Saturday, 3 October 2015

Stoptober? I want STARTober!

Stopping smoking or drinking for the month of October for charity is all well ‘n’ good…and very commendable / worthwhile indeed of course.

I didn’t do a pre-Borussia Monchengladbach on purpose and regular readers might guess why. I almost bore myself with the reasons why I fail to get overly excited about the Champions League over the Premier League (and our other domestic cups for that matter) but, I will add, I also find that more often than not our struggles in the UEFA competition then causes us to stutter somewhat in the league; as it most certainly & frustratingly did again after the Juventus game. 

I just want us to move on and PUSH on in the Prem again now…

Returning players should help

The defence is still probably going to be made up of the largely-frenzied trio of Demichelis, Otamendi and the fading again Kolarov; ironically the usually-dependable / City hero Pablo Zabaleta (remember him?) seems to be on his way back [with two bench appearances in the last two games] but finds, ahead of him, the only consistently good defender [in Bacary Sagna] that we’ve had in recent games.
After missing two games with a niggly back; Joe Hart being back in place of Caballero clearly helps too, of course…and WHAT a brilliant performance the England keeper had in Germany on Wednesday night! A real 10/10’er!
The returning David Silva is a HUGE fillip and although Sergio Aguero is still to add to his one and only early-season goal from open play [against Chelsea] I thought he looked slightly better in mid-week and added another successful penalty to hopefully help boost his confidence.
Will the ground-out, 2-1 win at Borussia Park be a turning point in the league for us? I of course hope so…

 v Newcastle United.

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

4-5-1 come 4-2-3-1 come 4-3-3:



___________________De Bruyne__________________




Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Mangala, Evans, Navas, Iheanacho, Bony.
Despite, apparently, Eliaquim Mangala making a far quicker-than-expected recovery and being available for today’s squad selection; I can’t help feeling that it’ll be a little too soon for ‘a start’ for the big Frenchman…and I can’t help feeling also that it’s a bit of a ‘rush job’ in bringing him back when the original ‘return date’ was supposed to be towards the end of the month.
So just in front of the midweek-brilliant Joe is probably the same back-line that we’ve seen in recent, Keystone Cops weeks; especially at the heart of that same-said “defence”.
Fortunately then, in a way, that the limited availability of players has forced together the slightly more solid / defensive-looking pairing of ‘The Ferns’, although when this was suggested to Manuel Pellegrini in the second part of his pre-match press conference he dismissed it. Still, it does LOOK, on paper at least, to provide the defence with slightly more protection and possibly allow the more-advanced trio to concentrate slightly more on attack…
Speaking of which, it’s the mouth-watering trio that most City fans have been waiting to see ‘click’. It’s been slightly interrupted / delayed with the injury to David Silva and, before that, the steady introduction of new-signing Kevin De Bruyne but when it DOES get into gear I think it'll be frightening (for the opposition of course).
Ahead of those is a man desperate to find some form – our man Serg…
Strong and most certainly a more attacking bench that has been available of late.
Starting from the 'back end', we have the only other two out & out strikers in the squad returning from injury and, if we’re ‘out of sight’ early enough and hopefully Aguero has banged-in some goals, I’m hoping at least one of them will get a decent run-out this afternoon (3pm KO BST).
Navas a lot (HEY! Did you make a note of the date & time in mid-week; where Jesus beat a man AND provided a decent, accurate cross in the second half against Monchen?); probably George Evans to continue his introduction to the first team and provide central midfield cover if needed / the game-play allows.
Mangala to start his re-introduction following injury and likewise Pablo Zabaleta; who’ll be staring at Bacary Sagna and tapping his watch with that cheeky grin of his…
Caballero to ‘fill the bench’ (sorry…I’ve still not forgiven him for the Spurs display).
Notable absences: Gael Clichy (injured), Vincent Kompany (injured), Fabian Delph (injured), Yaya Toure (injured) and Samir Nasri (injured). At least the injury list is a LITTLE shorter…
Result? Not only have Newcastle United not won in the Premier League this season so far, with 3 draws and 4 defeats from 7, scoring just 5 and conceding 11; they also crashed out of the League Cup at home to Sheffield Wednesday just 11 days ago (their only victory for the season coming in the form of a 4-1 home win in the same competition to Northampton Town).
Most of their results do seem fairly close affairs – they’ve not been beaten by more than 2 goals in their dismal run (that only occurring twice) and got a creditable draw and clean sheet at Scaffold Trafford back in August.
A 2-2 home draw with Chelsea looks pretty decent, especially when you note that they were leading 2-0 with just 11 minutes of normal time remaining. But don’t be fooled by that one; apparently both teams were awful on the day.
Having not seen them play this season it APPEARS as though they’re a team who TRY to keep it tight and be organised but just end up making a key mistake and / or capitulate in some way. This could be another one where we have to be patient in order to break ‘em down…
Our defence does worry me - I don’t think their forwards or more attack-minded midfielders are exactly ‘firing’ at the moment but this is of some concern to me. Perhaps I’m just feeling some post-West Ham jitters about a highly likely, jam-packed Geordie defence & midfield…and a break-away goal or two again.
At home, with the form they’re in (worse than ours) and with the players we have at our disposal; surely…SURELY this is a home win. That’s what I’m going for.
Not sure I’m liking this ‘feeling-of-old’ where you just don’t know what you’re gonna get from a team with a ‘last-5’ that reads, L L W L W. We used to say that was ‘part of the “fun” of watching Manchester City’ but, at the moment, I’d settle for some form and a return to the top of the table…

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The list is long…

There were so many reasons, I bemoaned yesterday, why I thought we lost against Spurs that it was just too long to put into a whinging text to fellow Blues.

So here goes…

Sick notes

Firstly, let’s get the one out of the way where we’re going to receive NO sympathy whatsoever from anyone else in the world of football; be it a fan, pundit or other football club itself. It’s the injury list.

In direct connection with yesterday’s game we had…

No Joe Hart (on the bench but still suffering with a slight back niggle).

Did that make a difference? Oh BOY did that have an impact! The biggest teller, personally, of just what a poor, POOR game Willy Caballero had is that despite 2 and perhaps even 3 really, really good saves that he made I can give him no more than a 2.5/10 rating. He was shocking! For a supposedly experienced keeper his decision making – or lack thereof – and lack of command of his box at crucial times cost us goals yesterday where you just KNEW that Joe would have had it sorted.

No Vincent Kompany (just about recovered from injury; on the bench but then withdrawn at the last minute due to illness, we heard yesterday).

Did that make a difference? Well considering he was likely to be paired up with Nicolas Otamendi and, therefore, would have been in place of Martin Demichelis…and WITH Martin having a very poor game in general then, yes; WHAT a miss our Captain was! So that’s our best keeper and best central defender / captain out. Want more issues at the back?

I never thought I’d be saying this about a player who CAN be so very flaky (and was indeed so in many ways against West Ham the other week) but no Eliaquim Mangala (out with a muscular injury with a return expected to be around the mid to, more likely, end of October).

Did that make a difference? Well…for the most part in the first half I’d say “No”. Assuming he would have been ‘in there’ instead Otamendi – and let’s be honest in the first 5 games of the season both Mangala & Kompany were playing pretty well together and so most likely would have featured as a central-two pairing yesterday – I thought Nicolas had a good first half for the most part. In fact, so poor was Demichelis at times that Otamendi had to cover a lot of ground and ‘mop up’ for his fellow Argentine.

But he too then faded badly and joined in the chaos that was the heart of our defence; where all three Argentineans had a collective NIGHTMARE! And so did not-having Mangala on the pitch make a difference? I’d have to say, then, “Yes” as a one word answer…but will add that the ‘combo’ of no Eliaquim & Vinny was more-so missed.

No David Silva (missing for a 3rd game in a row and it is hoped that he might be back for the midweek Champions League game but, more likely, the next home game in the Premier League this coming Saturday).

Did that make a difference? Do we need oxygen to breath? Okay…we spent a HELL of a lot of money on the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne in the summer to be able to, surely, cope with losing one influential player; even if that loss is of the footballing stature of our little magician.

But, I suppose, you’re then relying on ‘the others’ to ‘step up’ and make sure that loss isn’t felt so much and yesterday, for the most part, I didn’t think they did.

And while we’re having a whinge about injuries - not directly affecting yesterday’s outcome for a variety of reasons BUT well worth pointing out also, are…

Gael Clichy - Has hardly played this season so far and has, therefore, not been able to relieve nor put any pressure on Aleks Kolarov. Surely our French left-back would have been chosen in a rotating system to either good or not-so good effect…

Pablo ZabaletaHas been missing all of the season so far. However, I suppose following a below-par season from our right-back stalwart last term AND the fact that Bacary Sagna has been very good for his place this season anyway; we can’t say that this has affected us TOO much I suppose.

Fabian DelphWith Fernando ALSO being out / unavailable until the last couple of games it would have been handy to have-had the England defensive midfielder fit as an option at least. Has he even played 30 minutes for us?

Wilfried Bony Continues from last season to be brittle; with various niggles / injures. This season so far he’s had a virus, a muscular injury, a large cut to his shin and now a “knock”, which he’s expected to have recovered from sometime this week. If I ever see him crossing the road near to the City Football Academy training ground I’m steering clear! Having said all of that, many City fans (perhaps NOT taking into account all of the above illness & injuries) are still very much on the side that this fella is turning out to be a City-purchase flop. I, personally, still hold some considerable hope for him…

Kelechi Iheanacho WHAT an opportunity missed for the young, exciting-looking striker! Not his fault of course – he’s yet ANOTHER victim of injury! Out with a groin / pelvic problem; he too is expected to return sometime this week to hopefully help take the burden off a clearly not-quite-right Aguero.



Thankfully both Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna in particular had good games yesterday. Had it not been for them TRYING, at least, to glue the rest of the failing defence together then God knows what the score might have been.

Fernando, I thought, had a terrific game yesterday; particularly in the first half where he made at least two crucial tackles and did his best to be a ‘protective shield’ throughout.

His partner in the middle Fernandinho also ran his socks off and made some vital interceptions. However, needing to protect a sieve-like defence trying to stop soup; his heavy defensive duties then nullified any chance of him going forward to help Yaya Toure create.

Asked to play in a more-advanced position just off the striker – his territory in many ways – Yaya himself played pretty well for the most part (before he TOO went off with a hamstring injury – no word yet of how serious / an expected return date).

Pretty poor:

Martin Demichelis - so often the calm, reassuring 'steadier'; yesterday he was pulled all over the shop and got unnecessarily booked as the players left the pitch at half time for arguing with the referee too much about their first, off-side goal.

Kevin De Bruyne continues to be a very good threat indeed and, for the most part and aside from a few wayward passes / crosses in the first half, was our second-best player in my opinion [behind Bacary].

However…if we’re going to heap well-deserved praise on our new signing from Wolfsburg then we have to point out, also, where he failed.

What the HELL (yes I have found a new font on my PC) was he thinking of with that pass, which lead to their equaliser (oh yes…don’t forget we were once leading in this eventual 4-1 defeat)!

Anywhere…ANYWHERE he could have kicked the flippin’ ball when he passed it straight into the middle of the danger area and, from memory, he had acres of room to run it safely into to his right and perhaps, even, had a colleague in a safe position on that same side to pass to! And this, let’s not forget, was a minute before the break; a CRUCIAL, game-changing decision from the young Belgium.

Did he redeem himself in the second half? Did he ‘eck – he went into hiding and, therefore, didn’t help to fill the huge, creative gap left by the missing David Silva.

Raheem Sterling haters will have loved this game…and I’m talking about both non-City AND City fans alike. Quite brilliant against Sunderland just 4 days earlier; he ran into brick walls and blind alleys against both Juventus and West Ham…and yesterday his [usual] high efforts produced little end product again yesterday. Lively looking but just didn’t hurt the Spurs defence when he could / should have done.

Aguero looks like he’s playing with an injury that’s niggling him / causing him to worry and, therefore, not push himself beyond 80%...and / or is very low on confidence. A shadow of what we all know he can be.

Awful! Truly, truly awful:

I’ve already covered ‘our Willy’ – he most definitely gets into this category from yesterday.

Jesus Navas. The fact that our ‘Forrest Gump’ was only on for 38 minutes and STILL managed to put in such an appalling display is a new low even for him. He just cannot…CANNOT flippin’ beat a man or cross a ball – surely two prerequisites for a winger, no?

Not worth rating / slating

Nasri & Roberts on too late to change things in a game that was looking more and more lost and the seconds ticked on…

Other factors in yesterday’s defeat…

Straight away I’ll point to the off-side goals. However, equally quickly I’ll then point to the fact that if you scratch off those three poor decision (although our goal was very, VERY tight indeed and, therefore, I suppose we can forgive the ‘lino’ for that one) the score-line still reads 2-0 to Tottenham.

And the old ‘Manchester City factor’ came back to haunt us. What do I mean? Well if you’re a long-time supporter of the blues then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that in their last 4 games Spurs managed to score just 1 goal in each of 3 games and failed to score in the other one. Put another way, 3 goals in four games and we then allow them to then break that form by letting them smash 4 past us in just one game!

Not convinced that the old City trait came back yesterday? Then I give you Harry Kane – couldn’t score in a house of ill repute all season (I think someone said it was over 1,000 minutes) and then…BANG! He almost-inevitably gets one.

Now THAT’S the old ‘typical City’ kind of thing I remember with not too fond-a-memory…

And we have to also chuck in…

…the Sergio Aguero / striker factor

I have heard Manuel Pellegrini being asked on more than one occasion in his pre-match ‘pressers’ whether he was concerned about not bringing in a 4th striker in the summer. Every time and without hesitation The Engineers’ response is to say, ‘No, because in addition to Sergio, Wilfried and Kelechi we also have Raheem who can also play there’.

Now where I thought I agreed with the manager in us not-needing another striker (and let’s not forget that if we HAD-have spent £30M+ or whatever on a decent striker as well then we, most probably, wouldn’t have been able to get De Bruyne without risking more UEFA sanctions) is that we had such a wealth of attacking / creative midfielders; any ‘striker crisis’ could have been more-than covered in-playing a 4-6-0 formation or using a makeshift striker, ‘a la’ James Milner [to reasonably good effect] last season.

However…where I definitely DON’T agree with our manager is his assessment that Raheem Sterling can ‘slot in there’ if needed.

Even when I was debating whether we should sign the young England man from Liverpool I never once disagreed with the Raheem doubters when talking about his finishing ability. It’s not quite as bad as Jesus Navas’ ability to find the net (is anyone’s?) but it’s not very good at all. He’s a creator; a tricky, pacey menace who will, more often than not, get somewhere in the mid-teens in the final ‘Assists’ column but will, more often than not, only achieve about 7 or 8 goals-a-season.

He will never admit it of course but our manager must secretly be ruing the decision not to have purchased an additional striker in the summer. Emmanuel Adebayor is available on a free! I am joking of course…

In our manager’s defence I will point out that he had to bring in more creativity to the side in already-popular Kevin De Bruyne & whatever-you-think-of-him Raheem Sterling. He just had to.

And, I have to add, a lot of us were talking in the summer about extra cover / competition in the heart of the defence which, again due to injuries, the purchase of £30M man Nicolas Otamendi has proven vital…despite his overall poor performance yesterday.

But then again you could quite rightly counter that argument in that we already had a free and very good defender on our books in Jason Denayer; a player now on loan for the season at Galatasray who got RAVE reviews from both his time at Celtic and from both the Belgium Manager / media as well as his countryman and ‘our Skip’, Vincent Kompany.

Regardless of the ‘if onlys’ & ‘buts’ etc., the facts are that Aguero is nowhere near 100% due to either injury, post-Copa America / international fatigue combined and / or confidence. Wilfried Bony is steadily going through the ‘tick list’ of injuries and not necessarily in alphabetical order; Kelechi Iheanacho burst onto the scene at Crystal Palace after some promising displays in pre-season only to-then burst into the physio / medical room…and Raheem ISN’T, Manuel, a ‘stand-in’ striker by ‘any stretch’.

And, erm, did Spurs play well yesterday too? Yeah I’ll give ‘em a solid 7/10.

What a difference just TWELVE days makes!

We City fans were quite-rightly ‘gushing over’ and pronouncing to all who cared to listen about our opening 5-game record in the Premier League, which read…

Played 5. Won 5. Drawn 0. Lost 0.  For 11. Against 0.

…that included 3 away games and a 3-0 home win against last season’s champions, Chelsea.

Bile Quinn, following the Juventus defeat (our FIRST defeat of the season and following 11 back-to-back wins including last season) sprayed out of his gob the ridiculous, sour and departing line / something very close to, ‘All of a sudden the start of the season for Manchester City seems like a distant memory’.

THAT, at the time, was a LUDICROUS comment to come out with that left me scrambling for the remote…and I only JUST about used it to turn off the TV rather than launch it at the contemptable, ex-City man’s head!

If only the man / TV pundit - who, for some WEIRD reason, just doesn’t like us and hasn’t done-so for years - could have kept his comments until after yesterday’s game; at least then he’d have had some credibility. Because in sharp contrast to that opening 5-game record our last 4 games in just 12 days and in all competitions reads an appalling…

Played 4. Won 1. Drawn 0. Lost 3.  For 7. Against 9.

Oh dear…