Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Last chance saloon!

This is it…probably - win or bust. Huh…it’s “only” Bayern Munich though and they’ve already qualified. Yeah right…

Professional

For any City fan out there who believes that, having already managed to finish top of the group come-what-may Bayern won’t ‘turn up’ for this one, then I’m sorry to say, “Forget it”. I don’t think that’s either the ‘German’ nor ‘Pep way’. So let’s move on.

Opinion

Regular readers won’t be surprised to see me spin this one out again and to those followers I apologise for my repetitiveness. What I don’t apologise for is my continued, firm opinion that should we not beat Bayern tonight, then I hope we do all we can to finish bottom of the group.

Again, sorry to the ‘regulars’, but I have to stress that this is in no way me being disrespectful to the Europa League in the slightest…and nor have I become ‘all Manyoo’ all of a sudden; treating both the League and Europa Cups with disdain. No…simply put, I don’t actually believe that we are anywhere NEAR strong enough yet to compete on so many levels and by attempting to do so would put any chance we have of retaining the title in the bin.

Sure, go for it tonight and TRY to stay in the Champions League competition but if not, we don’t need the added disruption of a Thursday / Sunday schedule and, potentially, travelling to some far-flung corners of Europe on Thursday nights / Friday mornings.

Instead, I want the Premier League (and the F.A. Cup if at all possible too) and you can bet that seeing us finish bottom of the group might not please our owners…but it sure won’t please Mourinho and a few other managers either and that’ll do for me (as long as we then take advantage of that scenario of course).

v Bayern Munich

 
Predicting this team 11, formation and subs might have been made a little easier with the suspensions of Fernandinho & Toure and injuries to Kolarov, Silva and Dzeko…but only a little. It sure isn’t an easy one to predict the outcome of the game though. Here’s goes…

4-5-1:

_______________Aguero_______________

 

 

Jovetic_________________________Navas

________________Nasri________________
 

_________Milner_______Fernando_______

 



 

_________________Hart________________

 
Now before I run through the predicted substitutes, I was under the impression that we had to announce a set Champions League list of squad players – adhering to certain rules – by a certain date ‘way back when’. Having DONE that, I looked them up on a section of UEFA.com and, sure enough, there’s no mention whatsoever of Jose Angel Pozo being included in the this year’s restricted 22 number (due F not-so FP punishment).

So why then, I thought, were some sources suggesting that the young Spanish forward was to be included in tonight’s game; possibly even STARTING due to a little scare to both Jovetic & Aguero; both of whom didn’t train on Monday morning?

So I dug a little deeper and the same (confusing) WEB site then had a sprinkling of additional City players in this season’s squad who are eligible to play Champions League football and, indeed, Pozo’s name was amongst them. It was obvious that these additional players were all of a certain age / all EDS players and so, I can only assume, that clubs are allowed to use as many youngster as they like in ADDITION to the announced squad…and that I must have missed that one.

Flippin confused but / and so…


Hart to continue in goal.

No Kolarov and with a good game [against Swansea] under his belt; Clichy to continue on the left of defence also.

I was under the impression that we brought Bacary Sagna in to relieve some of the stresses and strains from ‘our Zab’ and considering, by his own high standards, Pablo hasn’t been on top form this season so far; I’ve been surprised and a little confused (again) as to why we’ve not seen more of the French right back. I’m guessing, after the Argentinean played 90+ minutes just 3 days earlier, that a ‘fresh’ Bacary will get a start tonight.

Similarly Mangala in for Demichelis IF the Argentinean’s aging legs are too sore for a potential Bayern onslaught tonight. Kompany to complete the fully French-speaking back line.

Now here’s a rarity – and one I don’t think Pellegrini would choose given the choice – Milner in the middle. I – and the player himself – think he’d be good in this role and despite our manager thinking otherwise; I think he’ll see James’ usefulness ‘in there’ for this one. And alongside Fernando that provides extremely good protection and energy in the middle of the park.

WITH that protection, ahead of those two are three players who can hurt teams ‘on the break’. I’ve gone for our manager to switch Nasri to the middle in a Silva / Yaya type-role and either side of him we’ve got the pace and energy of Navas and the craft and added goal threat of Jovetic; who I believe can operate on that side quite comfortably.

Aguero to complete the attacking quartet.

On the bench we have defensive cover aplenty; the experience of Lampard when required (and I’m sure we will) and in Bytyqi and Pozo we have that ‘surprise element’ in an attacking, versatile duo who might just be needed and prove to be a couple of aces up our manager’s sleeves.

I was tempted to suggest that David Silva had been training secretly; was closer to fitness than is being suggested and might, therefore, be fit enough to get on the bench tonight. But I’ve decided against that; guessing (and hoping) instead that he’ll be fit to play some part at the weekend.

Result? Well they do have, apparently, even more players out injured than we do; we’re on our ‘own patch’ and, of course, we need this one much more that they do. All things considered, it points to our best ever chance for a win.

So why can’t I bring myself to say that then? My heart is TELLING me a win but, I’m sorry to say, my head is talking just that little bit louder in suggesting a frustrating draw.

But…we’re Man City; we’ll fight to the end!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Improvement

When you’re (consistently) not playing very well then all you can ask for, initially, is improvement. That – along with 3 vital points – is exactly what we got from the lads yesterday. Consistency next...


Predictably tough test


It was a good game yesterday as I expected it to be; as close as the scoreline suggests in many ways and I say that despite long periods of home possession camped in the Swansea half. The Swans are an impressive, hard-working side with dangerous players that can hurt you if you give ‘em an inch…they also rough it up and cheat a little (I’m thinking Kyle Bartley’s “encounters” with Aguero and ‘big man’ Wilfried Bony going to ground far too easily time and time again).

So, despite some scary moments and some fortune towards the end, I give even more credit to Pellegrini’s men for their performance against a team who could well have easily gone away with all 3 points had we not been ‘at it’ yesterday. Swansea will cause every team problems throughout the season…not least our table-topping rivals!

I don’t often do ‘scoring’ after games but considering the well-justified scrutiny of our players in recent weeks and the progress they made yesterday; I thought I’d chuck in my two-penneth worth.

Hart: Surprisingly had very little to do for a team that had quite a few chances and, for those reasons, it’s difficult to pin a score on a keeper. I’ll have to go for a ‘standard’ 6/10

Clichy: So poor of late – with only a notable, MotM performance against Manyoo a few weeks ago – he improved a heck of lot yesterday! Showed confidence and composure in defence, with energy and pace in his supporting attack. And if ONLY that shot had gone in! 7.5/10

Demichelis: Just shaded my MotM. Although there was a moment, perhaps even a period, where Swansea appeared to slice through the middle of our defence in the first half, I don’t recall him putting a foot wrong and certainly can’t be a fault for that little ‘wobble’. He was an assured, calming influence on a defence that’s been shockingly fragile of late. For all the right reasons, I hope Mangala was watching closely from the bench. 8.5/10

Kompany. Surprise inclusion to say the least. However, recent injury taken into account; he was less impressive than his senior partner yesterday and, in general, doesn’t look the composed defender that we’ve come to know and rely so heavily on. Not a terrible game by any stretch…but by his very high standards, just not ‘our Vinny’. 6.5/10

Zabaleta. Similar to ‘our skip’, Pablo hasn’t quite been himself this season so far. However, as the game went on yesterday his improvement, both defensively and in supportive attack, was quite noticeable. In fact, I noted at the time and after the game, if only he could add more accuracy to his shooting - he gets himself into so many good positions in the oppositions box in most games that we could had another ½-dozen goals to our team’s tally. 7/10

Fernandinho. Being suspended for the Bayern game on Tuesday had a big influence, I’m certain, in Fernando being dropped to the bench for this one. And BEING the holding midfielder yesterday – and one who sat very deep marking Gylfi Sigurdsson for large parts of the game – I was a little concerned at first; as he prefers, we are repeatedly told, to play his game a little more advanced up the pitch. However...he nearly got my MotM. Like most of the rest his improvement was measurable - lively & proficient throughout…and what about that perfectly paced back heal to Yaya for the Ivorian’s goal! 8/10

Toure. Probably the least improved of the lot…but some improvement nonetheless. Languid-looking at times but whenever he got the ball there were more than a few glimpses of the old Yaya, which was (is) very encouraging. Got a goal. 7/10

Nasri. Started a little slowly but improved and improved as the game wore on. Some hard work from the Frenchman too. Whenever possible, I’d love to see what he’d be like in a more central position. I just wonder if he might get that chance on Tuesday; with Jovetic perhaps on the left flank considering we'll be 2 midfielders 'down'. Got the crowd MotM. 7.5/10

Navas. I’ve said this too many times for my own liking; for someone with his pace and skill he more often than not doesn’t fulfil his true potential. However, like Yaya there was some improvement from the Spanish flyer yesterday but like Zaba, I wish he too could improve his shooting accuracy. Got an assist. 7/10

Jovetic. I was slightly surprised to see the Montenegrin start yesterday but having SEEN him in the line-up; I did, as I always do, yearn for him to have a good game. Like Navas, he too doesn’t always produce the results his obvious skill should yield…but he was better yesterday. I was very pleased to see him get on the score sheet; a goal that seemed to come of huge relief to the player who turned 25 earlier this month. 7.5/10

Aguero. Didn’t get on the score sheet and was buffeted and battered by the Swansea defence. That more than suggests that he was a real nuisance, which he most certainly was in another determined and lively display form the Argentinean. Probably the only outfield player other than Kompany not to “improve” yesterday (but that’s no criticism!) Still gets a solid 7/10

Subs:

Lampard. Almost cost us dearly with a little sloppy moment just outside our own area but having got away with it, he then had a solid enough 20-odd minutes. Gave us some needed solidity and calmness as we went 4-5-1. 6/10

Milner. Almost got a goal and was his usual, industrious self for quarter of an hour. We’ll need him fresh for Tuesday. 6/10

Fernando. Like Milner we’ll need him ‘in there’ against the Germans. On too late to mark.

Other notes from yesterday…


  • Crowd seemed a little (understandably?) nervous yesterday. Then again, I was quieter than usual too...
 
  • I expected Swansea fans to be more boisterous than they were though, especially with their team playing so well and sitting 5th before KO. Went [even more] quiet after we equalised.
 
  • West Ham lost / slipped down – Yaay!
 
  • Of course there’s now a 6-point gap between us and yesterday’s opponents – Yaay!
 
 
  • Manyoo won and sit just one place (and 5 points) behind us – Boooo. But…
 
  • …at least they beat Arsenal who now sit 7 points behind us – Yaay!
 
  • Newcastle are 'on a run' worth keeping an eye on – they’re 6 games unbeaten in the league; have won all of their last 5 including away wins at (struggling) Spurs and WBA and a home game against (struggling) Liverpool and lie 5th on the same points as Manyoo. They do tend to have these ‘spurts’, though, do the Geordies – they never seem to last too long…
Not too bothered about today's fixture outcomes with regards to them affecting us…but c’mon Villa tomorrow night against Southampton!

Thanks as always for taking the time to read

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_____________________

 
 

 

_________________Hart_________________
 


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...

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