Saturday, 13 February 2016
Sunday, 7 February 2016
…that really, REALLY stings!
An old feeling
I didn’t think for one moment that I’d even contemplate doing a post-Leicester City piece and CERTAINLY didn’t think I’d start one at 8:37am the day after that humiliating horror show. There’s no WAY, though, that I can face watching MotD, Goals on Sunday or even ANY news highlights of yesterday’s encounter. The only thing I’ve managed to muster so far is to look at the Manchester Evening News’ player ratings and an interview with Manuel Pellegrini on the BBC on-line.
Not for a long time have I woken up (this time at 11:54pm having ‘crashed out’ about 9:00pm) with twisting butterflies in my gut, as the nightmare images from the game filtered into mind as I ‘came to’. Got ‘em again when I awoke at 7:00am’ish this morning…
I’ve got it bad people – a nasty cocktail mix of gut-wrenching annoyance at yesterday’s performance and a HORRIBLE, foreboding feeling that this season, despite us STILL somehow being ‘in the mix’ for 4 trophies as we approach the middle of February, is showing strong signs of dissolving in front of our increasingly disappointed and, sometimes, shell-shocked eyes.
In the old days of the late 80s and through the 90s, at least, it used to take me until about Tuesday afternoon to get over a bad, bad Saturday. We shall see…
Better, stronger, faster.
And if you add to those three words, FAR more organised at the back than we have EVER been this season and far, far fitter-looking; then that’s how I describe Leicester City yesterday. Never has there been a game where, between gritted teeth, all you could really say with any conviction was that they were by FAR the better team and thoroughly deserved their 3 points and continued lead at the top of the Premier League.
I even - now that the game is long-gone at least - find that I have to praise their fans on the day too. It’s never a surprise that The Foxes’ supporters sing loud, proud and very coordinated and, as they quite-rightly rubbed it in for long periods yesterday, I grumbled a few expletives “their way” as I buried my head in my thick, winter coat; peeping out, as I did yesterday, like a child behind a cushion whenever the Daleks came on the telly.
If….IF there was any doubt in the never-seemingly-ending debate about whether Leicester are the ‘real deal’ and can win the Premier League this season; then it was well ‘n’ truly put to bed for me at about 2:35pm yesterday.
We on the other hand…
Oh my Lord. The easiest way to sum up yesterday would be to say that Joe Hart was our best player...again! Other than that? Well…David Silva & Sergio Aguero were clearly our more-class players and ones who, not for the first time, tried harder than the rest. As FOR the rest...they get marks ranging between 3 & 5 out of 10 and that includes a rare low score for an overrun-in-midfield, Fernandinho.
Where does the blame lie? Well for me it’s 50/50 – the players HAVE to take responsibility for both yesterday’s performance and their inconsistencies in general but the manager also is doing little to help the situation at times.
Why…WHY, for example, did he believe it was a good idea – AGAIN – to play Martin Demichelis and not Bacary Sagna against a team known to have attacking pace to burn? Why…WHY, for example number 2, is he insisting on playing Yaya Toure when clearly he’s just not performing well and, when, we’ve looked far better with different midfield combinations tried…albeit WAY to infrequently.
Sprinkle over all of the above…
- Another injury crisis brewing – by FAR the worst season for injuries and injuries to so many key players I’ve ever known in my 30+ years following City
- A poor refereeing performance yesterday
…and you have both a dismal ‘day at the office’ to say the least and, worse, a worrying prognosis for the remainder of the season with regards to…
- Our paper-tissue defence
- Our inconsistent displays
- Wrong personnel-choice decisions form the manager and a…
- …’fixture pile-up’ ratio against ‘available players’ to give goose bumps to-even the most ardent Manchester City supporter.
Spurs at home next who have a ‘last 10’ in the Premier League that reads L W W W D L W W W W; Chelsea away in the F.A.Cup, Dynamo Kiev away in the Champions League, and Liverpool at Wembley in the League Cup before we face the Scousers again away in the league.
I feel sick…
Saturday, 6 February 2016
It’s a big’n alright - not one that will ultimately decide the title but if I had to 'slap a label on' this fixture then I might go for a ‘mustn’t lose’.
Bit late typing-up this one and with the early KO also (12:45pm GMT) I’m goin’ straight into a predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
4-2-3-1 / 4-5-1:
My ‘player of the season’ so far by a good way, Joe, to-hopefully continue his very fine form in net.
The Foxes, of course, carry many threats and are, in general, a counter attacking team built from a solid and effective base. Therefore, I can see our manager going, for only a second time this season, with a central defensive pairing of Bacary & Nicholas. Either side of that should be Gael & Pablo in a back-line that’s probably about the strongest we can muster at the moment.
With Fabian over his ‘little knock’ and, therefore, “rested” in midweek; that should see him return today. At home I would imagine both the slightly more attack-minded central pairing of Fernandinho & Yaya will join the England man. Further out wide is highly likely to be Raheem & David.
Sergio likely to plough a lonely furrow in the striking department but with, hopefully, plenty of support from the wide men in particular; backed-up by overlapping runs from Gael & Pablo and supporting cameos from Fernandinho & Yaya.
A bench of two-halves in many ways - the first 3 (in my order of line-up) have a combined age of 99 and the last 4 a mere 74...with a strong EDS influence / flavour. All make up a back-up keeper, an attacking left-back, a central defender, another central defender come defensive midfield, a left-winger, an attacking forward midfielder [who can play right across the middle] and a striker.
Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (on his way back from injury / back in light training), Eliaquim Mangala (injured), Samir Nasri (injured), Kevin De Bruyne (injured), Jesus Navas (injured) and Wilfried Bony (injured).
Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up (this is a new feature I might continue for the rest of the season)?
Almost. The only change I would make is ‘Kolarov for Yaya’. Regular readers will know that I’m not the biggest fan of Aleks but for this game I think it makes sense in many different ways.
Playing left wing, Kolarov would ‘double-up’ also for a bit more defensive stability on that side; overlapping with Clichy ‘as & when’. He can also whip a decent ball in and provide excellent diagonal passes too from that side. I’d then give Raheem a run on the right-hand-side for this one and this then, crucially, brings David right into the middle where he’s far, FAR more effective & dangerous to the oppo.
Other than that I’d be happy with that line-up – particularly the defence with what we have available – and we’d still have Yaya available from the side as an ‘impact player’; a role I agree with many he perhaps needs to fill more for the remainder of the season.
Result? I just look at Leicester’s away form, which is almost identical to their home form, and it just SCREAMS a consistent and very confident side indeed. I note our home form, of course and which is very good in itself, but although we still boast the 4th best defensive record in the Premier League; a lot of that has been down to the sheer brilliance of England’s ‘number 1’ goalkeeper. And so I look at Mahrez, Vardy & Co. and do so with some concern. All things being equal, I just can’t look past us continuing our pretty, 8-game league pattern (this game included) of W D W D W D W D.
Hope, in the right way of course, that I’m wrong…and that we finish the day ‘top of the league’!