Sunday, 20 August 2017

A contender?




I certainly think Everton are in terms of a ‘top-4’ finish at least this season.


Spent very well so far.


A new, young, English keeper; a young, English central defender, 2 creative, goal-scoring midfielders, a young, promising, Spanish striker and a new-old-boy, secondary striker in the form of Wayne Rooney are just some of the additions The Toffees have made in the last few weeks…additions, that is, to a more-than-decent squad of players already. Decent manager at the helm too.

Can anyone seriously rule these out from finishing in the top-4? Perhaps even giving some teams a run for their millions for the title?

Well I never decide my league-finishing predictions until after the summer transfer window closes (blog-posting coming soon on that / no point yet as teams still have chances to be weakened whilst others strengthen) but I will have to give serious consideration about our Monday night’s opponents finishing higher than last season’s 7th place; especially if their new signings ‘gel quickly’ and it all ‘clicks’ nicely into place.

And looking at tomorrow night; couple all of that with the fact that the Merseyside Blues often hang a bogey sign over us and it all makes for one hell of a scrap for points in the last of the Premier League games of the “weekend” (Monday - 8:00pm KO BST).

v Everton


Etihad Stadium


Predicted line-up, subs and outcome
(Number correct from starting line-up in the last game: 10/11).

3-5-1-1:

____________________Aguero____________________




_____________________Jesus____________________




_________D. Silva_____________De Bruyne________


Danilo_______________Toure_______________Walker



________Otamendi___Kompany___Stones__________




____________________Ederson___________________


Ederson to continue in net; Nicholas, Vinny & John in front of him.

The only player I got wrong last time, which was a shock exclusion for me, I’m sure will get his place back to face The Toffees - Yaya sitting in front of the 3 central defenders and flanked, I think, by Danilo & Kyle in the left & right-wing-back positions.

Same quartet (same predicted starting 11 from last weekend in fact) of further attacking players in David, Kevin, Gabriel & Sergio.

Claudio as reserve keeper; Eliaquim finding himself as back-up defender on the side (who’d have thought that a few months back?). Fernandinho to step down to the bench and likely to be joined by fellow central midfielder, Phil. Three attacking optional changes then in the form of Leroy, Bernardo & Raheem.

Notable absences: Benjamin Mendy, Fabian Delph & Ilkay Gundogan are all on their way back from various injuries - both brief & long-term - with all three not-being far away from a return.

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



I have to say, after initial doubts, that I’m starting to like the look of it and, so…yes. However, equally I hope that if we need to change things we do so as early as we can / need to; by bringing on at least one of our expensive, attacking players for a defender on ‘home soil’.

Result? Well I’ve quite rightly heaped praise aplenty on our opponents in today’s blog-posting and I do also often have that slightly nervy edge whenever we have to face ‘em.

But I’m glad we’re playing them now WHILE they’re building their new-look team and their many new signings are all still ‘settling in’…and I’m equally glad that Everton were forced to play last Thursday in the Europa League and again this-coming Thursday in the same competition / return leg.

We’re at home; our first home game of the season and with a squad packed-full of terrific talent and very few injuries. All things considered – and there is a lot to contemplate there - I’m going for a home win and, therefore, 6 points from 6 ‘on the board’.

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


Importance match notice – get there early & travel light!


MCFC have often requested that attending fan get to the turnstile at least 1 hour before KO, especially in the last season or two following increase terrorist attacks. However, this latest issuing of that same request for the Everton game (and likely to be every game this season at least) comes with extra guidance.

-       GATE 7 at the Etihad will no longer be in use for any home football matches.

-       Turnstile access will be limited to ‘just your one’! Seriously…check your Season Card(s) and you’ll see that the choice of two spirals for access have been reduced to just yer one.

-       Bag size restrictions have been introduced – a bag cannot now be larger than 16.5 x 12 x 6.5 inches and there will be a ‘bag-drop zone’ for those bags deemed too large to be taken inside!

-       In general, security will be ‘rammed up’ for tomorrow tonight’s game and, most likely, until further notice.

Personally, I’ve already told friends who I’m attending with that I intend to get there 1-hour, 15-minutes before KO; get in, grab a beer or two, hang over the wall and see how things go / what carnage will take place (I feel sorry for those who are working far away and can’t get to the ground until around 7:30 / 7:45m)!

I usually take a rucksack too, which is now too large going off those dimensions stipulated by the club. Even a smaller one that I’ve found is ‘pushing it’ a little and so I’m gonna go ‘empty handed’ tomorrow night and see just what is and isn’t getting through…

Jonny &…Larry?


Any football fan or pundit who could foresee a possible link between Manchester City and ex-Manyoo player and lifelong Manyoo fan, Jonny Evans, is either a liar-liar, bum’s on fire or a football-studying genius!

More than just ‘a link’; as I type this we have made – and have had refused – an £18M bid for the West Bromwich Albion Captain and are, apparently, lining up an improved £25M approach. However, the Baggies seem to be suggesting that it would take something even closer to £30M for the 29-½ year-old…and that they don't want / need to sell one of their best players.

Are you Manyoo, you?
Well I certainly didn’t see it coming but it didn’t take me long to see what huge sense it would make to land the 61-cap, Northern Ireland international. And I said so in a text to a friend & fellow Blue last Friday, sighting that Jonny can…

-       Play as a partner in a central ‘back 2’
-       Play ‘left of a 3’
-       Cover comfortably-enough at left-back (has done before)
-       ‘Step up’ and cover as a defensive midfielder (has done before)

…and has bags of experience in all competitions, where he’s a multi-medal winner.

If (when?) Kompany gets injured or just needs a rest; this fella would be the perfect addition to ‘babysit’ the likes of Stones, Otamendi (& Mangala?).

That’s one “possible”…but here’s another one who has “just signed”.

Larry is the name…well it’s better than calling him by his full name of, Tobi Olarenwaju Ayobami Kayode. Who? Exactly…and another one loaned straight out to Girona FC for the season; a club City are looking to-almost-half-purchase (just less than 50%) with Pep’s Brother, Pere, hoping to do likewise.

As one City fan put it the other week on one of the many fan forums out there, after we purchased and then loaned Douglas Luiz to the same Spanish club; it all smells just a little bit like nepotism going on. And we’ve probably peed off Newcastle United in the process too, as it was reported they were ready to purchase the 24-year old Nigerian forward for this season’s Premier League campaign.

Oh, I'm going straight out over there...

I suppose we’ve seen this before with FC Twente and a number of Chinese & Australian clubs; not to forget New York City too of course.

And this Girona one does seem a little more promising with, as I say, rumours that we’ll almost own 50% of the newly promoted La Liga Club. Sprinkle the Spanish, top-division side with a number of City-owned players on loan and those who ‘shine’ might get a crack at the first team back in Manchester and for those that don’t? At least they will have had valuable experience at a very good level of football and will be a ‘sellable asset’ at least.

Enjoy the game…and hopefully result!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Whilst all challengers were leaking…



…like a big leaky thing in the market town of Leek on Friday & Saturday; we produced a solid, organised and professional display to ease past new-comers Brighton.


What a start to the Prem!


I personally think the last 2 seasons at least have been very unpredictable both scoreline and club-finishing-position-wise but…what the hell was going on at the weekend (Friday included)?!

We started with a 7-goal thriller as Arsenal shipped in 3 goals at home only to finally overcome Leicester City 4-3 and in a game with almost as many goals; the next match saw Watford share a 3-3 draw with visitors Liverpool!

Not enough excitement for you? Try Chelsea being 0-3 down at home to Burnley; seeing 2 of their players sent off before pulling it back to an eventual 2-3 defeat – just your 5 goals there…

Huddersfield Town, back in the ‘top flight’ for the first time in 45 years, slammed 3 past hosts Crystal Palace and kept a clean sheet to go top of the table as things stand right now!

Huh…shame on Southampton & Swansea City, then, for producing a 0-0 draw and on Everton & West Bromwich Albion also; who could “only” manage 1-0 home wins against Stoke City & AFC Bournemouth respectively…

So where do we stand in that mixed bag of ‘week 1’?


I think that puts us somewhere ‘in between’ in our opening match – we didn’t exactly light up the stage and as time ticked along without breaching the home side’s many defensive walls, there was a level of anxiety from the watching City fans in the pub I was in that appeared to be shared on Pep’s face, as the camera increasingly focused on the Spaniard in the second half.

We were efficient & well organised; pushing the home side further and further back into their own half, where they appeared to start in a 5-3-2 and later switched to a 6-3-1 as we increased the almost endless pressure.

But we did it in a plodding, slow-passing way for large parts and we also looked a little lopsided. No slight meant on new signing Danilo - who had a very good pre-season on both flanks of the defence - but he struggled in an attacking sense yesterday, I thought. No issues in-him defending and he is far less one-footed than the recently-departed Aleks Kolarov. But he clearly isn’t comfortable ‘whipping them in’ with his left foot; as he constantly had to 'check' his run to turn and tap the ball inside with his right peg yesterday. That slowed any attack we tried to muster down that side of the pitch.

Fernandinho did okay in a protecting, breaking-up role but he’s no Yaya with regards to killer passes on the ‘front foot’. I think we missed the Ivorian in that respect on Saturday evening and, together with the other aspects of our game that I’ve mentioned, we almost paid the price early in the second half; as The Seagulls came close on two occasions to-taking the lead.

Kyle Walker - a crackin' competative debut
But the other flank was a completely different story. Kyle Walker had a terrific, MotM performance game both defending and in attack and once Kevin De Bruyne decided to join the party, the pair caused havoc! If only Kevin could do that for 70% of games and not just 30 or 40% of the time…

Gabriel Jesus - effort aplenty
We still seem to struggle to stick the ball in the net – a real issue from last season despite the creation we had in 2016 / 17 and still have in the side – but it’s not through want of trying.

And, as I alluded to in my first blog-posting of the season on Friday, it does concern me a little that we’re leaving on the bench the likes of Leroy Sane & Bernardo Silva (and Yaya) in favour of 3 central defenders and 2 defender wing-backs when, as happened yesterday, we often struggled to crack the oppo’s defence for 70 minutes of the contest. I’m confident, however, that things will look different once fitness & sharpness properly ‘kicks in’ and when we get flying left-wing-back Benjamin Mendy over his niggle and in the side.

And, I think and would hope, we’ll be quicker to make subs at home in certain games to a 4-4-2 / 4-5-1 when required also.

Cracked 'em! Aguero gives City the lead after a terrifc move.
 
As for yesterday at the Amex Stadium, we ‘got there in the end’ and I bet the likes of Chelsea & Liverpool would snap our hand off to swap 3 points and a clean sheet with us!

3 points, clean sheet, no injuries, job done. And didn’t we look good in maroon? We finally look like ‘City away’.

Next?

Estadi Montilivi

City are off to Spain for 4 days now for some (VERY) warm weather training and a recently-arranged friendly against Girona. With the Everton home game being pushed to a Monday night (8:00pm BST) it’s given City time to fly off and play against one of our ‘sister clubs’.

I’m off on holiday myself tomorrow for 5 days but should be back in time to pop a pre-Everton blog-posting on.

Thanks, as always, for reading and I’ll see you soon.