Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Much better from still-jaded City. Crowd improvement too...

We wobbled slightly after a bizarre, failed set piece that dramatically back-fired but for the most part we were in control. 3 points gained; job done.


Improvement


It’s quite a startling fact at this stage of the season - and after such an amazing, high-scoring first half of 2013 / 2014 - but that was only our 2nd league win in 5 games. But it was a very welcome one and, in some small way, it keeps some pressure on Liverpool.

Following the debacle of the Sunderland game, where everything was wrong from energy levels & attitude right through to formation / personnel; most of those failings weren’t, thankfully, on show last night. There were a few hiccups and scary moments but, for the most part, we were in control and looked far more fluid than our Black Cats’ encounter 5 days earlier. 69% overall possession, 19 shots (10 on target) and 3 goals does tell its own story on this occasion.

Hart, Clichy & Kompany were all about 7s [out of 10] but it was Demichelis who had a superb game and gets 8.5 from me as he appeared to erase several years from his birth certificate. In fact when some of the other players look to be feeling the rigours of the long, hard season Martin looked quite fresh and rejuvenated! He capped off a fine defensive display with his second Manchester City goal too; one, which, wasn’t too dissimilar from his first a few weeks earlier.

Argentinean goal number 1
Zaba looked off-pace and continues to look like a player who has played more games than anyone else at the Club this season. The heart is still there but the power has (temporarily) gone - the summer shopping list must include a competing right-back. Despite his goal, his tiredness resulted in a few wayward passes last night in a 6/10 performance.

Silva was his usual, superb self and with the Spanish maestro back on the pitch, that seemed to make Nasri far more comfortable [than the Sunderland game] and had a good game too. Fernandinho was back in his deeper role and looked more settled also…and Garcia did ‘okay’ too it has to be noted.

Argentinean goal number 2
 
Dzeko was largely frustrating for me. He tried…but, and not for the first time, most things just didn’t come off for a player who seems to struggle with the basics of the game far too often. In fact in a match that we dominated I don’t recall him having a shot in anger. Fortunately Aguero looked much more himself and compensated for his strike partners’ lack of ability. Certainly not 100% but most definitely 85 to 90...

Argentinean goal number 3

Two concerns…


Of course the main one has to be David – we’re all holding our breath for reports. But rather than a serious injury [as it looked with him being stretchered off and all ‘strapped up’] I think he simply aggravated an already dodgy ankle. However, with only 4 games and 3 weeks remaining – and if my own, non-expert diagnosis is indeed correct – that still doesn’t bode too well for us and we may now have seen the last of him before the World Cup begins.

Update 2:10pm: Early indications are that David will be out for 2 weeks, meaning that he'll miss the next two games but should be available for the final two. Could have been worse...

Aguero too ‘pulled up’ during the second half and although he appeared to have run it off; it definitely took the edge of his game and, thankfully, he was withdrawn as a precaution I’m sure. Hopefully it was nothing serious and that 5-day’s-worth of TLC will see him at 90%+ for the Palace encounter on Sunday 27th April.

Jovetic looked lively again when he came on. When will he get a starting place? If Negredo continues to fall off the radar then surely Stevan is better than Edin.

Milner must be frustrated that Garcia gets a game ahead of him and will be even more concerned that Pellegrini is, I’m sure, in the market for an additional defensive midfielder and, possibly, a creative one too in the summer.

Reaction


 
A few days prior to last night’s game – and following a Library-like atmosphere at the Etihad against Sunderland – the crowd ‘reacted’ for the most part.

A few dozen responded to the Club’s invite to bring inflatables to ‘lighten the mood’ and most areas of the ground were far more vocal. Very much so for parts of the game and that’s why I was both surprised and disappointed to hear from my wife that the commentator on Sky Sports made special mention of the POOR atmosphere last night. I rather think those comments were delayed ‘band-wagon jumping’ after the Sunderland game and after a week, where, the Stamford Bridge fans were also slated for being quiet…

What is worth noting is the attendance. Not that I can find it anywhere on the WEB at the moment; something, which, is consistent with the notable lack of attendance announcement at the ground last night. It was pretty low - empty seats everywhere! In fact just beyond the 3 people to my right was a whole row of about 10 'empties'.

Putting a spin on it; even more credit to those who did create an atmosphere by putting the effort in to sing last night...

Hydro tanks, oxygen tents, lots of pasta & lean-chicken, vitamins, energy drinks…


Despite a mostly-decent performance from most of the lads last night, you could just sense – especially towards the last 20 minutes of the game – that they were ‘running on empty’ last night. That concerns me a little as we head to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Not only is Selhurst Park a caldron these days but the fans and players are on an adrenalin-fuelled high at the moment. Tony Pulis has got his team FIRING at the moment with 5 wins from 5; 4 clean sheets and 2 of those victories being very impressive ones against Chelsea and EvertonAT Everton. I don’t overstate our task when I say that, a tough trip to Goodison Park included, this game is the most difficult of our remaining 4 matches.

Indeed, though, we’re now facing 2nd and 3rd-placed teams, respectively, in the ‘league form’ table…

Our players need to be fully rejuvenated this week. What-EVER it takes to nurse our players’ aching limbs then just do it all City! If we can go into this game ‘fresh’ and reasonably strong personnel-wise (I’m hoping Navas & Toure MIGHT have a chance this Sunday) then with Aguero ‘back’ too; we’ll stand a fighting chance for sure.

We then have a full 6-recovery days before the next (very) stern test so we can afford to chuck ourselves into the Palace game 100% - anything less won’t be good enough anyway…

A quick word on Moyes / ‘them’…


 
So, the axe has fallen just 9-½ months after being ‘chosen’ by Sir Bacon Face. Like most Blues, I’m sure, I’m quite sad and disappointed; I was genuinely hoping he’d stay there for a few more seasons, doing as much damage as is humanly possible.

They’ll now go out at get a top Manager, I’m sure; spend lots of money in the summer and, playing ‘catch up’ as they will be [on ourselves, Chelsea and Liverpool], they might scrape 3rd or 4th next season...and may even win the League Cup - a piece of silverware a lot of their fans have ‘skitted’ about this season (for some strange reason).

Football can be a crazy game and, therefore…is it so crazy for me to suggest that Mourinho might 'kick up a fuss' and orchestrate a ‘split’ from Chelsea in the next few weeks; with a view to putting himself in the frame for a job that he has openly SCREAMED his desire for? God I hope so.

Why?

Well Mourinho is clearly a winner – jumping from job to job about every 4 years after he has…‘worked his magic’ - but he is also an ego-maniac who has no interest in building the youth structure or for the long-term in any way wherever he goes; an awful sour-face with no class whatsoever.

 

 
 
 
Perfect marriage made in heaven hell...

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Huh…it’s not just us. Over to Norwich…

Well, well, well. I’ve been slating our performance against Sunderland and the our own fan’s impression of a 90-minute sponsored silence and then this happens…


Copy (Black) Cats…


First there was this not long into this evenings game.

Then this.

And it’s left us with this.
 
With the customary sprinkling of this of course...

I’m certainly not getting re-energised about our chances of regaining the Premier League trophy but that battle for 2nd place has just taken a massive turn in our favour. BUT...c’mon The Canaries tomorrow (12-noon KO BST)!
 
And what about Crystal Palace! Beating West Ham United away today makes it 5 wins from 5; scoring 9 and keeping 4 clean sheets (conceding only 2 in their win a Everton)! Having to play both us and Liverpool at home; they have a HUGE say in the title race...

The scrap for 2nd-place starts here…

…and, worryingly, I’m not sure we’re up to it. Do our players have the fight in them anymore? Some of our players are certainly ‘committed’ but even those are looking more than a little battle weary. So much for the best squad in the league; something I’ve repeatedly refuted all season long…


Still smarting…


It’s been years since I’ve felt so let down and annoyed by City. I’ve been a season ticket / card hold now for 28 season and, in many ways, the game against Sunderland last Wednesday night hurt more than the many relegations I’ve had to endure. It’s not about my own personal and recent ‘raised expectations’; it’s simply the abject way in which the players and manager went about their business after the disappointment of our Anfield trip.

Where was the bouncebackability; where was the desire?

Where was the player ‘reaction’ like we had 2 seasons ago after we were beaten – and appeared to be dead ‘n’ buried – at Arsenal, only for us to pull our socks up and go full steam ahead for the remaining few games?

The only steam left, it would appear, is rapidly vaporising into the atmosphere.

Are some of them already on their summer holidays? Are some of them sulking at the possibility of not having an extension to their contracts and are facing a summer exit? Were [on Wednesday night] some of them resigned to having lost the league and were therefore, instead, saving themselves for their country’s up & coming World Cup campaigns? Are they just utterly exhausted from having battled on 4 fronts for so long this season? Your guesses are as good as mine.

For a slight insight, perhaps; if you’re a regular viewer of Manchester City’s ‘tunnel cam’ then look at the one against Sunderland. I think their faces [compared to how focused and determined they usually look] tells it’s own story.

A quick word on the crowd too…


Well a ‘quick word’ would be “bobbins!” But expanding on that a little…

I hate to say this after the classless display against us last Sunday but, when they WEREN’T being pillocks, Liverpool fans were immense in their support of their team – a caldron of vociferous support that helped push Liverpool over the line that day.

Forward wind to the Etihad just 3 days later and a match where our lads needed something of the same from City fans and what happened? Nothing. Apart, that is, from the 52nd to around the 57th minute when the South Standers tried, to their credit, to create something like a football atmosphere [as opposed to crown green bowling]; when they started a repeated chant of “Oh when the Blues go marching in…” for about 5 minutes.

As much as the players let us down, we also let them down badly. Through City Voice to name just one medium, Manchester City F.C. have TRIED to come up with ideas to improve crowd participation. But it would appear that they’re just shouting against the wind – they’re the only ones who ARE shouting really.

Addition / update (2:15pm): See what I mean...

So, W.B.A. up next…


With David Silva (ankle), Jesus Navas (ankle/foot) and Yaya Toure (muscular) all out, it’ll be an interesting line-up against The Baggies…and one, which, will be difficult to predict. But here goes…

4-3-2-1:

 _______________Negredo_______________
 


 
_______Jovetic____________Aguero_______


 
_____Nasri____Fernandinho____Milner_____


 


 
 

__________________Hart_________________

 

I’m sticking my neck RIGHT out here with, drum roll………THE CHRISTMAS TREE formation!

I’ve just got a strong feeling that Pellegrini will start with Jovetic for this one (rare) occasion and with the personnel that we have missing; I think he’ll deploy him in an advanced position in support of both the recovering Beauty and the faltering Beast.

He could, of course, stick him on the left wing and Stevan might well indeed drift over there from time to time; allowing Nasri to ‘tuck in’ and Milner to move over to the right in a more orthodox 4-4-2. It will be fluid I’m sure.

I like the look of this formation / personnel set-up too.

The increasingly scrutinised (once again) Hart keeps his place. I even had my flippin’ Window Cleaner and (never-goes) “red” giving me grief about Joe on my doorstep last night! Needless to say I defended Joe entirely and reminded him about Massimo Taibi

I would normal have suggested that, having been rested on Wednesday night, our manager will go with Clichy instead of Kolarov. But I just get the feeling that if he DOES go with this formation & personnel, he’ll want Kolarov’s more-attacking, wide support [with a narrow midfield 3]. I might be wrong on this one though.

Zabaleta looks completely SHATTERED but what do we have in reserve? A soon-to-be-departing and shadow of his former self Micah Richards. Beside, Zaba (and the others) will have had a full 5 days rest this time [unlike the 3 days after a hard game at Anfield].

Similarly I was going to suggest that Lescott might step in for the aging legs of Demichelis OR still-knee-sore Kompany. But I’ve gone for ‘same again’ hereLescott’s mind might now be on finding a house in Turkey

Nasri, Fernandinho & Milner in ‘as a three’ looks pretty good to me and should compensate for the lack of David & Yaya. As long as they are given definitive rolls this time; unlike last Wednesday where both Fernandinho & Nasri looked uncomfortable in-being asked to play out of position for most of the night.

I think the creative spark, skill and goal threat of Stevan will be just the tonic Alvaro and Sergio need and I can see that working very well.

Other than Edin, there’s not much on that bench attack-wise. Manuel might decide to pluck someone from the EDS and stick them in there in place of one of the more defensive players.

Result? Even I, after the huge disappointment of Wednesday night, can’t see City giving us a repeat of that horror show. Albion sure will be up for it; not only motivated by their own precarious position in the league but they’ll also will have been buoyed by Sunderland’s resulting efforts 5 days earlier.

But I’m going for a home win, although I can’t quite call the details on this one – it’ll either be an edgy, close affair or we’ll completely ‘muller’ ‘em!
 

Sad news



An acknowledgement of the very sad news that West Ham United's young striker Dylan Tombides lost his battle with cancer on 18th April 2014 at just 20 years of age. That puts things into perspective...

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Utterly abhorrent!

If I could think of a stronger word to describe the…“tactics” of our manager, the players’ performances and the majority of their attitudes this evening then I would use it.


Analysis……for what it’s now worth


Hart: Produced the worst kick-out early in the first half I’ve ever seen. Why? Because he was displaying the same, appalling, apathetic attitude the majority of the “team” were displaying for the majority of the game. 3/10

The whole defence had an appalling first half but…

Kolarov: Did little wrong, did little right. 5/10

Demichelis: Worked very hard and tried his hardest – his hardest is barely acceptable for the most part though. 5.5/10

Kompany: Clearly off-colour but did what he could all things considered. 5/10

Zabaleta: Not having adequate cover is finally taking it’s toll on our ‘rock’. Tried like crazy but he’s in need of a BIG vacation [and not a hard World Cup campaign]. 5.5/10

Fernandinho: Scored…but he’s a rapidly-fading force for some reason. Brazil? Huh, I don’t think so... 5/10

Garcia: If this slow, useless guy EVER plays for City again I will be amazed...and disgusted! 2/10

Nasri: He gets a few points for running around and trying and he can’t be at fault for the HUGE tactical errors of his manager. With Fernandinho, for some reason, being pushed SO far forward; Samir was forced to track-back and ‘fill in’ wherever he could; left, right and centre ‘mid’! He was, though, for the most part, completely ineffective as a result. 4.5/10

Milner: Played completely out of his better position [of centre midfield] but tried his hardest. 4.5/10

Negredo: Tried and produced some decent touches at times. But where has ‘the fire’ gone? 3/10

Aguero: Similar to Alvaro. 3.5/10

Subs…

Dzeko: Seriously…is this guy getting a new contract? Still…STILL can’t trap a ball! 1.5/10

Jovetic: For the time he was on the pitch, I’d have to say that he was about one of the better players. 6/10

Rodwell: Whatever… ?/10

Manuel Pellegrini: I’ve no idea what he was thinking. ‘The worker’, James Milner, put out on the wing and an utterly appalling Garcia helping Sunderland to dictate the midfield? Our…”Engineer” didn’t change ANYTHING until it was way, WAY too late and on Wednesday 16th April 2014 Manuel Pellegrini flushed any chance of us winning the league this season right down the toilet. 0/10

Crowd: Appallingly quiet. The guys behind me were actually discussing their summer holiday plans for large parts of the game! 0.5/10

Hyperlinks? Not bothering…

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Title blow at ‘classless’ Liverpool

A horrible 2nd half miss by David Silva, a ‘howler’ by our Captain along with some poor & inconsistent refereeing saw us slip-up at Anfield in a game, where, a draw would have been a fair result. But the glaring fact remains that we’re now reliant on other teams to do us (and themselves of course) a favour…


No class


As though it was pre-planned and most-certainly orchestrated for some bizarre reason; every time we had possession – huh…not often for much of the first half I will admit – almost every Liverpool supporter booed their hearts out. This puzzling behaviour continued into the second half but promptly ceased when we scored…and then scored again.

Not content with the peculiar treatment dished out to every Manchester City player, the home crowed then roundly applauded Jordan Henderson as he trudged off the field following a studs-up, red card in injury time. Yeah, that makes sense doesn’t it?.

But it wasn’t just inside the ground where the Liverpool fans displayed inexcusable behaviour on a day, supposedly, packed with emotion for ‘the 96’. On the way to the ground some Manchester City fans were attacked; bricks were thrown and windows smashed as minibuses and coaches made their way to the so-called iconic stadium.

Liverpool fans might point to the fact that they ‘clapped off’ Yaya as he hobbled off the pitch – yeah of course they did, they were glad to see the back of him after just 19 minutes of play!

 
After displaying perfect silence and having joined in impeccably with the pre-match ‘holding up of remembrance cards’; what DID we do to deserve their obvious aggression?

Game analysis


The beginning of a game fuelled by high emotions was always going to be high octane; we were always going to have to handle a 10-minute or so initial onslaught. But, having conceded IN those first ten minutes, we were slow to react and simply allowed Liverpool to dictate the next 20 minutes too. Having then gone 2-0 down to a fine Skrtel header, we woke up as their adrenalin subsided…but even then they could have gone 3-0 up before the break.

Their energy levels were never going to last into the second half; they were playing above themselves as they were carried by an Anfield crowd high on sentiment and passion, when they weren’t booing us that is…

So I fully expected a reaction from our lads and that’s what we got. Silva, who had largely be waiting for the ball to arrive in the first half as he was being played as a secondary striker, dropped deeper and, thankfully, got more involved. Once he did, he pulled the strings and got us going. BANG!  2 goals in 5 minutes and we were back!

And we were still buzzing as Silva came oh so very close to making it 2-3! IF ONLY!

Just as Liverpool owned the majority of the first half we possessed most of the second. Milner, who for me should have started this predictably high-energy game, made a huge difference. Then, THAT mistake from Kompany.

The Manchester Evening News gave a damning, cruel and unrealistic 5/10 for ‘our Skip’ in my opinion; they sighted his injury for his below-standard performance. I didn’t think his knee problem hindered his general play and the M.E.N.’s assessment that he was at fault for all 3 goals is way off the mark in my opinion.

Having been passed by the in-form Sturridge, Vinny was effectively one-on-one with the England striker (with Hart bizarrely tucked in behind him) and so you have to say ‘well done’ to the Liverpool man there I think. As for the second, there were 3 City men (Vinny included) close to Skrtel who ‘failed to deal’ with the corner for Liverpool to double their lead.

Okay, so Vinny then produced a terrible moment to forget (but he won’t of course – he’ll use that to drive himself on even further) but the error could hardly be blamed on his injury.

The rest of the defence did okay; perhaps Clichy didn’t have a very good game. I’m weary of talking about our left-sided flakiness…

As for ‘up front’, Dzeko just wasn’t in the game at all. Why would he be; just as much as this was a game custom-made for the highly mobile and energetic Milner; those 2 words simply don’t exist in Edin’s world and so this game was just NOT for him. Aguero clearly wasn’t going to be risked too soon and although much more mobile than the Bosnian; I suppose Negredo isn’t exactly ‘Mr nimble’ either. So I have to ask – and was asking on the day – what happened to Jovetic, who didn’t even make the bench? Please don’t tell me he’s injured again.

Of course you can’t pack the bench with forwards – Dzeko to start, Aguero, Negredo and Jovetic wouldn’t have left too much else in reserve. But that's why, if Aguero wasn’t fit to start, there was a good case to play the more-mobile Montenegrin forward just in front of Silva.

But I suppose it’s all ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs’…and hindsight is a wonderful thing of course.

Aguero’s contribution? He was on the pitch 27 minutes, had no shots and touched the ball just 5 times. One of those touches did set up Silva but, as I’ve bemoaned, the Spaniard just didn’t finish it.

The ref was poor. Suarez should have walked early on in the game for repeated offences after his early yellow and we had penalty claims (including a replay-clear handball) turned down. But then again so did they…


C’mon the rest!


So, I have to demean myself now – as do we all – and look to Liverpool’s remaining 4 fixtures to see who might take points from them; giving us a chance, once again, to regain our Premier League trophy from Manyoo.

Norwich City (A) – Sunday 20th April 2014:


At first glance, 2 wins in the last 10 games as well as being the lowest scorers in the league doesn’t bode too well for them (nor us) in taking anything from this game. But there are some encouraging signs to [desperately?] cling on to.

1. Norwich dangle just 2 points above the relegation zone and so that alone is motivation to raise their game. Another motivational factor is that a win, depending on results the previous day, could lift them 3 places to 14th – a huge psychological boost!

2. Following the recent and bizarrely-timed dismissal of Chris Hughton, they have a highly motivated, stand-in Manager in the form of former youth-team Coach, Neil Adams; a man who stated that he’s been ‘chomping at the bit’ to take the reigns of the first team for a long time.

His first two games have seen 2 defeats but, I would add, both have been very close one-nil reverse scorelines against relegation-threatened rivals. In fact, the weekend defeat at Craven Cottage saw Norwich get 55% of the possession; they equalled Fulham’s 14 shots and got one more shot on target than the home side.

3. It’s a 12-noon kick off. Although, of course, Liverpool will be staying at a ‘locale’ close to the ground the night before, very early kick-offs don’t often favour the away side. I don’t know what it is but it can often be an upsetting factor (I told you I might sound desperate here).

4. They held us to a draw. Although we enjoyed a whopping 68% of possession and had 15 shots to their 7, they defended like lions [and not canaries]; reducing us to just 2 shots on target of those 15. I recall the frustrating game clearly; not only did they defend very well, they had – and wasted – great chances to take all 3 points! After 90-odd minutes I recall being reasonably happy with the point gained...

It might have been 10 league games ago and under a different Manager but if they can do that to us, surely they can repeat it against the Scousers!

A draw is all we need to get a chink in their armour…

Chelsea (H) – Sunday 27th April:


Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t do mind games. Yeah right. Although he didn’t mention them by name in the Liverpool, pre-match conference; there was certainly an inference that it was Chelsea being referred to when he stated that he hopes it’s an exciting, attacking team who wins the Premier League [and not them].

Over to you Mourinho

This is about the best chance we can hope for of Liverpool dropping points and, at the risk of me repeating myself, we only need them to draw [and not necessarily lose this one].

Crystal Palace (A) – Monday 5th May:


I say the Chelsea game is the biggest chance we can hope for of Liverpool dropping points but this one is CERTAINLY no easy game. Only 1 defeat in 5 league games and having won the last 3 games by scoring 5 and conceding none; certainly at home The Eagles are now a force under Tony Pulis. Just ask Chelsea

AT home – and like Liverpool had - they have their own 12th man in the form of the crowd; they make an awful but brilliantly orchestrated din! The only problem is, we have to go there too…

Newcastle United (H) – Sunday 11th May:
 
 
Well something good for us had better happen in the previous 3 fixtures because this one is surly a shoo-in for the home side. I don’t need to say anything else on this game…

Other factors in our favour


Ever-present midfielder Jordan Henderson is now suspended for 3 games; the 3 more-difficult ones too. As for Sturridge, who limped off clutching his hamstring, there’s no firm news as I type this. But ‘hammies’ being as they are; that COULD, indeed, see him miss the remainder of the season.

Ya-YAAGH!


We’ve got our own injury concerns though. Whether it’s his hamstring or his groin; Toure left the field of play after just 19 minutes. Once again there are no firm reports as this Blog-entry goes out but that could well have been his last kick of a ball this season too.

And although he played out the full 95 minutes, I’m sure Vinny was playing with pain killers on Sunday. We’ll see…

Next up…


So, as fruitless as it might now seem (OF COURSE IT ISN’T!) we take on the first of our two ‘games in hand’ tomorrow night. Whipping boys and relegation-doomed Sunderland come to the Etihad and they just cannot be looking forward to it at all.

Ironically, if we’d gotten some kind of result against Liverpool then I might be waving a flag of warning [of complacency] against these. This, after all, is also THEIR first [of two] games in hand over their relegation-threatened neighbours.

 
The last time we attempted to play this fixture a terrible storm forced officials to postpone the game an hour or so before kick-off. I think Sunderland can expect a different kind of climatic event on Wednesday night. With no wins in 8 (losing 7 and drawing 1) and with our lads wanting to get that 3-2 out of our system ASAP; I can’t see anything other than a emphatic win for City.

This is how I think he’ll set up to do it…

4-4-2

__________Negredo____________________

____________________Aguero___________

 
 

Nasri_____________________________Silva

_________Milner_____Fernandinho________

 

Kolarov___Demichelis___Kompany___Zabaleta

 

 
__________________Hart_________________
 

Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Lescott, Garcia, Navas, Jovetic, Dzeko

Back comes the 4-4-2 and back comes Beauty and The Beast! Never will there be a better time to attempt to reignite the forward fire than this game.

Moving backwards then…

With Yaya out for this game at least (I’m sure), surely Milner gets his place. And although our manager could well stick him out on the right wing I’m hoping he sees sense and puts him where he’s best. That would mean Silva would have to move out to his slightly-less-effective wing position but it’ll be a fluid system I’m sure; he and Nasri will 'float around' and will get the support of Kolarov and Zabaleta at home to 'this lot'.

At home, the back 4 and the goalie pick themselves (I’m assuming Vinny is going to be okay of course).

Strong attacking options on the bench if required.

Result? I’ve already stated my predicted outcome. Perhaps we have to be slightly wary of them playing either with a ‘final push’ of determination [to survive] or an almost resigned, ‘free-abandon’ - both are dangerous. But we should be able to take these with enough effort and desire to win ourselves.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

It’s the big one! This is how I see it…

Win it and the title is ours for the taking. Get a draw…likewise. Lose our clash at Anfield and it’s certainly not over…but it probably will be if they-then beat Chelsea on 27th April. I don’t like the last scenario very much…


'Strengths' are in our favour


Let’s get the obvious out of the way, Liverpool have amazing strength in attack. It’s not just SAS – Suarez & SturridgeCoutinho & Stirling add a certain potency from the wings too.

Is their attack any better than ours? Well the ‘goals for’ in the Premier League column does suggest that it’s ever so slightly better. But if we add goals from ‘all competitions’ in there, I bet we blow them out of the water!

All in all, I suppose it’s about the same…although I will make a strong point of mentioning that a certain Sergio Aguero has missed a whopping 14 Premier League games and only played bit-parts / half-games in a further 4. That means that he’s only played the majority of 13 league games of 31 so far!

So, ‘forward lines’ put aside, this is where we leave Liverpool trailing in our wake, in my opinion.

Have we had a few defence concerns throughout the season? Of course we have. We’ve had the left-back dilemma all season, something, which, isn’t going to go away until we sign at least 1 class left-back. And we’ve had the ‘Demichelis debate’ for what seems like the last 6 months now. In fact, despite his MUCH improved performances and growing partnership with Kompany, there are a few concerned Blues faces out there when they look at the pace of Suarez pitched against his much older, South American cousin this Sunday afternoon.

But if our defence has been under scrutiny then what about Liverpool’s? The ‘against’ column in the Premier League shows them to have conceded 11 more goals than us (albeit they’ve played 2 more games than we have) and have kept just 10 clean sheets from 33 games, against our 13 clean sheets from a fewer 31 games.

Then there’s the midfield. For all his past successes, great performances and penalty-taking exploits; does an almost 34-year old Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and ex-Swansea City Joe Allen really match up equally to Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, David Silva & Samir Nasri etc? Do they ‘eckers like! And this, not for the first time [against most opponents], is where we’ll truly break away from Liverpool and can come away from Anfield with something.

Last meeting…


Aside from some excellent defending in our 2-1 victory over Liverpool at the Etihad in December, it was the quality of our midfield in my opinion that won it for us, not to mention the strength in numbers in a 4-5-1 home formation.

Not only did we, in general, cut off the supply to a very frustrated Uruguayan striker; we counteracted anything their similarly-compact midfield could throw at us that day; as they played Suarez up front on his own with a counter-attacking midfield behind him - Coutinho scoring the opener and Liverpool’s only goal…

And this, in my opinion, is where they’ll fail even more-so…unless Brendan Rodgers is even MORE ‘on the ball’ than I already give him credit for. The reason? Sturridge wasn’t fit for the Boxing Day, Etihad encounter and so 4-months-on and dozens of goals later; who could blame the Liverpool boss for wanting to play both SAS at home against us?

I hope he does…because that will fall straight into our hands!

Straight into our hands, that is, unless Pellegrini has something similar planned, which, in my opinion, could backfire on him (and us). Of course it’s tempting to play both fit-again Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo together – for SAS also read Beauty and The Beast. Early-week reports stated that our manager was planning an all-out attack on Liverpool and that’s all well ‘n’ good; Liverpool do have that afore-mentioned creaky defence of course.

But if we want to have a serious chance of getting something out of this pivotal game then, again in my opinion, we need to ‘compact’ that midfield with attacking players again.

The only quandary in doing this is…just how fit-again is Sergio? Because, of course, if we do go something like a 4-5-1 / 4-2-3-1 against Liverpool and our Argentinean Battleship is ready for a starting place; why would he NOT get chosen ahead of goal-drought-victim Negredo and (even) in-form Dzeko?

But could he stand up to the rigours of going from no games in 8 to the fiery caldron of a vital, top-of-the-table clash at Anfield? That would concern me a little…

Decisions, decisions…


Okay, so from midfield upwards Pellegrini’s attacking plan could look like this:

4-5-1:

_______________Aguero_______________
 



 
____________Silva____________________

Nasri___________________________Navas
______________________Toure__________
_________Fernandinho_________________

Pretty potent, if not a little on the vulnerable-looking side with, mostly, Fernandinho left to help out the defence.

Or he could satisfy his attacking wish / instinct and really go for it, with…

4-1-3-2:

__________________Negredo____________

 
____________Aguero___________________

 
 

Nasri____________Toure_____________Silva

 
______________Fernandinho______________


Again, looks pretty good and would CERTAINLY put them on the ‘back foot’ in many ways.

Personally, I think I’d like to see this:

4-2-3-1:

_______________Aguero_______________

 
 

 
Nasri___________Toure____________Silva
 

________Milner_______Fernandinho______
 

Yeah…I’ve gone for the, “risk”, of using Sergio up front on his own and the combo of Milner and Fernandinho ‘sitting in there’ might also look a little unambitious in a way.

But WITH those two in there and doing the dirty, sweeping-up and harassing work; Sergio would have the almost-uninterrupted support of Samir, Yaya and David…and THAT’S priceless!

There’s a decent argument too for using Jovetic in this one but, then again, there are SO many options and formulas that I could spend a full day on it (probably driving myself mad!)

Step forward ‘The Engineer’


This is Anfield...
 
This is what he was brought in for; these are the title-deciding games where his decisions will count more than ever. And I think the seemingly-unflappable one will come through for us too; I also think this is what he’ll go with…

4-1-4-1:

_______________Aguero_______________

 

 
 
Nasri___________________________Navas
__________Toure_______Silva___________
 


_____________Fernandinho_____________


Clichy___Demichelis__Kompany___Zabaleta
 

 

________________Hart_________________


Subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Lescott, Milner, Jovetic, Negredo, Dzeko

Hart, Demichelis, Kompany & Zabaleta set in stone. I think he’ll go for the more-defensively-solid Clichy over Kolarov, who gets a place on the bench.

Fernandinho, hopefully, to have a better game than his apparent-niggley injury allowed him to have against Southampton…and then a colossal supporting 4 behind the returning Argentinean Assassin!

A very much attack-minded bench, with also Lescott available if needed and Milner for his defensive, attacking, energy and much-determined endeavours if required too.

Result? I think we can take these. We might concede but, as the old adage goes; you score one and we’ll score two. And I think we'll do just that.

There are goals in this one for sure…but more in our game-‘for’ column than theirs at the end of the match I think. My main concern? Penalty decisions to the home side…

Strap yourselves in!