Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are all about control. Their aim is to grind teams down by dominating possession and not allowing opponents the vague hope they will create sufficient chances to get something out of a game in what often becomes a prescribed training session.

Against Newcastle, City added an extra layer of midfield fortitude by starting Mateo Kovacic alongside Rodri and Bernardo Silva. These were the men tasked with keeping it simple, ensuring the ball was never lost and City moved up the pitch, while Newcastle were left with confusion in their eyes. Rodri and Kovacic held their positions while Silva was allowed to wander where he saw fit, helping him to score from two deflected shots. Keeping the ball for three-quarters of the match will offer greater opportunities for those in the final third.

The upside of eight men providing complete domination is that it allows others greater freedom. One afforded such luxury here was Jérémy Doku. The Belgian has spent most of the season hanging around the touchline, putting an extra layer of white paint on his boots, but played more centrally against Newcastle. An early-season injury to Jack Grealish offered him a chance to prove why City brought him in from Rennes. In a 6-1 win against Bournemouth in November the 21‑year‑old provided four assists and a goal.

It was an indication of what he could bring to City, offering a degree of unpredictability to the European champions. Since defeating Bournemouth the promise has plateaued, adding a solitary goal in the third round against Huddersfield and not providing an assist, hampered by injury ruling him out for a month in early December.

Guardiola gave Doku a different role than expected in the FA Cup, playing the winger as a central attacking midfielder, allowing him to get on the ball more and driving at the backtracking centre-backs. His anthology of tricks and pace were a menace for Newcastle, who struggled to cope with his quick feet as panic quickly set in. Jamaal Lascelles was booked for stopping Doku in his tracks in the first half, having realised the futility of giving chase. He was causing problems for everyone, even his teammates.

Jérémy Doku fires at goal as Newcastle’s captain, Jamaal Lascelles, and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka attempt to thwart him. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters

When Doku arrived, the fear was whether he had the requisite composure to regularly offer an end product, whether with goals or assists. He is an architect of chaos for his own team and the opposition; often he is left thinking about what he wants his feet to do next rather than considering where his teammates are. There is also a case that, in his desire to beat a defender with a slight of foot, he overdoes it, leaving those waiting for a pass frustrated. It may explain why he was replaced in the 77th minute by Oscar Bobb, ending the chaos as he called for calm from the sidelines. Whether Guardiola will feel he can rely on Doku against Arsenal in the league or Real Madrid in Europe is unlikely but he will be an enticing prospect on the bench.

The control can sometimes reduce the entertainment value at the Etihad Stadium but Doku’s styling alleviated that threat against Newcastle. He had plenty of understanding with Phil Foden, another liberated behind Erling Haaland, often sharing one-twos with his like-minded colleague. The movement of the two left Newcastle desperately trying to cling to the nearest passersby but they were beyond them and through on Martin Dubravka, who made a number of saves to keep the score down, by the time the defence had realised what had happened.

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Guardiola, who described his player’s performance as “brilliant”, would like to be the voice to tell Doku when and where to act but his maverick tendencies suggest he cannot be tamed. Naturally, Doku’s errors and mistakes were shown up as he was unable to find the net or final pass his efforts merited. If he can combine his skills with greater composure, he will be able to change City’s dynamic when required, whether playing on the wing or in this new central position. He is unpredictable, which can be a hindrance, but the unknown is a dangerous place to live.

Control is great but chaos is a lot more fun. All Doku needs to do is control his own brand of chaos.

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