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Man City could be troubled by Andoni Iraola's Bournemouth, Rodrigo Muniz outshining Armando Broja - The Radar

The Radar column examines Bournemouth's chances of pulling off an upset against Man City and how Rodrigo Muniz is keeping Armando Broja out of the team at Fulham; plus the underrated player who could help Oliver Glasner transform Crystal Palace

Iraola must heed Man City lesson

The last meeting between Bournemouth and Manchester City ended in a 6-1 win for Pep Guardiola's side and served as a lesson for Andoni Iraola in not deserting his principles.

"We thought we could defend low," said the Bournemouth boss in his post-match press conference. "We decided not to push, not to press, not to be as aggressive. But it was not the right decision."

There seems little prospect of Iraola falling into the same trap when the two sides face off again, live on Sky Sports on Saturday. Not least because City, despite being on a run of 11 wins from 12 games in all competitions, are displaying glimmers of vulnerability.

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In their last three Premier League games - the late wins over Everton and Brentford and the wild 1-1 draw with Chelsea - Guardiola's side have allowed their opponents more fast breaks (eight) than in the previous 22 fixtures of the season combined.

They remain as fearsome as ever offensively but, increasingly, there are spaces to be exploited either side of Rodri in those fleeting moments when their attacks break down and the ball is turned over.

It offers encouragement for a side who, under Iraola, have become one of the Premier League's most dangerous on the counter-attack. According to Opta, Bournemouth's total of 27 shots from fast breaks puts them second only to Wolves this season.

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There was a reminder of that potency in the raking attack which allowed Antoine Semenyo to score their second in last weekend's 2-2 draw with Newcastle, a game they were unfortunate not to win.

The goal, which involved the ball travelling from Bournemouth's half to the final third in a matter of seconds following a turnover, was typical of an Iraola team, a preferred mode of attack he outlined in conversation with Sky Sports while still at Rayo Vallecano last year.

"I think we have to take risks when we regain," he said. "I don't like this 'security pass', as they say, to play with the 'keeper, to start building from the back. You have to do it sometimes, but it is not what identifies us. We are dangerous in fast attacks."

The 'we' has changed since then. It is now Bournemouth rather than Rayo. But Iraola's principles remain the same. His last meeting with City showed the importance of standing by them. An aggressive approach offers Bournemouth's best chance of success.

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Muniz outshining Broja at Fulham

Rasmus Hojlund is expected to miss Manchester United's meeting with Fulham but there will still be a striker in red-hot form on show at Old Trafford. Rodrigo Muniz goes into the game having scored four goals in his last three.

The 22-year-old, signed from Brazilian side Flamengo in 2021, is seizing his chance in the absence of the injured Raul Jimenez - and despite added competition from January signing Armando Broja.

Fulham's Rodrigo Muniz celebrates after scoring their sides second goal
Image: Fulham's Rodrigo Muniz has scored four goals in his last three games

The Chelsea loanee is expected to be available again at Old Trafford having missed last weekend's 2-1 loss at home Aston Villa through illness. But he is still waiting for his first Fulham start and it will not be easy to dislodge Muniz.

It is quite the turnaround given that, before the 2-2 draw with Burnley earlier this month, Muniz had only started three Premier League games all season, struggling to win a place in the team just as he did while on loan at Middlesbrough in the last campaign.

Marco Silva believes he "grew in a different way" during that loan spell, having spent the previous season serving as Aleksandar Mitrovic's back-up. Now, he is giving Fulham many of the qualities they have lacked since the Serb's departure last summer.

That means goals, first of all. Muniz only needs one more to match Jimenez's total for the season despite having played half as many minutes as the 32-year-old in the Premier League.

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Watch Rodrigo Muniz's double in Fulham's 3-1 win over Bournemouth

In fact, his average of 0.59 open-play goals per 90 minutes puts him behind only five players anywhere in the division, among them Erling Haaland and Diogo Jota. Only three, Haaland, Darwin Nunez and Everton striker Beto, are taking more shots.

Muniz's strike against Aston Villa on Saturday, nipping in ahead of centre-back and goalkeeper to steer the ball into the net, highlighted his predatory instincts and was nearly identical in style to his first against Bournemouth in Fulham's previous game.

He is also adept at finding space in the box - as he showed when slamming home his second against the Cherries at the back post - and at anticipating chances - as he did when latching onto Andreas Pereira's hopeful ball over the top for his lifted finish at Burnley.

Rodrigo Muniz has scored four goals in only 608 minutes in the Premier League
Image: Rodrigo Muniz has scored four goals in only 608 minutes in the Premier League

His capacity to win headers and act as a focal point, using his sturdy frame to withstand pressure on the ball and bring team-mates into play, is also reminiscent of the departed Mitrovic.

Only Sheffield United's Olie McBurnie and Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin are winning more aerial duels than Muniz in the Premier League this season. Only Crystal Palace's Jean-Philippe Mateta is making more successful hold-ups.

He is bringing plenty more than goals, in other words. For Fulham, the hope is that it continues on Saturday at Old Trafford. For Broja, meanwhile, the wait for a first start looks likely to continue.

Ayew could be a secret weapon for Glasner

Much has been made of how Oliver Glasner might harness the qualities of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise once they return from injury. But it was Jordan Ayew who had the new Crystal Palace boss smiling at Goodison Park. He could be key for the Austrian too.

The 32-year-old's stunning goal in the 1-1 draw with Everton was a rare moment of quality in a scrappy game. It was also somewhat untypical of a player who has only netted 11 Premier League goals across the last four seasons at Crystal Palace.

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Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi tells Sky Sports new manager Oliver Glasner has signalled his intentions to the players

His modest scoring record is a source of frustration to supporters. But he has been picked consistently throughout that time, by both Roy Hodgson and Patrick Vieira. There are reasons for it.

"He is one of those players that you call a team player," said Vieira during his Palace tenure. "You can always rely on him to give you 100 per cent in his attacking play and his defending," said Hodgson.

Ayew's formidable work-rate is evident in the numbers. He ranks top among all Premier League players for duels won this season. He is second, behind only Jarrod Bowen, for pressures.

That last statistic is particularly pertinent to the Red Bull-schooled Glasner as he begins his efforts to transition to a more proactive, more physically intense playing style with a focus on pressing.

Few Palace players look better equipped to handle that transition than Ayew, whose team ethic also shines through in his willingness to play in different positions.

Jordan Ayew's minutes played by position for Crystal Palace
Image: Jordan Ayew's minutes played by position for Crystal Palace

"Even if I had to play in goal, I would give 100 per cent," he said in conversation with Sky Sports back in 2020. "I just want to make sure my team wins, and I will do anything I can to help make that happen. If I do it, I come home and I smile."

His flexibility has been evident across his time at Palace, during which he has played right across the front line, as a conventional winger and even, for period under Vieira, as a central midfielder.

With injuries still afflicting key players and a likely switch to a back-three system for which there is no obvious candidate to play at left wing-back, Ayew's versatility could yet see him pop up in another new position under Glasner. Wherever he plays, though, his new manager already looks grateful to have him.

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