Two players who really looked sharp in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory at Bournemouth were two of our January loan signings Nabil Bentaleb and Valentino Lazaro. Bentaleb was handed his first start post-lockdown while Lazaro came off the bench and performed like a man possessed to impress.
It’s been a struggle to get on the pitch for Valentino of late. The Austrian was not handed a start after his excellent performance in the FA Cup win at West Brom. Bruce instead preferring the tenacity and experience of Matt Ritchie at right-wing.
That was also the case in the first two matches when the Premier League returned last month. However, it must have been a massive letdown for the 24-year-old to not have started the previous two games, which Ritchie did not play a part in.
Bruce altered the formation for Manchester City to go with a front three and Miguel Almiron on the right. At Bournemouth, he shifted Allan Saint-Maximin to right-wing and had Joelinton on the left.
Valentino came on as a substitute on Wednesday and looked so determined to make his mark. He did just that with a superb goal and then almost added a second minutes later when he rattled the crossbar.
After the game, he posted this simple statement.
Statements. ??? pic.twitter.com/ZWR2cVwtaM
— Valentino Lazaro (@valentinolazaro) July 1, 2020
Similarly, Nabil Bentaleb has been on the fringes since the league resumed. When he joined in January, the Algerian was handed six straight starts by Bruce. However, those opportunities dried up after the West Brom win.
Bentaleb didn’t get his seventh start until the Bournemouth match. He made the most of it and put in a masterclass performance in the midfield.
Bentaleb, too, posted a simple message after the game.
To be continued… ? pic.twitter.com/rkYJ9GKLJr
— Nabil Bentaleb (@nabilbentaleb42) July 2, 2020
Both Nabil and Valentino have given Bruce something to think about before Sunday’s match against West Ham. Since we are safe now, Bruce may be more inclined to give them a run of games.
However, the goal is still to finish the season as high as possible, so it’ll be interesting what team Bruce names on Sunday.
This is what Bruce said about both players’ future prospects as published in the Shields Gazette:
“They only really came to us in January, and, by March, the whole thing had shut, but I was particularly pleased with Nabil the other night.
“I thought that was easily his best game. Physically, he looked a different player to where he was in January when he came to us. All of them have taken stock of what’s required, especially from coming abroad.
“For Lazaro, to come on and have the impact that he did the other night, was good to watch. We’ll see how they go in the next six games, and see where their respective clubs are.
“All of those conversations are ones we need to have and we will have. We all have just been focusing on getting underway, and, let’s be fair, we’ve only been going 12 days. It’s quite ridiculous.
“All of those conversations will be had when the time is right, but, certainly, I was very pleased with those two loan signings in particular.”