Friday, 21 November 2014

3:00pm KO & no telly…

…let’s just hope, then, that we can get back to basics and back to winning ways against an in-form Welsh side.

Advantage


In desperation, perhaps admittedly, I’ll take anything at the moment.

And so with 2nd placed Southampton having to wait until Monday night for an away trip to Aston Villa, 4th placed West Ham United with a potentially tricky trip to Goodison Park and Arsenal being forced to slug it out with Manyoo at the Emirates and on TV after our game at 5:30pm; I’m looking for our players to quietly apply themselves in a professional manner and dispose of 5th place Swansea City efficiently, in order to ‘kick start’ our season. We can only HOPE that West Bromwich Albion do us some kind of favour at Stamford Bridge

Many, myself included, saw the 1-0 win against Manyoo – our ONLY win in the last 6 games in all competitions – as the game to ‘set a marker’ and move on in a positive manner. But not only wasn’t that to be the case…it wasn’t to be the case by a long stretch of anyone’s vivid imagination.

An absolute appalling display and defeat at home to CSKA Moscow, 2 red cards and followed-up by a fortunate, it has to be said, away point and general poor display against relegation-zone QPR; it was hardly the ‘lift off’ we were desperately (there’s that word again) hoping for.

In fact, chuck a few (more) injuries into the mix and it all feels a little flat and glum to say the very least at the moment.

Lift


Of course it’s Manuel Pellegrini’s job to reorganise the team and lift the players following the international break and poor run of form beforehand but I’m hoping other factors may have some positive influence.

Perhaps just having Messi & Co. hanging around the club might ‘rub off’ on us and I’m hoping that a rest for those players not joining their international team, in between intense training of course, will do them the world of good too. As for those who did travel; a change is as good as a rest is the phrase I’m clinging to.

Whatever the ‘tonic of choice’ over the last fortnight has been for our individual players; I’m keen to see whether it’s worked tomorrow.

v Swansea City


4-5-1 (4-2-3-1):

_______________Aguero_______________
 

 

 
Nasri___________Toure___________Milner
 

___________________Fernandinho_______

________Fernando_____________________

 
Clichy____Mangala__Demichelis__Zabaleta
 

 

_________________Hart_________________
 

Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Boyata, Lampard, Navas, Pozo, Jovetic

I’m typing this Blog posting before any team announcement and, therefore, I’m assuming with this predicted line-up that Kolarov, Kompany, Silva and Dzeko are all still unavailable through injury.

Hart to start.

Although, following ANOTHER poor display against QPR, I personally would be tempted to try Sagna at left back for this one…I doubt our manager will; as Clichy keeps his place with the absence of Kolarov (have things got that bad that I’m actually saying that?)

Mangala to get another shot at settling down to life in England; Demichelis to partner him in the middle.

Zaba on the right of defence.

Similar to both Clichy and Mangala – Fernando had another poor one and I hope he too can find his Premier League feet. Fernandinho slightly ahead of him and slightly ahead of HIM, a midfield 3 of Nasri, Yaya (advanced behind the striker) and Milner. I was tempted, at home and on a wide pitch, to suggest that Navas might get another go. However, I’m betting that Pellegrini with take Jesus’ dip in form and Milner’s consistency into account and will act accordingly.

Aguero to ‘carry on’ up front with the support of those midfield 5.

Bench pretty much as we can expect with the injuries we have; notable sideliners include Lampard and, perhaps I do suggest, Jose Angel Pozo – although there’s been a timely ‘banging of the drum’ from Scott Sinclair this week…

I’ve gone for our manager to go 4-5-1 and leave Jovetic on the bench simple BECAUSE of the lack of strikers available to us (although I have gone for him including the young Pozo). This, I feel, is simply so that he then has the option of bringing on a different menace up front if needed; a change of threat rather than starting with both in a 4-4-2.

Result? I’m going for us to have regrouped enough to overcome Swansea at home – City v City ends in a Manchester win.
 
It's good to have proper footy back...

Hyperlinks to be completed soon’ish…

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Pluses & minuses…and a WELCOME break!

There weren’t too many in the ‘plus’ column in another underperforming display, this time at QPR’s Loftus Road. But I’ll take anything at the moment.

And regular readers might recall that, usually, I’m not too fond of international breaks; they're certainly required, of course, but there appears to be FAR too many of late. However on this occasion, I for one as a Manchester City supporter - and I’m sure I’m not alone - welcome this one with very open arms.


The pluses


These first two come under the, ‘Where would we be without them?’ category. Starting with Joe Hart, our England number 1 keeper is just (about) keeping us ‘in the game’ at the moment.

It could be argued in fact - and is being touted by various pundits and press sources - that Willy Caballero was City’s best summer signing (well the best signing(s) certainly haven't been the lads from Porto so far that’s for sure) because since Willy’s arrival there’s been a measured and most timely improvement from our Joe. Timely because, of course, the defence is looking anything LIKE its given name. Simply put, Joe has responded very well indeed to the threat that the Argentinean ‘stopper’ brought with him; namely that he was a favourite Manuel Pellegrini whilst at Malaga.

Aside from that weird moment at Loftus Road that had most of us, myself included, scratching our heads and reaching for the rule book; Joe pulled off some fine, close range shot stoppers.

Then, most notably and quite alarmingly, we have to travel to the other end of the pitch to continue the praise of any City player who is making a difference at the moment. With John Guidetti in Scotland and banging in the goals at ‘that level’ of football, Alvaro Negredo recovering and starting to play in Spain (Jordi Hiwula at Yeovil, Devante Cole at Barnsley) and Edin Dzeko out for at least 3 weeks; thank the Gods that Sergio Aguero is one of only two remaining fit strikers left at the club!

Our Argentinean battleship is playing so well at the moment that pundits are saying that he’s the most in-form striker in the Premier League at the moment; a plaudit that, yes, is perhaps stating the obvious…but a much deserved one to say the least.

Carry on you two – your team desperately needs you!

The only other thing in the ‘plus’ column is, for me, Pellegrini’s change of starting formation and tactics. And although, apart from the opening 10 minutes or so when it appeared to look good and was sort of working…and then stopped working for the most part; at least he’s now TRYING (perhaps out of desperation?) something new.

That was good to see. Keep experimenting our Chilean ‘Engineer’ - not that you’ve got much choice now with only having 2 recognised strikers left to play around with…

The (many) minuses


ANOTHER poor showing from Gael Clichy…and another opportunity for me to chew my knuckles in continued frustration that we didn’t sign a left-back in the summer.

ANOTHER nervy showing from our new £32M defender Eliaquim Mangala and average, at best, displays from both Martin Demichelis and Bacary Sagna in a unit that SOMETIMES looked like it had been practicing since the dreadful CSKA showing but at other times most certainly didn’t

Teams are just enjoying the (extended) moment in testing our flimsy back line at the moment; we’re actually breathing extra confidence into every, single opposition we come up against…perhaps even in teams where little belief was there to begin with! That needs to stop quickly.

But, for me, the problem lays not just in the defence; the opposing teams are happy to pepper our defence and goal at the moment because, like us City fans, they too can see that our midfield is not exactly cohesive at the moment and is certainly not the threat it was last season.

Not overly concerned about the threat from our midfield = Feel free to attack the fragile line that stands in front of Joe.

Like the defence at Loftus Road, there were TIMES where it looked half-decent…but only half decent.

Like his fellow Porto comrade behind him, Fernando is yet to find his feet (after a slightly promising start to his City career and before his injury)…and that’s being kind.

Again, there were moments where he swept up - making one VITAL near-goal block in the second half - and I recall a couple of decent passes from him too. But overall he seems to be struggling with early life in the Premier League and looking at our two signings from Portugal at the moment; I’m starting to think that if we are to bring in players from overseas in future then we should look at leagues that are at least, and in some ways, similar to the Premier League.

Not being an expert in other, foreign leagues by any stretch; the Bundesliga is entering my thoughts…

Samir Nasri continues to underperform and frustrate. The word “luxury” has been used to describe him of late; worrying for a player that’s just signed a new, 5-year contract.

And, on the other flank at the weekend…what has happened to Jesus Navas’ pre and early season form? I suppose the answer is that he, like most of the rest, seems to be suffering the same, incomprehensible ability & confidence loss. It has been muted before this season; for someone with his pace and, otherwise, ability he should be producing more of ‘the goods’; more of an ‘end product’ if you like.

I would have chosen James Milner ahead of the Spaniard for this one…

Back to the middle…and back to another player who seems to offer us very little for the most part. When we first signed Fernandinho from Russia I struggled to work out what he was in terms of what kind of midfielder he was and what, specifically, he was going to bring to the team. Actually if I’m being honest, the very first thing I thought was, ‘Who was he and shouldn’t I have heard of a player costing £28M?’

Last season he didn’t seem to have the build nor the technique to be a defensive midfielder and it was only as he settled in after a considerable time did we see that he was quite useful, instead, nipping forward and creating / scoring a few…although I seem to recall more high & wide, mishit shots than on-target ones.

So, we were told, this season we were going to see a much different and more effective Brazilian with Fernando ‘sitting in’ behind him. But to that I would ask, “When?”  For me he’s gone back to the “just signed” enigma of the 2013/2014 season. Will the real Fernandinho please step forward…

And finally, for the midfield that faced “The Hoops” last Saturday, Yaya Toure. Played in a more advanced role with the ‘Ferds’ guarding his rear I was really hoping that he’d tear up QPR. Well…he was a little bit more of a threat and rather than ripping into the opposition players he sure attempted to take the head off a child in the stand behind the goal, as his rasping shot flew just wide in the first half (glad she was okay and well done to Yaya for the kind acknowledgement).

But he was still nowhere near last season’s Yaya and we’re badly missing that. I’ll take ‘small improvement’ for now from the Ivorian and hope, in the absence of so many strikers, that we see him step up his form real soon.

So…the break – it’s all about the ‘R’ words.


What a timely period to reflect, re-group, repair and try to iron out the stubborn creases.

Sure…some, if not most of our players, will be away from the club and, therefore, we can’t exactly fix all of the issues whilst the players are representing their various national sides. But here’s what I think we can achieve in the fortnight between QPR away and Swansea City at home (Saturday 22nd November, 3:00pm KO GMT).

  1. Use the EDS (or ANY willing opposition really) to have some decent practice time on the training pitch with the likes of Samir Nasri, Frank Lampard, Yaya Toure and anyone else not joining their countrymen this week or next. We need them ‘sharpened up’ and re-booted (in the computer sense and not the footwear) before we take on the high-flying Welsh team; a team who have only 1 defeat in their last 6 as opposed to our 1 and only win in the last 6.

  1. I’m not suggesting for one moment that we rush these individuals back too soon but…we’ve been handed a great opportunity here to soak up some ‘recovery time’ in a fixture-free fortnight. Hydro tanks and oxygen tents on overdrive City; try an’ get the likes of Aleks Kolarov, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Edin Dzeko as up to speed as humanly possible before a cram-packed end of November right through to early January and beyond!

  1. Rest and refresh. For the lads going away I’m hoping that a change [of environment] will be as good as a rest. As for the ‘stay homers’, if they can build in some enjoyable R&R in-between trying to sort out our many failings then this is very important also. Even at this stage of the season they appear, to me, to be showing signs of stress and mental fatigue already – all as a result of not enjoying the outcome of their varying efforts I’m sure. No-one likes a tough day (or few weeks) at the office…
The reason for the delay in 'posting' was an extended weekend holiday in Yorkshire. Good holiday, in the main, but I’m not sure what was worse – making hard work of a 2-2 draw in front of Leeds United fans (and a few cockneys for some reason) watching it in a pub, or having to endure an overly flatulent dog in a car for many-an-hour heading there, during and on our way home.

Typically, now that we’re not at close quarters, he’s stopped doing it now!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Video nasties

The way we’re playing at the moment there’s a good argument that all ‘arry had to do over the last few days leading up to our encounter was to sit his squad down in front of a TV and show ‘em the DVDs of our games against West Ham United, Newcastle United and CSKA Moscow…and then issue the message, “Go get ‘em boys!”


Predicting nightmare


It’s going to be a fairly brief one this folks (off for a small holiday very soon) and one that’s somewhat difficult one to predict. I’m sure Manuel Pellegrini is having an equally difficult time trying to work out what personnel to chose to face QPR…and just why he highly skilled, highly paid, League & cup-double-winning players are misfiring so very badly.

It seems the whole world knows now how to beat us at the moment; Sam Allardyce came out after the game at Upton Park and said that they had a plan to press the defence hard and, in particular, Eliaquim Mangala. CSKA’s Pontus Wernbloom also came out with a statement after their victory at the Etihad about how their game-plan was to hit us with pace on the counter attack.

In the first part of his pre-match interview yesterday our manager quite cutely responded to questions about us ‘being found out’ by saying that it’s easy after games to come out with these statements (adding a rather nice one about Allardyce not-having come out with such statements when being walloped by us as they were last season)…but I noticed that he it wasn’t mentioned that one of the CSKA lads did come out with a statement about our weak defence prior to the 2-2 draw in Russia.

In the days of video technology where every top club – and perhaps even not-so top ones – have a whole department dedicated to video research as part of their pre-match preparation; it’s hard not to display both your strengths and weaknesses in full, digital colour.

And, I suppose therefore, that when you are hitting a rough patch as we are doing at the moment (spin it however you want, Manuel, it’s 1 win in 5 that includes 3 loses and 2 of those at home) those failing are there for all to see in close up, freeze frame and rewind modes.

What you need to do as a manager / coach is to work on those, identify the issues and fix ‘em of course. And although I have no doubt whatsoever that our ‘Engineer’ is indeed doing just that; what concerns me slightly is that if other teams have found cracks in our armour the Chilean does seem just that little bit stubborn in not wanting to ‘change his ways’ – he often repeats that he / his team will “continue to play the way they know”…

v Queens Park Rangers


Loftus Road
With news that the, “only”, players not available are Kolarov, Kompany and Silva, here’s how I think he’ll line up the team today…

4-4-2:

____________________Dzeko__________
 

__________Aguero___________________
 

 

___Nasri____________________Milner___

____________________Toure__________

__________Fernando_________________

 

Sagna__Mangala__Demichelis__Zabaleta

 

________________Hart________________
 


The theme, if you like, of this predicted line-up is, “To blame or not to blame”. I don’t actually know if, behind the scenes, Manuel is a ‘blame man’…I suspect that he isn’t really. But whether he admits it or not he must surely see that something is going ‘orribly wrong with our defence and, in particular for me at least, the left-hand-side.

I suggested as much in my last Blog about desperate times calling for desperate measures and following on from that, I’m going to suggest that ahead of Joe Hart in net we might see either Sagna or Zabaleta at left-back. Clichy seems so inconsistent and played SO badly against CSKA last Wednesday that I wouldn’t be wholly surprised at this happening today.

According to the manager he’s not on the list of unavailable players and so Mangala probably gets another chance to show some improvement and will be partnered by, I’m sure, Demichelis with the absence of our ‘skip’.

Fernando – who along with Hart, Demichelis, Milner & Aguero – came out of the CSKA defeat with anything like a half-decent report gets another go; and I’ve heard a rumour that Pellegrini is going to show even more trust in the misfiring, under-the-microscope Yaya by, perhaps, giving him the armband for the day. Could be a good tactic that…

We need some ‘craft’ and although he most certainly should have been the 3rd sending off on Wednesday night for a very petulant thrust-challenge on one of the Russian lads; I’m hoping Samir will ‘step up to the plate’ today. We need Milner’s work rate and guile today and so the increasingly ‘up & down’ Navas to drop to the bench.

Will Pellegrini “blame” Jovetic for two back-to-back, below par performances and, therefore, drop him for Edin Nigma? Well I have to admit that I am very disappointed that Stevan couldn’t make more of his recent opportunities. Personally I’d stick with Jovetic and would like to see him and Sergio create a good partnership…but I’ve just got a feeling that Stevan will drop to the bench for Edin. Huhhhh……

It’ll be good to see ‘game changer’ Frank on the bench at least.

Result? Before the season I had this one down as a tricky draw and with us in a state of…whatever it is at the moment, I was leaning all the way through Wednesday night and right through to yesterday afternoon towards that very outcome.

It’s all about “reaction”…and despite the fact that we will be without our influential Captain / best defender ON the pitch; I’m guessing that ‘words will have been spoken’ since Wednesday’s farce and that they will have been working harder than ever to iron out at least some of our creases. So much so, in fact…I’m going for a City win.

No post-match Blog on this one and with another international break coming up, it’s “next stop Swansea” on 22nd November.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The springboard has snapped!

The Manyoo victory was being hailed by some as a ‘marker’, a starting point to light a fire under our season. It’s just a shame no-one told the players...

 

A 90 minute micro-version

 
That, “performance”, just summed up our short season so far just perfectly - all over the flippin’ place! At times – at very short times – we looked lively and almost cohesive & fluid in our build up / attacking play. But it was all way too little and definitely few & far between.
 
In between those all-too-brief moments of last season’s Manchester City, we were left with a disjointed team that is just…quite…baffling to watch. We couldn’t even pass the ball to one another for large parts of tonight's encounter! And the defence continues to look rickety and porous to say the very least!
 
That brings me onto one of our defenders in particular. If the team’s display against the Russians sums up our 'up & down' season then in Gael Clichy we have a player who goes one step further – quite brilliant against Manyoo just 3 ½ days earlier; a-ppallingly bad against CSKA!
 
Desperate times calls for desperate measures – is it time we started using Sagna or Zabaleta at left back? Why didn’t we sign a left-back in the summer?!
 

No ‘T’ word just yet…but the ‘I’ word is back with a vengeance!

 
After years of watching City I think we have definitely locked away the Typical City phrase in the safe…although I would say that we’re at the stage where we’re trying to remember where we put the key.
 
But well & truly out of the cupboard is the Inconsistent City…and boy is it back with a BANG!
 
Most of those players tonight won us the Premier League and League Cup last season for flip’s sake - there’s just something not right within the camp and I just can’t put my finger on it; I can only guess.
 
  • Is it that we have the same players remembering what happened the following season after we won the league under Mancini?
  • Is it an issue with troubled Toure upsetting the dressing room somehow?
  • Is it too many “leaders” in the dressing room with the likes of the very vocal, I’m sure, Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany and now Lampard?
  • Is it just too many players having an ‘off time’ at the SAME time? Over the short season so far you can stick the labels “poor” and / or “inconsistent” onto Caballero, Clichy, Demichelis, Kolarov, Mangala, Fernandinho, Fernando, Nasri, Navas, Toure, Dzeko & Jovetic. Even, at times, Zaba & Kompany have looked a little out of sorts; Kompany against West Ham and Zaba tonight. Seriously…the only 5 players I can exempt are 3 of the English lads in Hart, Milner and Lampard and Silva & Aguero (I can’t include Sagna as he’s barely had a ‘look in’ since his move…but hasn’t done much wrong whenever call upon).
  • Have the players perhaps somehow and for some reason lost faith in the manager?
  • Is it just some bad luck? I have noticed that we are often just inches away from a good pass coming off, a shot on goal and being turned down for obvious fouls and blatant penalties a-plenty.
 
I dunno…
 
What I will add in our defence about tonight’s game is that the referee was appallingly bad! But that’s about it; most of those players need to take a long, hard look at themselves.
 

OUT! OUT! OUT!

 
Quite unbelievably we’re only 2 points behind both CSKA & Roma and, therefore, could still qualify! And, I’m sure, our manager will go ‘all out’ to try to achieve that goal.
 
I’m typing this shortly after the game and the situation must be really getting to me – I’ve just had my first nose bleed in years! Weird…
 
But I want out now, I really do. We’re just not good enough, clearly, to complete at several levels and we’re going to severely damage any chances we might have of retaining the Premier League if we attempt to compete in Europe any longer this season.
 
It might be unprofessional, it might be embarrassing and we might even get into trouble for not trying; but just get out of this situation now, City, and plough ALL of our efforts into the League and F.A. Cup.
 
God I hope we don’t finish 3rd

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

‘orrible day – excellent result!

I said before the game that I know a few folk who don’t like derby days and, I added, I can fully understand and appreciate that. Yesterday wasn’t a pleasant experience; it often leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and yesterday was one of those occasions.

The result certainly added some much-needed sugar to sweeten the taste though…


Getting the ‘nasties’ out of the way…


Having had a quick beer in the house before leaving to head to ‘the local’, we found, unusually for my boozer, a considerable queue of customers waiting outside. No red shirts at this stage but a smattering of blue ones.

We had a couple of pints in there before getting a taxi to the ground and as we left, the pub was filling up nicely and quickly; with both Blues & reds sitting at the same tables chatting as mates.

Taxi arrived pretty much on time and the short journey found us at the ground within 5 or 6 minutes. No issues whatsoever as we crossed several roads but as we approached our turnstile, about 5 numpty reds were walking around singing their rather unflattering songs whilst brandishing a few cans of half-consumed ‘brew’ (in an Police-imposed 'alcohol ban zone' for the day).

The City fans responded by hurling all sorts of verbal abuse at the small group from within the safety of one of the access turrets as my wife & I passed within inches of ‘em; just as they were ‘gripped’ by the Police. Cans confiscated and a body search done, they were marched off to ‘their side’ of the dividing barrier.

‘The verbal’ continued as we went up the turret and we finally reached the “sanctity” of the bar, where pint numbers 4 & 5 were consumed. With a long day ahead I was drinking too much / too quickly. That’s derby day for you (for me); hoping to get through it with the aid of [too much] booze.

The usually-relaxed, pre-match bar area had 'an edge' to it today and after bumping into an ex-work colleague / friend, I just couldn’t wait for the game to begin to be honest; anything to relieve the tension.

Boos rang around the stadium as the Manyoo players came out and even more so as they kicked off and took fairly-short-lived possession of the ball. And then, of course, all the usual fan banter ensued...but with a typical derby day 'spike' to it.

As tackles flew in and Rooney was getting up everyone’s nose – including, literally, the referee - the language was certainly colourful from the stands…and I certainly don’t exempt myself from that shameful behaviour.

After the game, and just as we’d exited the turret, some Manyoo fans must have either got out of the stadium at the same time as the home crowd or there were a number of them hanging around who hadn’t been to the game as, with a rush of fans and police alike; a small skirmish broke out on Manchester Road. It appeared to be over within 20 seconds or so but with encouragement from some Blues around us, several City fans began an attempt to run over and join in. It was brief...but it was all fairly ugly and very unnecessary really.

There were no more issues though as we walked back to our local and once in there the atmosphere was good; with both reds & blues mingling and, “happily”, chatting once again.

A red came over to me and grinning, as she was, through a false, very painful-looking smile; she first asked us if we’d enjoyed the game. Immediately after that she then asked if I thought there should have been “...more cards”. Straight away I answered,

“Yes, Rooney should have been sent off for persistently getting into the ref’s ear; in a repeated attempt to get our players booked or sent off”.

“Do you not think that he’s allowed to do that being the Captain?”, she replied.

“Not to that extent; I thought he was taking a fancy to him at one stage!”, I responded quite sharply.

Another red later told me that Police had to intervene a while before the game when both sets of fans attempting to travel to the game by Metrolink were pushing each other off the high platform and onto the tracks!

Since the game I’ve had a text of “Phew” and an e-mail that said, “Thank God that’s over”. Darby games, for a lot of fans, just aren’t a fully enjoyable experience and considering it’s a flippin’ GAME that a lot of us pay good money to ENJOY then this one is almost a complete write-off in that respects.

All things considered though - and I HOPE no-one from either side got hurt - it wasn’t too bad on the day I suppose. Only 3 arrests according to this report in an apparently well-organised, pre-planned Police operation. And compared to derby days in some parts of the world, I’m sure, this one was like a pre-season ‘love-up’ friendly game…

To the business of footy…


We’d left the pub to get in our taxi before the game to the news that the back line consisted of no Gael Clichy and no Eliaquim Mangala whatsoever. With regards to the latter; apart from being told at the ground that our new £32M man had a “hip injury” I’ve seen nothing on the WEB to the contrary…but neither to support that rumour either. I rather think that he was taken out of the firing line by his manager after showing no signs of improvement in the last 2 games. Extra training sessions & DVD watching me thinks…

Then we got to the ground to discover that Gael Clichy had stepped in for the injured (during the warm-up) of Aleks Kolarov. I have to admit that I felt slightly better for seeing the French left-back, despite his AWFUL performance at Upton Park.

Before all of that I must admit that, as well at raising an eyebrow to the absence of our most expensive defender, I took a small gulp of air (as well as beer) at the thought of the much slower Martin Demichelis facing Manyoo’s newly-assembled fantasy team attackers.

Thankfully, though, Radamel Falcao would be missing...

The team set-up looked pretty good - I was slightly surprised to see Navas start, thinking he’d go with Nasri instead, but was very pleased to see Jovetic chosen ahead of Dzeko.

The overall post-game stats suggest that it was a close affair; more of the 'shots' & 'shot-on-target' going to us. And that’s pretty much how it felt on the day for me; with each side enjoying their fair share of play in their own ‘spells’.

My recollections are that we had the majority of the first half with Manyoo having a couple of 5-minute spells to break up our dominance. And, then again, we dominated for a good 20 minutes at the start of the second half; Manyoo by then having played with 10 men for the last half hour.

But once we’d made the breakthrough – as Pellegrini has since pointed out in his post-match interview – Manyoo rallied…or was it that we stood off them a little? Either way, aside from a few City chances - not least Navas hitting the woodwork - Manyoo had their best spell and a decent amount of chances in the final 20 minutes or so.

It all left us ‘clock watching’ to say the least - we need to start killing teams of as other ‘top sides’ often do!

I have to say that it was a very good fan mosaic in the North / Family Stand organised, so I have heard, between the Club and the 1894 Group. I can't find any images as yet and will publish one as soon as I do. Needless to say it was far better than the black bin-bag one done a while back for a Champions League game...

Key points


Well the sending off of course – Smalling was indeed “stupid” to hack down Milner having already been booked and, as a Blue, it was heartening to see them down to 10 men on 39 minutes. If I’m being honest – and I like to think that I am – had the game been 11 v 11 throughout I fancy it would have been a draw.

Huh…Rooney. As the teams came out I just knew he was ‘on one’. He burst from the ranks after the line-up and made a more-than-obvious, over-dramatic run over to the East Stand; before performing a sideways, crab-like run in front of the City fans who responded exactly how he would have expected us to.

One for the album...
And then he was off! Running after the referee like a petulant prat time and time again in an effort to get City players booked (or worse). 7 cards and not one of them for the over-zealous donut was a travesty!

Notable performances, for me, came from Hart who literally saved us on several occasions. And Clichy who, apart from a couple of ‘off’ moments later on in the second half, showed us EXACTLY what he's capable of being! He was a picture of energy, enthusiasm and proficiency both in defending and supporting the attack; gaining ‘an assist’...and my MotM.

Perhaps the manager's 'chat with the players' that Pablo Zabaleta revealed in this interview about the need to improve individual performances worked...

Milner again had a very good game throughout and Toure was notably much better than of late and so deserve a special mention also. And then there's Aguero, of course - where would our attack be without him?

That brings me onto a player that I don’t WANT to single out in the ‘negative column’ but feel I have to, simply because I personally expected a little more from him.

Stevan Jovetic certainly tried and tried for the 71 minutes that he was on the pitch and that, at least, is far above what we get from Edin Dzeko most of the time. But there were some notable bad decisions and misplaced passes from the Montenegrin forward and, personally, I felt really frustrated for the lad.

But, in his defence, it looked like no matter what he attempted (the better stuff that is) just wasn’t coming off for him at all against the Stretford lot – and I hope his manager can see that the effort was there and that, on another day, it would have paid dividends I’m sure. I also have to remind myself that his 'minutes on the pitch' over the last 14 months haven't been many [through injury & illness]...

I’m desperate for Stevan and Sergio to be given a chance to flourish as a partnership; it’s the combination I want to see face QPR on Saturday evening (5:30pm KO GMT).


v CSKA Moscow


 
But I have to remind myself also that we have a certain Champions League game to play tomorrow night; remind myself because I’ve decided to give up my ticket – as I did last season in the very same fixture on the very same date – to stay home and look after the dog; who doesn’t, shall we say, appreciate Bonfire Night as some might do.

So without the aid of any pre-match press conference, I’m going to stick my neck out and try to predict tomorrow night’s starting 11, subs and match outcome.

4-4-2:

____________________Dzeko__________


__________Aguero___________________
 

 

Nasri__________________________Navas

______Fernandinho___Lampard________
_____________________Toure_________

 

Clichy___Mangala____Kompany___Sagna

 

 
________________Hart________________
 

Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Fernando, Toure, Milner, Sinclair, Jovetic

There’s a bit of ‘assumption’ here folks and so I’m not expecting to have my best predicting moment here…

Hart to 'go again'.

I have to assume Kolarov is still carrying whatever it was that he picked up just minutes before the derby and so Clichy to ‘go again’ too.

I am going to assume also that our manager was simply taking Mangala out of the firing line against our neighbours from just West of Manchester and will, therefore, stick him back in alongside our Captain for tomorrow night’s game; possibly leaving the French central defender out at the weekend in case ‘arry does a ‘big Sam’ number on him at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Zaba to become victim of the ‘wing back’ rotation as Sagna gets a go.

I think Milner will get a deserved rest ahead of the weekend’s important and somewhat tricky fixture and having had both a bit of a rest and small run-out; I think Nasri will start this one. Similarly with Yaya & Fernando; with Fernandinho and, quite possibly, Lampard marking his possible extended stay with a start against the Russians. Navas to run his little legs off again I think.

With a slightly heavy heart - but eternal optimism - I’m betting Manuel will plumb for Dzeko ahead of Jovetic; Aguero to ‘carry on’ too but possibly being withdrawn early, yet again, ahead of our trip to London.

A strong bench in all areas of the pitch in case needed.

Result? Surely…SURELY a home win.

A bit of advance notice: I intend to do a brief, pre-QPR Blog-posting but I am then away on a small holiday and so, as such, won’t be doing a post-game one. In fact I need to start doing some research soon into where there might be a pub that will both allow dogs in and will also showing the game! Wish me luck…