas 2-0 down would have been very tough for them to come back from. I can’t see City making that mistake again. If they go ahead, then I’d like to see them go for the jugular.

LN: A number of the players who featured in that 2011 side who lifted the cup and made the 2013 final – the likes of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva, Pablo Zabaleta etc. are still on the club’s books. How important is that kind of Wembley experience, in your view?

TS: It’s obviously important – and it’s something that both clubs have. Looking at the 2011 side though, I think this might be the last season at City for some of the guys who played then.

Obviously, this has been a barren year in the other competitions, with the league title realistically beyond the side. So I think there’s an added impetus to lift the Emirates FA Cup this year – to end on a high with some silverware, especially for the guys who are likely to leave.

I think it’ll be evident on Sunday just how focused and determined those Man City players are. And with that in mind, I think this could be the game where they break the mould of their recent meetings with Arsenal, which have either been draws or games which are won by the odd goal.

I think City will winning this by a couple of goals, to be honest. But I still see Arsenal creating chances and probably scoring at some point.

LN: If they do get through, it’d mean a semi against one of Tottenham or Chelsea. Who do you think Pep & co would rather face? And who are you tipping to win that game?

TS: A month ago, I’d have said Chelsea would win it. No question. But Tottenham have been outstanding – winning their last two games 4-0 against Watford and Bournemouth respectively – and they’ve got the best defensive record in the Premier League as it stands.

I think it’s going to be a close-run thing, not only this weekend but also in the race for the league title. And whoever wins this game will have the momentum, so either side would be a really tough test for City.

On a pitch like Wembley’s, I just think Tottenham’s energy could make the difference. I think they’ll also be desperate to lay down a marker, and I’m tipping them to make it to the Final.

LN: On the note of the Premier League – City are currently in fourth place, and winning their game in hand would put them above Liverpool. However, Man United are beginning to narrow the gap. Where do you reckon the Citizens will finish the campaign?

TS: I’m tipping them to finish third. They’ve got a fairly easy run-in, with games against the likes of Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace. If you look at City’s squad, they’ve got the skill and the know-how on paper to win each of those games.

I think the difference between finishing third as opposed to fourth is a bigger one than a lot of people realise. As well as not having to get through a tricky Champions League play-off, it gives you a bit more time for recovery over the summer, and that can really make a huge difference.

And I think having that guarantee makes recruitment easier for Pep. He’ll want to have the summer free to focus on bringing in players, instead of having to gear up for a big European tie.

Personally, I can’t see Man United above City. I just think they’ll struggle to build a really good run of form in the Prem, with the Europa League to focus on at the same time. Arsenal are a bit too far behind, and I just think the Citizens will pip Liverpool to the post.

LN: A word on Pep Guardiola – there were high expectations when he arrived at the Etihad last summer. What have you made of the job he’s done so far?

TS: I’ve been really impressed. He’s had a bit of a hard time from some of the media, but I think he’s handled that pressure well.

For me though, the main thing he’s brought in is a style of football. Usually when a manager goes to a big club, that side already has a footballing DNA – for example, Barcelona very much have an ethos and style of play which you can identify, whoever is in charge.

I think that’s something City have lacked before, but Pep has brought a distinctive style to the Etihad, and I personally think that supersedes what’s come before.

In my view, he’s giving the club their own DNA, and the way they’re playing now will go on beyond his time as manager. That identity he’s implementing will become the Man City way in the long term.

Lifting the Emirates FA Cup would make this a really successful first campaign for the manager – but even if they were to fall short on this occasion, I’m still really happy with the job he’s doing, and there’s no other manager in football who could make all these positive changes he is doing at the Etihad.

LN: Finally – you had highs and lows in this competition with the club. On the positive side, reaching the Quarter-Finals in successive seasons and that 4-3 win at White Hart Lane. On the negative, going out to Oldham Athletic in 2005. What are your strongest memories of playing for City in the FA Cup?

TS: [*Laughs*] Thanks for reminding me about the Oldham game!

Obviously, that game against Spurs was special – coming back from 3-0 down to win 4-3!

For me personally, I think my best performance for the club in the FA Cup was when we beat Aston Villa in a Fifth Round Replay in 2006. We won 2-1 on the day, with Georgios Samaras and Darius Vassell getting the goals.

I’d had trouble with injuries at City, and it was a game I went into feeling really fit – and played well on the day. There was a great atmosphere at the City of Manchester Stadium [as it was then] at the time, and just a really good day all round.

With my injury issues, I never quite got going, and in footballing terms it wasn’t the best period of my career. But every time I stepped out there, playing for the team I’d supported as a kid, it was really special.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.