Monday, 22 January 2018

We’ve made this one tricky for ourselves…


…now it’s time to fix it and book a place at Wembley.



v Bristol City


Ashton Gate

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome:
(Number correct from starting line-up in the last game, which for me, Blog-wise, was the Liverpool game: 8/11).

Fluid 4-5-1 / 4-3-3

____________________Aguero____________________






Sane____________________________________Sterling

_________Gundogan___________De Bruyne_________

__________________Fernandinho__________________


Danilo____________________________________Walker

____________Stones_________Otamendi____________





_____________________Bravo_____________________


(Done this predicted line-up before hearing any team news…)

With a near-full 5 days before our next cup game, which is another away trip to yet another top-end Championship side, Cardiff City in the F.A. Cup; I’m guessing that Pep won’t risk another close encounter with The Robins. However, I think he will make some changes from the team that played just 48-hours (or there abouts) earlier.

I think we’ll see Claudio step in between the posts…but whether we’ll get an "okay" Bravo or a jittery keeper remains to be seen.

Having played 93 minutes of a Premier League game just 2 days earlier, I think young Zinchenko might have earned / need a rest and, therefore, I think we’ll see Danilo in a less-comfortable, left-sided defensive role. The rest of the defence, I think and if Pep sees sense, will be made up of the 'same unit' that faced Newcastle United last Saturday evening; in John, Nicolas & Kyle.

Fernandinho to-possibly ‘go again’ and help protect the 'back-4', as well as to-provide his usual key, link-up passes to his-more advanced midfield colleagues, who are likely to be Leroy, Ilkay, Kevin & Raheem.

Weekend-hattrick-hero (by a hair’s length!) Sergio ahead of those again.

Ederson takes a 'step back' for the crucial League Cup second leg; Oleksandr, Tosin & ‘Nervous Neliaquim’ make up the defensive replacement options. David, Bernardo & young Brahim are the more attacking personnel in ‘the 7’ on the side.

Notable absences: Benjamin Mendy (continues rehab following injury / surgery), Vincent Kompany (continues his slow recovery after the latest injury), Fabian Delph (injured for a few weeks but exact length of time unknown) & Gabriel Jesus (injured for about another week to 10-days).

Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?


Well…IF our manager goes for this line-up & subs, at least it looks a little bit stronger than the side in the first, home leg the other week.

However, having mostly right-back Danilo on the left as well as Bravo in net, does leave me a little concerned I have to say, especially if the likes of Fernandinho (almost 33) and both Nicolas & Sergio (both almost 30) are feeling a little ‘leggy’; having all had little rest in-between last weekend’s league game and tomorrow night’s cup clash.

Personally, I’d definitely go with Ederson in net and take a long look at our Brazilian defensive midfielder (I’m sure Guardiola will) before deciding to 'pitch him in' once again.

Other than that, it looks good to me.

Result? Well, this is a cup game, of course, and one where the home crowd will be 'right up for it'! Their players too, of course; although it is worth noting that although they gave us a 'run for our money' in our home leg - and even took the lead in that game - their league form has been less than impressive of late.

In fact, their Championship results have seen them stutter & splutter as the likes of Fulham, who are just outside of the play-off places, cut Bristol’s points gap to just 3 points.

If we’re up for the fight - as we are more often than not these days - and DON’T weaken the starting 11 too much, then we should be heading to HA9 for a football game on the 25th February.

Last season’s, corresponding pre-match prediction and result… 
Prediction: N/A
Result: N/A

Friday, 19 January 2018

No time for a pre-Newcaslte Blog-posting.

Sorry about that - hope to get more time before the next league game at home to West Bromwich Albion (will see about postings before the next 2 cup games).

Sorry again for the break in service.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Let’s hope Mr Guardiola’s gamble…


…pays off against Liverpool because, despite saying he wasn’t going to underestimate Bristol City, for me he weakened the side a little too much last Tuesday night and should have, in my opinion, picked a side to try to almost kill the 2-legged tie at the first attempt [with 5-days rest before our trip to Merseyside]. His decision NOT to do that almost backfired. 

 

Indeed, that tie now hangs in a situation that is a little too close for comfort as we await the away leg. 

 

But having rested some key personnel in midweek, we should now be heading to Anfield with virtually a full-strength 11 & subs, which will be needed against such a strong attacking team and at a stadium that hasn’t proven the best hunting ground for us, even in recent times.


v Liverpool


Anfield
  
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome:
(Number correct from starting line-up in the last game, which for me, Blog-wise, was the Premier League, Watford match: 8/11).

Fluid 4-1-4-1 / 4-5-1 / 4-3-3

____________________Aguero____________________







Sane____________________________________Sterling

___________D. Silva__________De Bruyne__________


__________________Fernandinho__________________

Delph____________________________________Walker

____________Stones__________Otamendi___________




____________________Ederson____________________


Ederson back in net after stepping aside in midweek.

Fabian, John, the returning Nicholas and Kyle likely to make up the back-4.

Fernandinho resumes his position inbetween the defence and the more-attacking midfielders / wingers, which is likely to look like Leroy, David, Kevin & Raheem, who is sure to be booed by some home morons.

Sergio heads up all of those.

Jittery Claudio back on the side; Danilo, Zinchenko & Eliaquim provide various defensive cover. Yaya likely to make 'the 7', despite a sluggish-looking performance on Tuesday, along with the quality of Ilkay, and still-settling-in to some degree, Bernardo.

Notable absences: Benjamin Mendy (continues rehab following injury / surgery), Vincent Kompany (on way back from injury but quite likely still not ready for this game) & Gabriel Jesus (injured for another 2 to 3 weeks, which is far better than first thought).

Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?


I sure do.

Result? I think they'll be goals both ends. Of course, for their many attacking players to become a threat, they'll have to get the ball off us but, at home and over the 90+ minutes of course, I think that'll happen.

However - and despite me leaning for a while towards this one being a 'points shared' - having rested a few key players over the last 8 days I think we'll see a City team able to chip away at the home side for so very long, that I can see us edging this one and coming back to Manchester with all 3 points. Could be a very good game, could this...

Last season’s, corresponding pre-match prediction and result…
Prediction: Draw
Result: Lost


A few words on transfer links.


Have Manyoo ‘done a number on us’ by sticking their mucky hat in the ring for the Arsenal forward? Yes…I’d have to they have indeed.


Are we right, as has been reported, not to want to go higher than £20M for a player who has less than 6-month left on his contract and who would then, of course, be a free agent? Well yeah…but I’d still push it to somewhere between 25-to-£30M for a player who would fit into our set up and Pep’s style of football, which is very familiar to a player who has played under the Spanish boss many times.

But yeah, there’s no doubt that Manyoo’s apparent, vastly improved offer of £25M plus Henrikh Mkhitaryan is going to appear to the North London club far more than a straight £20M, or there abouts, from us.

For me it’s really in the balance now and is all down to the player’s own desire to join Manchester City / Pep or not. He might want to now hang on until July and be in a stronger position to decide himself where he goes next. Over to you fella…

This one really splits City fans. Some don’t want him simply ‘cause he’s an ex-Manyoo player (very silly); some actually believe that just turning 30 means that he’s ‘over the hill’ (utter nonsense) or believe we should be looking for longer-term targets (fair enough but you’re less likely to get the younger quality you want in January)…whilst others just don’t believe it’s necessary to get another central defender, as we have enough cover, one way or another, within the squad (I agree to some degree).

Here’s where I stand on the Jonny Evans thing. Just go and get him. Why?

-       Vastly experienced at both Premier League and in Europe for both club & country.

-       A central defender who can – and has – covered at left-back if needed (and we often do), albeit not an attacking left-wing-back type player.

-       Although we have Fernandinho (33-years of age can I add, for those who believe that 30 is “past it”) who can cover in defence if needed on occasions; I think the Brazilian has enough on his hands being virtually the only REAL defensive midfield option we have, as Fabian Delph has found himself having to be full time left-back cover (what a great job he’s doing!) for the season-long injured Benjamin Mendy. Therefore, I see Jonny Evans as a much needed player to swell the ranks of our central defensive unit when I look at Vincent Kompany (injured far more than he is fit these days), John Stones (brilliant before his injury this season; wobbly moments since his return and he too has a record of breaking down for a few weeks a couple of times per season), Nervous Nelliaquim Mangala (who looks to have no self-belief whatsoever and far too often creates carnage in our defence and actively encourages opposition to ‘have a go at him) and Nicholas Otamendi (a VASTLY improved player but who, let’s not forget, has got it in him to pick up yellow & red cards). Do we need an experienced ‘steady Eddie’ in amongst that lot to take us through, at least, another 4 months of football in 4 competitions, as it stands at the moment? I would certainly say so.

-       He has less than 18 months left on his contract and, therefore, should cost us no more than £25M (with possible ‘add-ons’). Other interested parties? Arsenal and now, of course, Manyoo apparently.

From what I’ve seen on-line, this fella is definitely a Pep-type defender. Yes, he can tackle but more importantly, for what Pep likes, he’s very mobile and likes to pass / set up attacks.

As I say, I have seen plenty of footage of him on-line and the only thing that concerns me is that he likes to do a lot of his tackling by sliding in on the floor, Fernando “The Octopus” style. Fine…if he times it right. But in the Prem - and the way footy is going these days with more & more players simulating fouls – that style of tacking could be a risk.

I think I’m right in saying this fella would cost closer to the £40M mark and I was told yesterday that he’d picked up an injury but I just can’t find anything about that on-line.

Yeah why not? Good age too at 27-years of age in May. I’ve got a feeling this could be a summer signing.

And don’t be surprised, if we do sign Evans in the next couple of weeks, if we then go out and get Martinez too; as I can see both Mangala being sold in the summer and Kompany finally accepting after the season that he can no longer perform at this level.

Hadn’t heard of the Brazilian, central midfielder until recently and so, yep, another YouTube viewing was required, amongst other bits of research of course.


Looks very good indeed – a worker, a box-to-boxer, has a very good shot on him, a menace in the opposition area and has pace with the ball / good at breaking from deep at speed.

Although not nearly the height of Fernandinho or Yaya Toure at a mere 5’ 6.5’’, I think we might be looking at him as a defensive midfielder, although he does have one hell of a shot on him, as I say, and has scored 9 in 90 league appearances for Fernandinho’s old club, Shakhtar Donetsk.

Heavily contracted to June 2023 and, so, might be a £50M+’er. A summer signing if anything I would think.

Gone out so far…


23-year old, central defender, Shay Facey has signed for Northampton Town for an undisclosed fee and on a contract to June 2019.


19-year old, Right-sided forward, Isaac Buckley-Ricketts has gone to Oxford United on loan for the rest of the season.