Sunday, 25 January 2015

Worrying trend continues…

As I’ve advanced in age & experience following Manchester City I don’t take defeats quite so hard as I used to. Gone are the days where I could barely speak to someone for hours following a game that I felt we should have won; gone are the days where it sometimes took until Tuesday morning to get over a Saturday afternoon defeat.

But that one 'stung' yesterday – we continue to look jaded and in many ways completely devoid of creative ideas and for me it’s a concerning, on-going development.


Quick reality check


AS that long-time Manchester City supporter I am still somewhat of the mindset that, what's happening to our football club is an amazing thing! Sure we’re disappointingly out of both the League & F.A. Cups at quite an early stage this season; competitions, which, I firmly believe we should strive to win; our ‘bread & butter’ tournaments to help swell our trophy cabinets as other big clubs have tried to win in the past and still strive to today.

I have to remind myself that I am watching a Manchester City team packed full of exciting stars and that we lie 2nd in the Premier League at just over the half-way stage of the season; we’re in the last 16 of the Champions League and, quite importantly, we are the current champions of England…and have been so twice in three seasons!

But…


…the immediate reality is this. From 4 possible competitions we’re already, in January, out of 2 of ‘em and if we’re being really honest with ourselves, any victories in the Champions League from now on will be a bonus – we’re not going to win that competition. And so what we have left is the league…and we’re 5 points behind, once again, and have to go away to the current leaders next.

Add to that a team that – and I’ve said this before – look jaded and lost for ideas; and all of a sudden that small alarm bell that was sounding at the back of MY head, at least, a few weeks ago is getting a little louder.

Let’s look at the past few results:

  • The first warning sign came in the form of Burnley at home. 2-0 up but not playing brilliantly; perhaps if we hadn’t have conceded and had-won this game what was to follow might not have happened; equally, however, a win may have just been papering over some early Christmas-time cracks. The Lancashire outfit not only fired themselves back to finish 2-2 but they were VERY good for their away draw at the champions of England; in the second half they both out thought and outfought us.

  • Sunderland at home next on 1st January 2015 – a 3-2 victory that felt like anything but. Sunderland could - and perhaps should - feel quite aggrieved not to have got something out of that game; like Burnley they looked more ‘up for it’ and it was scrappy &  and poor from us at best…and only a winning strike on 73 minutes from a 36-year old, ex-England man salvaged all 3 points.
 
A festive, fixture-packed blip? That’s what I was hoping it was at the time but, no…
 
  • ANOTHER home game; no travelling and no excuses. Championship side Sheffield Wednesday next in the F.A. Cup and ANOTHER lacklustre performance from City. At this stage it was starting to look like they’d been enjoying the festivities too much; either that or some kind of lethargic bug was sweeping the club. It was truly AWFUL…and only a late, LATE brace from a 29-year old England man saw us claw our way gingerly into the next round.

  • Everton away next; a ground and a team that doesn’t always suit us. But they had their injuries and were struggling for form themselves; sitting fairly close to the ‘drop zone’ at the half way mark. Some City fans would have, perhaps, taken “a good away draw” before the game and as it turned out, a draw was a fair result…even though that came with a scare or two. But Everton weren’t great on the day and so despite feeling fairly pleased with an away point; it was yet ANOTHER underperforming City side who should really have put the Toffees to the sword.


 

  • Then it gets even worse. You’d expect us to have the majority of the possession at home to a Championship side and although the stats say that we did, it sure didn’t feel like it. I didn’t go yesterday but instead I listened to the whole of the 1st half on the radio and managed to watch most of the second half live (and, of course, have read the reports since). Boro were more organised, looked fitter and, most concerning of all, far more ‘up for it’ than we were.

This is game number 6 of this worry run now; 6 games, 5 of which were at home, 2 of the games against Championship teams, 3 from near the bottom of the Premier League, 2 defeats, 2 draws and NO clean sheets; conceding 10 goals in those half-dozen games…more than half of what yesterday’s opponents have conceded in their league in 27 games!

I got a text after the game from a friend and VERY long-time, VERY dedicated City supporter. It read something like, “Not good enough today but still looking forward to Chelsea & Barca”. I replied, agreeing with his sentiment about us not being good enough but, I exclaimed, WASN’T looking forward to those two fixtures for all of the reasons above.

I later added in a post on-line…

Like his ex-Porto teammate who didn't play today of course, there's still no improvement from Fernando.

I don't do 'knee jerk' reactions and there's little we can do about it in the remaining days of the current transfer window; but already recent purchases don't look NEARLY good enough for what we're trying to achieve as a progressing football club. In the 'just not good enough' category I'm afraid I need to add [to Fernando] Boyata, Kolarov, Mangala (so far), Fernandinho, Navas, Dzeko & Jovetic.

That's one HELL of a summer re-build!

And in the cold light of Sunday morning I still feel the same – with the exception of Mangala who I still HOPE will come good; I just don’t think any of those players are of the calibre we should expect at our so-called progressing and ambitious football club.

I continued…

I can't take ANY positives from today - it would have been better for us had Chelsea scraped through to round 5; pulling more on their resources with more games etc. But we can't even hold on the that for comfort [thanks to Bradford City]!

Unless we get everyone back together ASAP and we 'click', we'll have a fight on our hands just to finish 2nd and, if we do, perhaps we should be grateful that we managed to finish League runners up this season.

Once the African Cup of Nations is over – although Yaya at least is getting some pretty poor reports – and in addition to Wilfried Bony we get Samir Nasri back, Aguero firing once again and the back 4 can start looking like a defensive unit for once; I really do think that we’ll dust ourselves down in February (I say February because I fear for us on this form at Stamford Bridge on 31st January) and go on a really good, momentum-building run right to the finishing line.

Ferran Soriano said in 2013 that he expects us to win 5 trophies in 5 years and that he doesn’t mind if that means occasionally having a barren season. I get that; I fully agreed with that statement at the time and still do.

It’s just that…seeing us flounder as we are at the moment feels even more frustrating than years gone by; when we had mostly mediocre players at best. Seeing the sort of quality we now possess somehow makes poor performances and ‘periods of poor form’ like this much harder to take. Perhaps as a supporter of 30+ years that’s just something new I’m just going to have to adjust to...


I hope Ferran & Co. are true to his word in their backing of Pellegrini, however, because if we DON’T improve a lot very soon; if we continue these lacklustre, ‘out of sorts’ displays much longer we WILL be lucky to finish a trophyless 2nd place in the Premier League.
 
P.S. Should we have come back from Abu Dhabi as late as we did? No, absolutely not!

P.P.S. C'mon Cameroon on Wednesday!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

It’s been a weird week…

Defeat to Arsenal last weekend leaving me (and other Blues I’m sure) feeling a little flat; the team away in Abu Dhabi for some apparent winter, warm-weather training / friendly match (who were met with cloud, hail and high winds as they disembarked) and an F.A. Cup game that I’m not even going to.

Yep…those are my excuses for posting a late, late and fairly brief Blog entry.


v Middlesbrough


 
Straight to the day’s predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

4-4-2:

____________________Dzeko__________

 
__________Aguero___________________

 

 
Milner_________________________Navas
____________________Silva___________

_______Fernandinho_________________

 
 

 

 

_____________­_Caballero_____________
 


With him being given the game in Abu Dhabi; with him keeping a clean sheet and pulling off at least one very fine save…and with Joe not having his best spell of the season in recent weeks; I think an F.A. Cup home game will see Willy being trusted between the sticks for this one. Don’t suggest this within earshot of Joe - and I very much doubt it - BUT…if Willy has a blinder against Boro then I suppose there’s a small chance the Argentinean stopper could claim a starting place away at Chelsea next week.

At home, F.A. Cup, against a team from a division below us; I think Kolarov will get the nod today. And here’s that word again – I think our manager will HOPE he can trust Mangala to have a good game alongside our captain today. From reports I’ve heard the French powerhouse had another shocker in the friendly against Hamburg; making at least 3 very nervous and clumsy challenges, one of which resulted in a yellow card. What is wrong with the guy? I hope he has a good game but I fear for the lad that it won’t matter; I think it’ll be Martin & Vinny for the Chelsea game regardless. I think Sagna will be called on for this one, as Pellegrini will try to protect Clichy & Zabaleta for the up & coming tsunami at Stamford Bridge.

We’re at home and, therefore, need to be on the front foot for the most part for this one. It’s for that reason that I don’t think we’ll have an out & out defensive midfielder in the starting 11. Fernando to sit on the bench; the slightly more attack minded Fernandinho to start. Ahead of him in the middle is, of course, Silva and with no Nasri & Toure the midfield pretty much picks itself with Milner and Navas on the flanks.

At home and with all 3 strikers finally fit & available, it’s two ‘up top’ for this clash. Aguero is a must; he has to regain his match fitness and he’ll want to get that feeling of hitting the back of the net before the Chelsea clash. And I think our manager will want to mix it up against Boro with a bit of a little ‘n’ large act and, so, Dzeko to get the nod ahead of Jovetic.

Joining the Montenegrin on the bench – and working backwards – should be EDS left-winger / attacking midfielder Brandon Barker. The lad has been highlighted in recent weeks for his fine performances and goals in the EDS and after a slightly nervy start in Abu Dhabi, he did himself proud by all accounts. And with no Samir & Yaya - and with Frank taking a knock and, therefore, probably being wrapped in cotton wool for next weekend’s ‘top of the table’ fixture – Brandon will be hoping for his first team, competitive match debut.

“Security” is the name of the game with the rest of the bench in case we need to shut things down – and, for me and in Kolarov & Mangala’s case, CALM things down – with Fernando, 3 defenders and Joe on the side-line.

Update (2:25pm):

Well my predicted team was a load of ol' tosh, with only 7 from 11 correct.

4-1-3-1-1 (probably); possibly 4-2-3-1 with Milner & Fernando in a 'central 2' behind 3 attacking midfielders (Jovetic one of them) BEHIND Aguero:

_______________Aguero_______________



_______________Jovetic_______________



___Milner________Silva________Navas___


______________Fernando______________



Kolarov____Kompany___Boyata___Zabaleta



_______________Caballero______________

Subs: Hart, Clichy, Sagna, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Lampard, Dzeko.

Hopefully my predicted result won't be quite so 'off' as my predicted starting 11 and subs...

Although still concerned about Kolarov as ALWAYS as a defender - and rarely do I feel very confident with Boyata 'in their' either (although he's not had any worse displays that Mangala this season) that's a slightly stronger side than the one I thought he'd go with; with Zabaleta and Jovetic starting instead of Sagna & Dzeko, which is no 'slight' on Sagna there at all.

Result? Well these are flying in the Championship at the moment, with only 1 league defeat in the last 10 games and that being against (also) high-flying Ipswich Town.

They don’t concede many at all either…and that’s an understatement! In 27 league outings this season they have only conceded a very impressive 18 - I’m sure a lot of that is down to the fact that they have Aitor Karanka as head coach; a Spanish defender who has played at the very highest level and, who, was Assistant Manager at Real Madrid for 3 years before moving to the North East. Boro also have an ex-Blue in their ranks in the form of youth-team-player and midfielder Adam Clayton and we all know what that often means…

So what am I trying to say? Well putting it bluntly, even at home this’ll be a real toughy. I say that not just in continued praise of a clearly well-organised North East team, I say that not JUST because we are (still) without the craft of Samir & Yaya but, and I’ve said this quite recently, I just think we look a little ‘off the pace’ at the moment; a little jaded and in need of reinforcements / ALL our top players available and firing.

And I think it’ll come – I’ve got a good feeling that from February onwards we’ll mostly go on an impressive and momentum-building sprint towards the finishing line. As for today, if we had no Aguero to, hopefully, cut through the Smoggies I would be saying a draw; and a unwanted return trip to the Riverside Stadium. However, at home and with patience & hard graft I think we’ll come out on top. It’ll be close but I think we’ll be in the hat for the 5th round draw without the North East team sharing our ball number.

Thanks for your patience [for the late Blog posting] and thanks, as always, for taking the time to read.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Sometimes…

…you have to leave the ground and say that the opposition was the better side; sometimes we just weren’t good enough. Both applied equally well on Sunday after the Arsenal defeat.


I’ve said it before…


and I’ve said it recently; it might sound ‘crazy talk’ to some but I still firmly believe that we don’t have the quality in depth of attacking / creative midfielders at the club to FULLY compete as consistently as a trophy-chasing team should. Lose two of those types of players – Samir Nasri & Yaya Toure on this occasion – and we simply don’t have enough to ‘step in / step up’ to fill the gaping holes.

Hart – Oddly not TOO much to do despite Arsenal having the lion’s share of attacking possession. 6/10

Clichy – One of the better players in a blue shirt. 7/10

Demichelis – Decent enough and solid all things considered. 7/10

Kompany – Good returning performance from our skip. 7/10

Zabaleta – MotM for me. 8/10

Fernando – I made a point of watching this fella for large parts and, in the first half, witnessed him put in several successful tackles. He dispossessed several Arsenal attacking players; his decent timing of tackles and those long legs of his do come in useful.

However, “faded” wouldn’t be doing justice to what happened to the Brazilian in the second half – he was woeful to say the least. He looked lost and whenever he did manage to get hold of the ball his passing was pitiful. I look at Fernando as our main defensive midfielder; I look at what we’re trying to achieve and where we’re trying to head as a football club and I can only come to one conclusion, which is that his guy is just not good enough for us; this was a £12M mistake…or at least is proving to be at the moment.

I hope he proves me wrong and I gladly wait for him to do so but, sadly already, I can see him leaving in the summer if a better option becomes available (Sami Khedira anyone?) 3.5/10

Fernandinho – I find THIS Brazilian a little more useful…but only just. He shows flashes of quality but not enough for me especially as, looking back before the F(not-so)FP imposed sanctions, we coughed up £28M for him! Decent display yesterday…but he’s no Yaya or Samir. 6/10

Milner – On a day when we needed more craft it just wasn’t for him. A rare, lowly 4.5/10

Silva – Tried and tried to be our main creative player but struggled alone for the most part. 6.5/10

Navas – I’m losing patience. HOW MANY TIMES has it been said that this wee, fleet-footed chap appears to have the ability to tear teams apart but apart from his pace…he just can’t flippin’ cross or shoot?! Huhhhh…another very frustrating and very average 5/10 from the Spanish winger.

Aguero – Like Silva, tried and tried… 6/10

Subs...

Jovetic – Similar to Navas; has all the apparent ability but with often little to show in terms of results. 5.5/10

Lampard – Quality shone through immediately and appeared to be changing the game. For the 30 minutes he was on the pitch he gets a 7/10 from me.

Dzeko – First pass to his feet was, in fairness, a little on the strong side BUT...what a shock; he failed to control the ball (again)! Did nothing after that of any note. 4/10

Tick-tock…


If I have done my maths right then we do have some spending power in the remaining transfer window. I have already gone through who we might target but I will add the following / change my mind slightly.

  1. If Juventus (or whoever) really DO want Stevan Jovetic then, providing we can bring in an attacking / creative midfield / winger option in the winter window with the additional cash from the sale of the Montenegrin, then I’d go for it. If not, I think Stevan has to move on in the summer…
  2. If there’s someone who wants him AND we can bring in another striking option (Alexandre Lacazette?) then I’d also consider off-loading Edin Dzeko before the summer as well, which would leave us with Aguero, Bony & ‘A.N. Other’. If not, Edin surely has to go in the summer too…
  3. He’s travelled with the first team squad to a strangely-timed trip to Abu Dhabi and has been getting rave reviews in the EDS. It’s a HUGE step up of course; but if Brandon Barker can make that leap in quality then we might be wise to include the home grown player in our squad. We need a creative, goal-threat down the left and Manchester-born lad might be able to fill a hole left by the injured Nasri, who might be out for up to 4 weeks. Other EDS players who have travelled include attacking, central midfielder Bersant Celina, defensive midfielder George Evans, and Striker Thierry Ambrose.
I hope the warm, summer weather does them good ahead of our home, F.A. Cup game against Middlesbrough.

‘Catch up’...again


I take considerable heart from the fact that we’ve done it time and time again; not least in our last two Premier League winning seasons, as well as pulling back an 8-point gap already this season. And I do, of course, bear in mind that Aguero will (probably) get better again with time following his time-out on the treatment table and that we have Bony & Toure to come back; as well as the recently injured Nasri.

But Chelsea are a different animal this season; a machine with an attacking engine room that appears to be relentless…and that leaves my spider sense tingling. That’s why – not wishing to look like I'm panicking at all nor appear greedy – we need to add that additional attacking / creative ‘spark’ to push us right up against Jose’s men. Push ‘em hard and I’m convinced they’ll be the ones to crack first; let ‘em get an 8-point gap once again and I think we’ll struggle to catch them for a second, successive time this season.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Missed the last goal-fest – another one in the offing?

14th December 2013 and I was in the air on my way to my first ever winter-sun holiday. Complete media blackout and, therefore, no clue as to how the lads were progressing back home and AT home against Arsenal.

Touch down, 45 minutes of confusion about the transfer to the hotel; a 40 minute drive, very quick check-in & unpack and straight to a nearby bar to hear Richard Keys on Al Jazeera announce, during the interval (or end) of the Chelsea game, that there had been a glut of goals at the Etihad. I gulped – and gulped some cold lager – until I EVENTUALLY heard the terrific news.


V Arsenal


 
Straight to a predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

4-1-4-1 / 4-2-3-1:

_______________Aguero_______________

 

 
________________Silva________________

 
Milner__________________________Navas
 

__________________Fernandinho_______

 
_________Fernando___________________

 


 


_________________Hart________________

 

Despite a few questionable decisions and goals conceded of late in what looks to be a little wobble from England’s number 1; Joe to start in net.

At home, Pellegrini has suggested in the past that the more-attacking (well he can’t very-well much defend and so that’s the only other quality he sometimes brings to the team) Aleks Kolarov is better suited. With the need to defend a dangerous attacking midfield and, in particular, Alexis Sanchez…it’s Gael Clichy for me.

Martin Demichelis – the better of the two central defenders at Everton last weekend and in general this season – might have cause to feel a little aggrieved to see Eliaquim Mangala get a start ahead of him tomorrow. However, similar to the Clichy decision, we need some pace in there to suppress the Arsenal attack as much as possible.

Vincent Kompany should be fit to start, it has been suggested by our manager in the pre-match ‘presser’, and what a fillip that will be for us! Hope so…

Zaba, surely, on the right for this one in what SHOULD be a terrific defence.

Fernando to ‘protect’ and a good game from ‘The Octopus’ could be key in allowing the rest to do damage to Wenger’s men.

The other ‘Fern’, therefore, is probably being given the most complex role of the day – help [Fernando] defend a little but attack whenever you can. That’s what I think at least…

With Samir out for 3 to 4 weeks with a calf injury it SHOULD be the boundless energy of James down the left – can we afford to leave Milner out with Nasri sidelined whilst we’re trying desperately to get him to ‘pen’ a new deal?

Pace on the right in Navas and if he can improve his crossing & finishing – a line that is being used a little too much for my liking and for a player of his obvious ability - this SHOULD give the visitors a headache.

Although at home and preferring 4-4-2 and two strikers most of the time regardless; I’m sticking my neck out and trusting my gut feeling in that he’ll pick David to support, hopefully, treadmill-pounding Sergio up front.

A strong bench both defence and attack-wise and although my prediction sees just one midfielder to choose from…WHAT a midfield game-changer it is!

Result? I don’t do predicted scores as a rule but, for some strange reason, I have been doing just that at work this week; and so it would be wrong of me not to follow that up in my pre-match Blog posting. Like last season’s (missed) game there are, potentially, goals aplenty once again; it’s a home win and if not 4-2 then I think it’ll be at least a 3-1’er.

Plenty to say…


Well everyone’s entitled to their opinion of course and with us now dining at the top table of English football I suppose we City fans have to get used to some top sniping too.

This week has hardly been the ‘tin hat on’ time of the not-so-good old days where we pressed the self-destruct button time and time and time again as we suffered one Club-implosion after another.

However, the signing of Wilfried Bony and, therefore, us-DARING to spend some more of our very own money has turned a number of heads and got some lips flapping; some of those lips belonging to owners who forgot to engage what is contained WITHIN those turning heads in my opinion.

First out of the blocks was a fairly measured, as usual, Gary Neville who said, I worry (orrr…bless) about the purchase of Wilfried Bony, who is a very fine centre-forward but is not certain to add the kind of intricacy and ferocious intensity they found in the Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez partnership”.

Well, firstly Gary, from what I’ve seen of the Ivorian he has very quick feet and quick-thinking ability indeed for a striker more known to be a powerhouse. But, besides, I think ‘our Gazza’ is missing the point here. Partnerships up front are indeed very important, of course, and I suppose only time will tell if Gary’s “concerns” are justified. But what our manager has done here is replaced ‘The Beast’ with another powerful and strong-running forward and one who, crucially, scores goals at a fair old rate of knots (1 in 2 at the very least wherever he goes and in whatever competition).

In Aguero, Bony, Dzeko & Jovetic we have 4 strikers who bring a very potent ‘mixed bag’ of tricks – they’re not all alike and as much as I too [like Gary] loved the Aguero / Tevez partnership, however many goals and game-wins they did or didn’t rack up together; I think that combination of differing assets is a very good thing to have in your starting 11 and squad.

But then it all got a bit silly…

Ex-Blue - and somewhat a once-hero of mine - Mick Channon waded in and, well…simply embarrassed himself by sounding WAY too ‘old school’ and out of touch in his thinking about the modern game.

To back him up oh-so-very-slightly and briefly I will say, is the modern game perfect? Is it ‘eckers like. Are players transfer fees and wages enough to make the common man & women retch at the mere thought of the astronomical figures that we’re talking about? Of course they are; no-one kicking a bag of wind (to quote Jimmy Wagg) around a patch of grass for often 90 minutes or less at a time is worth anything LIKE the numbers we’re talking about.

Mick said, when asked about his old club’s purchase of the striker from Swansea City

“Football is getting a bit sad. He is not a bad player, Bony, but for God’s sake, £30m or whatever it was?

“They are like spoilt kids – they have got to have all the candies in the shop. They want all the players.

“The FA have got to say ‘Come on’. Once you have got your team together, I think it is ridiculous that these big clubs can go and spend, and bring Messi in and win the championship – big deal.

“Someone has got to stand up and say something about it one day. If you are a signed player, that is your team for a couple of years or until your contract runs out.”

£30M or whatever it was. It was £25M eventually going to £28M Mick. Petty of me to point that out? No…not unless 2 to £5M is nothing to the now-renowned horse trainer.

Spoilt kids wanting all the candies in the shop? Really? When most top football pundits quite-righty recognise that to compete at the VERY top level in 4 competitions, as we are trying to do, often amounting to 60-odd games a season you need 4 strikers; and in purchasing Bony we’ve simply gone from 3 to…4. all the candies? Has he seen Chelsea’s midfield weapons store?

The F.A. has to step in? Really? What, like…we’ve not already been slapped with enough sanctions by a footballing body; a football club who is POURING money into youth development and the re-development of the local area but, regardless, get’s beaten with a stick for their efforts while other debt-riddled clubs get away with spending and spending and spending without punishments? Really Mick?

…bring Messi in? Have we? No…not yet anyway. And if we do sign the Barcelona striker one day I’ll be INSISTING that the once windmill-arm-wheeling one gets interviewed for his opinions once again. Imagine it – his head is likely to explode!

And as for his comments on a player not moving because he’s in contract and should stay until the very end and THEN be allowed to move, well…if Mick’s out-dated thinking needed to be underlined then it was at that point of the conversation. Deary me…

And then, of course…TA-DAAA! Ladies & gentleman…Jose Mourinho! Yaaaaay! Oh where would we be without him. Still here.

In questioning how we’ve managed to fund the purchase of Bony the easily an’ often irritated one spewed out,
“If they have the money, can spend the money, if they have no problems with the FFP, well done.

But in continuing he added,
“It looks like the rules are different for them in some aspects, but not in this.

And when asked what he meant by that he simply replied,
“You know…”

Now for THOSE last comments I think he should be punished; I think City, in fact, have the right to ask him to explain what he meant by his words and if he doesn’t offer up a good enough explanation then we should take legal action.
Of course, when asked [by a journo] if our recent purchase was, get this, “Ethical”, Arsene Wenger added his French Euro’s worth by saying,

I hope so. They must have the availability and the Financial Fair Play allows them to do it. I don’t know. It was a surprise, yes”.

He went on to say that it’s not down to him to control it nor his job to judge. But assuming, for a moment, that he did want to take an interest into whether we’ve broken any rules; just what is it with these people [Jose included]?! Is it just me? As recently posted…don’t you just need half a brain and a calculator to see that we ARE spending within our means and under the restrictions set out by UEFA under the F(not-so)FP imposed sanctions? Hello?

The only thing in mid-week that I read which muddied the waters and sounded a little cloak ‘n’ dagger to me – albeit, crucially, approved by UEFA – was the news that we have somehow and for some REASON spread the fee over the length of Bony’s contract; essentially meaning it is stretched over the accounts for the next five years. Hey? What? Why?

Other than in his column that he writes for the Independent, at least we haven’t heard any senseless rambles from the newly found voice of Paul Scholes. Slightly irritating isn’t it; of the afore mentioned opinions that we’ve heard regarding the Bony deal the more considered and sensible ones came from ex-Manyoo players?

And what does Manager of the Month Manuel Pellegrini say when asked to comment on Jose & Co.'s opinions on our spending? He wouldn't be drawn on it of course and remains a class act.

And it’s already begun…


As predicted under the second sub-heading in my last piece - Yaya leaves the country, Yaya gets interviewed by some foreign paper / magazine / TV channel; Yaya is none-committal about his Manchester City future / gets misquoted, no doubt, and speculation begins about his imminent summer departure. Huhhhh…

Monday, 12 January 2015

The maths – the possibilities

As recently posted, our speedy and continued pursuit of Wilfried Bony somewhat stole a march on my plans to release a January transfer window speculation Blog posting.

 

As indicated in that very same posting on 7th January – and hoping in my assumption about us signing Bony won’t tempt fate / scupper the deal - I’ve decided to press ahead and post a, ‘who might we sign next’ piece. Here goes…

 

First, the sums…

 
I was scratching my head at some recent articles that claimed, due to our F(not so)FP sanction / spending restrictions and our 2014 summer acquisitions, we only had £17M left to spend on players and, therefore, would have to sell [for the sum of at least £8M] in order to buy the Ivorian striker from Swansea City.
 
As there were numerous pieces both in newspapers as well as on the WEB all stating the same thing, I did start to doubt myself for a time as to whether we could include the promised £22.6M from Valencia for the sale of Alvaro Negredo which should, I understand at least, pop into our bank account on 1st June 2015.
 
Thankfully I’ve since read supporting evidence that we CAN, indeed, include the future incoming sale figure for ‘The Beast’ when balancing the books for UEFA’s officials to comb through at the end of 2014/2015. Good, and so…
 
…we know that we’ve agreed an initial fee with Swansea for Wilfried of £25M (with ‘add ons’ depending on performances and trophies won) and so by my reckoning (tap-tap-tap-tap-TAP) that leaves us with £14.6M to spend in January and not break our sanction restrictions for the season.
 
Allowing myself some MORE assumptions; I’d like to presuppose that in addition to off-loading Matija Nastasic to Schalke 04; Scott Sinclair (to Aston Villa?) and John Guidetti (to Celtic?) will soon follow before the end of the window. And although the German side appear to have achieved the same for Nastasic as the Spaniards wanted for Negredo [in terms of an initial loan for the rest of the season]; I’m going to assume that the “option to buy” quoted in the press actually means a compulsory purchase clause and that they too will have to cough up on 1st June [and it’ll count as income for the season also].
 
Huhhhhh…so…
 
£10M for Nastasic, £3.5M for Sinclair and £4.5M for Guidetti added to the £14.6M left over following the purchase of Bony and (tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap…TAP) that leaves us with another £32.6M to spend on players and still remain “safe” with UEFA should Manuel Pellegrini wish to in January.
 

Maths done, where do we NEED to strengthen?

 
I can’t mention this transfer window without first taking a quick look forward about what might happen transfer-wise in the summer, regardless of how many new trophies may or may not be sitting in our cabinets come June 2015.
 
-        Long term we’ve simply GOT to address the left-back situation and although I think Gael Clichy will be rewarded for a fine spell of form with a stay at the club beyond this season; surely…SURELY we’ll finally see the back of Aleksandar Kolarov. A new left-back in the summer for me.
 
-        With Nastasic all but gone, little faith being shown in Boyata, ‘fingers still being crossed’ for the still-largely-struggling Mangala, Demichelis another year older (but likely to receive an additional 1-year contract) and Kompany continuing his 3-month-average-per-season treatment table act; the centre of defence is crying out for an additional, TOP class signing. Just like the left-back situation, this is a summer ‘must’ for me.
 
-        With the recently soured farce coming to a conclusion at the end of May regarding Frank Lampard’s situation and with another close season circus in the offing as long as Yaya keeps the same agent; I would say that at least two incoming attacking / creative midfielders / wingers is on the menu in 2015. One of these, in my opinion however, could - and perhaps should – happen in the coming 2-½ weeks or so.
 
-        There’s growing speculation regarding the departure of Stevan Jovetic; even, it would seem, talk of him possibly moving [to Italy] in this window, which I doubt very much to be honest. However, only a run of 4 months without injury peppered with a decent number of goals & assists might be enough to save the Montenegrin forward’s City career now. Similarly, for me, unless he has recovered from his recent injury and goes on a barnstorming run of form and goals; I think we could see the end of Mr E. Nigma – AKA Edin Dzeko – in the close season. Even WITH the signing of Wilfried Bony I can see at least one and quite possibly two new strikers joining us in the summer; a proven hitman in his mid-to-late 20s and a ‘young gun’ who has already shown huge promise at a good level. But this area is for deliberation after the season has finished.
 
They’re all considerations for the summer, as I say, and if it DOES play out like that we should have a very tasty squad indeed.
 
As for THIS transfer window - and with a possible £32.6M to spend - I want to look at the more sensible rumours that have been floating around out there set against what we might need / what Pellegrini has his engineering eye on.
 
The keeper situation is absolutely fine and won’t be a consideration in January whatsoever. If Willy is happy with his role so far then it won’t even be on the agenda in the summer either.
 
The defence is most definitely for summer reflection – with a very good quality, free right-back purchased from Arsenal last summer along with £32M spent with the AIM, at least, of shoring up the middle of the defence; I doubt the club will sanction any more spending in this area of the pitch just yet. Expect a stellar move for at least one ‘top class’ defender in the summer though.
 
For me it’s all about the midfield now and I’ve got a gut feeling that we are either going to pull off a surprise, canny move for someone who is going to add more depth & quality but for a relatively cheap price or a big, £25M+ move for a ‘big gun’…or both.
 
“Why would we possibly want to buy another defensive midfielder?” might be the question immediately thrown at this suggestion. Fernando was only brought in during the last window from Porto for £12M and although he hasn’t exactly set the stage alight, he’s been quietly improving since his early season injury; sticking his long legs into tackles at key times in games and getting an okay 6.5 from me at least in his first season in the Premier League. I’m sure he’ll get even better too.
 
However, it does no harm to have 2 quality defensive midfielders on your books and although Fernandinho has filled that role very well on occasions, the slighter-framed Brazilian is clearly more suited to a more advanced position.
 
I wouldn’t go ‘hell for leather’ to sign a deep-lying, tackling ‘middle man’ but can we really miss the opportunity to sign Sami Khedira from Real Madrid? A soon-to-be 28-year old player with HUGE experience in the both the Bundesliga & La Liga and with a whopping 53 German international cap AND, who, is out of contract at the end of the season! Apparently a mere £8M will secure his services…although his wages would be sky high I’m sure.
 
A luxury in our situation? Perhaps. But whoever gets him (and it would be one HELL of a scrap for his signature) should he decide not to stay with The Whites will be getting one HELL of a bargain!
 
 
Chances of signing him in January: 5/10
Chances of signing him in the summer: 5/10
 
I’ve said this in the past and, once again, in my opinion; Chelsea have the best wealth of attacking / creative midfielders in the Premier League. I think it’s high time, therefore, that we ‘up’ our numbers, even if it’s only to relieve some of the pressure from David; similar to our right-back situation-solution with Zaba / Sagna.
 
Whether it’s a left winger or a ‘central man’; for me we need another top inventive / offensive threat in our midfield ranks. Indeed if this IS indeed the season we finally say bye-bye to Yaya, we’ll need two before the start of next if no-one is to ‘step up’ from the EDS (or Zuculini proves not quite ready either).
 
First up is a player forever being linked with his old manager and [following the Khedira link] another look towards Real Madrid; this time for Isco. Chelsea – huh…like they NEED another one – are now entering the fray by all accounts and I think it would be a real missed opportunity not to reunite ‘The Engineer’ and the soon-to-be 23-year old Spanish attacking midfielder.
 
This young’un creates and scores; plays down the middle and is apparently fairly comfortable out-wide-left too. With 3 years remaining on his current deal the ex-Malaga man would take up most of our £32.6M (probably £30M of it) but we would be steeling ANOTHER march on our rivals, following the purchase of Bony. THIS addition in January (or indeed in the summer) would be making a real statement of intent!
 
 
Chances of signing him in January: 6.5/10
Chances of signing him in the summer: 8.5/10
 
Sticking with Madrid but turning towards Atletico, another player our manager would probably see fitting nicely into his plans is Koke. This guy doesn’t score too many but a better passer of the ball would be hard to find. This fella would get in the region of 20+ assists per season (mostly from the middle of the park rather than the wings) and with the likes of Aguero & Bony ahead of him picking them up, then, wow indeed!
 
However, this Spanish 23-year old is even more tied up in his current contract [than Isco] and I doubt £32.6M would cut it in the winter window.
 
 
Chances of signing him in January: 3/10
Chances of signing him in the summer: 7/10
 
I have suggested today – and not for the first time – that it’s not just the creative centre that could do with an addition but, taking nothing away from Samir Nasri; I believe that we’ve been crying out for a proper creative outlet on the left-hand-side for some time now; a real specialist in that position. Besides, if we DID acquire one, I believe Samir would find a lot more joy with more central role; albeit one he’d have to share from the bench more than he’d like I’m sure.
 
In Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus we’d have an EXCELLENT player with bags of pace, creative flare AND goals. Of the 3 mentioned so far – and I’d personally love us to get Iscothis is the player we should go out ‘all guns’ for next.
 
All the signals are there for us to go and get him – Borussia are having a TORRID time of it as they currently lie 17th in a league of 18; he’s seen some of his top-quality colleagues leave in the summer and will be in the last 24-months of his current deal in the summer.
 
The Germans do have some time on their hands with regards to cashing in on his contract length and might want to, therefore, hold onto the exceptional left-winger in an attempt to keep themselves in the top flight. But even though there’d be huge competition for his signature, this one is a possibility; this is the type of player we should be competing for with real intent.
 
 
Chances of signing him in January: 6/10
Chances of signing him in the summer: 8.5/10
 

Perhaps a little less likely but…

 
I’ll briefly chuck a few more into the mix; ones who have, of course, been linked with us and didn’t seem TOO far fetched to me.
 
The first of these might be seen as one for the future should we swoop for him; but Belgium and Anderlecht’s Dennis Praet is ‘turning heads’ at the moment. At just 20, a lot would question if we haven’t already got similar quality in the EDS. But that’s unlikely to stop us should we want him. Plays mostly as a central attacking midfielder but can operate on the left too and has 2-½ years remaining on his contract and would, therefore, probably cost us in the region of £12M.
 
 
Chances of signing him in January: 2/10
Chances of signing him in the summer: 5/10
 
Slightly older and more of a left winger is a player who plays for a club with whom we’ve just done business with (wink-wink). At just 21, Julian Draxler already has 15 full, German international caps to his name and when you consider that the afore mentioned Marco Reus competes in the same position for his country; then that alone tells you that this young fella can’t be all-to-bad either!
 
Julian has slightly longer on his current deal with Schalke 04 and would, therefore, probably cost us in the region of £25M (or £15M when you take the sale of Nastasic into account…)
 
 
Chances of signing him in January: 4/10
Chances of signing him in the summer: 6/10
 
The world and his wife seem to want this next one and I doubt he’ll move anywhere until the summer. But seeing as we’re being linked with him in almost every transfer window and is being touted, specifically, as Yaya’s long-term replacement; I thought I’d chuck him in there as at least a possibility.
 
Paul Pogba not only LOOKS a little like Mario Balotelli - often-hair-style-wise at least - but rumours of a similar attitude sent alarm bells ringing in my head a long while ago. However, he appears to be calming down considerably and is CERTAINLY turning out to be a far more accomplished footballer than the ex-City forward.
 
A player who gets a lot of praise from many pundits and, who, is a real box-to-box midfielder. With a whopping 4-½ years to run on his current Juventus contract we’d definitely have to sell Jovetic and / or someone else to be able to afford the Frenchman in this transfer window and, so…
 
 
Chances of signing him in January: 1/10
Chances of signing him in the summer: 7/10
 
So there you have it, my opinions of this often-hard-to-keep-up-with transfer window. By the time I’ve combed through what I’ve typed before 'release'; inserted the hyperlinks and the pictures etc. the scene may well have all changed yet again – so I’d better 'crack on'…
 
Thank you as always for taking the time…