Tuesday, 28 October 2014

‘Stick or twist’ in this now-much-more important game.

I more than suggested it in my post-horror-show Blog posting last Sunday; Pellegrini has to decided whether to give his ramshackle players from the weekend ‘another go’.

The alternative, of course, would be to give a run-out to some other players and then, as for the ‘offenders’ of the sham against West Ham; treat them to extra training sessions and make them watch videos of themselves all-week-long before ‘the derby’.


A case for ‘going again’ with the same against Newcastle


I’m going to have to play two people here – I don’t run my Blog with anyone else…

Mr ‘Blue’:

This back-line (goalkeeper included) needs time together. Although with the punishing league & cup fixture list and high intensity of the Premier League there’s little room for ‘bedding in’ etc., every professional will tell you, I’m sure, that a ‘unit’ needs to be given the opportunity to gel together – and you don’t get that if you continually ‘chop ‘n’ change’.

Starting with your keeper - he needs to bond with the whole back line but, in particular you’d think, with the two fellas in the middle / right in front of you.

Kompany, for the most part, is the ‘glue’ for our defence and we all ‘suck up air’ whenever he takes a knock and might be out for a few weeks. Hart must start and with regards to our Captain; although my instinct in a home League Cup game just before a derby would be to rest / protect Vinny; he needs another run out alongside our new purchase.

Pellegrini, in fact, spent an initial £31.8M on Eliaquim Mangala as a long-term partner of ‘our skip’ and was, like the rest of us, hoping this would prove to be one of the most envious defensive partnerships in the Premier League. It’s that, “time”, thing again; WITH time I think we can all see that this combo of Vinny & Eliaquim will work very well but while it’s (slowly) developing we’re getting hurt badly.

But it won’t get fixed if they don’t spend time together and not just on the training ground; both need another go at getting it right before they face the likes of Robin Van Persie, Juan Mata, Angel Di Maria and possibly, if they recover, Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao. Mangala to ‘face up’ against the Geordies.

Although we brought in the highly experienced and capable Bacary Sagna to support / compete with our Zaba; this case lends itself for me to repeat the same. To create that ‘bond’ Pablo needs to put another shift in tomorrow. Sorry mate…

Huh…now here it comes - the left-back slot. I could bleat on for ages…but I won’t. In fact I’ll keep it brief. The lesser of the two evils is, for me, Gael Clichy who CAN be very good and is, on the whole, a better defender on the left than Aleksandar Kolarov. Same applies as with the others; Gael should keep his place in ‘the unit’ for this one.

Moving up the pitch…


For ‘back 4’ read ‘back 5’. Again, and similarly, our Engineer brought in Mangala’s teammate, Fernando, from Porto to protect all behind him (as well as to ‘break up’ and supply the more attacking midfielders of course). Huh…perhaps our manager had a vision and knew that the defence would NEED protecting

But, early injury fully taken into account, it just hasn’t worked out for the most part so far at least. Like his ex-Porto colleague our ‘Octopus’ has shown flashes of why we spent millions on him…but that’s about it. And apart from, in my opinion anyway, only having James Milner who could do a similar job; the likes of Fernandinho & Yaya just aren’t up to this kind of ‘dirty work’. Oh for a Nigel de Jong

No, Fernando has to make this slot ‘his’; we have little choice anyway. He has to ‘go again’ on Wednesday night.

That’s the ‘meat’ of it really but, of course, I’ll skim over the more attacking side before tomorrow nights cup clash.

Like Zabaleta and Milner, Navas could run almost all season. He had a poor one against The Hammers and so could do with a home, confidence-building rampage against The Magpies. Navas on the right.

Contrastingly to Jesus, James made some difference in the short time he was on and so should get a start.

‘To Yaya’ or not ‘to Yaya’. Like the defence, I feel as though he needs to ‘find’ himself and his stride again…and you don’t do that by not playing. He needs to pick off a few teams back-to-back and it should start with Newcastle tomorrow night.

Silva is the only midfielder I would rest / protect tomorrow night. He makes us ‘tick’ and can tear teams apart when he’s as ‘on blob’ as he is at the moment (aside from a couple of wobbly passing moments against Spurs and CSKA). It would be a real shame (and disaster) not to give him the opportunity to rip into the reds on Sunday because of a niggle (or worse) picked up in the League Cup and so don’t risk it Manuel!

Fernandinho needs a run out, we should consider picking him instead.

Similar Aguero – we want him fit and raring to go on Sunday. Don’t pick him either boss.

I’m still so disgusted with Dzeko’s lack of effort on Saturday I wouldn’t pick him either. I would, however, give Jovetic a go and although I’m suggesting here that he play the lone striker role then so be it; I’d rather go 4-6-0 than play the Bosnian!

The case for ‘all change’


Mr ‘Maroon’:

I’ll quickly start with the keeper. Forget what Mr Blue said about the need to keep a familiar back-line together; if Willy Caballero can’t get a game at home in the League Cup then when the ‘ell WILL he ever get a game? He too needs time in a competitive game because, trust me, we’ll regret it when he’s called upon to face some tough opposition in the Premier League and is found ‘wanting’.

Right, the defence itself…

Train, train, train, watch a DVD of past games / mistakes, train, train, watch some more DVDs, play a behind-closed-doors game, analyse that game, train a bit more and then rest before the ‘big game’ on Sunday.

That’s what Hart, Clichy, Mangala, Kompany, Zabaleta and Fernando need to do this week; NOT play in the League Cup before the derby! Get it sorted and then pitch ‘the wall’ against Manyoo.

Kolarov, Demichelis, Boyata & Sagna across the back for this one.

Right, the rest…

Milner to ‘sit in the middle’ and practice the Fernando role. In front of him? Sinclair, Lampard, Toure & Navas behind Jovetic. Job done.

Don’t you think Mr Maroon sounds a bit more forthright than Mr Blue?

 

v Newcastle United


Okay, this is difficult one to predict but here’s what I THINK Pellegrini will go with against The Toon.

4-4-2:

____________________Dzeko__________

 
__________Jovetic___________________

 
 

Milner_________________________Navas

_______Fernandinho__Lampard________
_____________________Toure__________

 
Kolarov___Mangala___Kompany___Sagna
 

 

_______________Caballero______________

 
Subs: Hart, Clichy, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Toure, Silva, Nasri, Aguero

UPDATE (29.10.2014): Frank Lampard not fit / available.

Starting at the back…

I DO think he’ll give Willy a go here; otherwise I think the Argentine will start to ask questions of his long-time associate of why he was brought to Manchester City if he doesn’t.

I’m going for ‘The Engineer’ to realise that the central two pairing need to ‘work the problem’ but, sadly for me at least, I think he’ll undermine that a little and will rotate the wide defenders (no disrespect to them – just thinking of the ‘continuity thing’).

I don’t know, as I type this, but I’m guessing that Lampard might be fit enough for a starting place. And with our Manager most likely going for a 4-4-2; he might feel a little overwhelmed too. Having said that, Milner might ‘tuck in’ and make a midfield 3 with Fernandinho and with Jovetic then out wider left; that’ll provide a 3-pronged attack with Navas and Dzeko.

It’s a tough one to call this one considering our recent questions marks…

Hart on the bench (not sure about the fitness of Richard Wright); Clichy, Zabaleta and Demichelis as back up. Toure as an impact player / game changer (likewise Aguero for this one) and Nasri, I understand, is fit to resume and so might get a run out from the bench.

Result? Huh…well, like QPR just before we play them; Newcastle seem to have their ‘tails up’. However, I’m sure Pardew wants Premier League survival far, FAR more than any kind of cup run and so I’m going for him to drop a few of his better players ahead of their early KO on Saturday against Liverpool.

It’ll be jittery, it’ll be a bit awkward-looking at times with the mixture of players that he might throw-in together but at home – and having had a ‘talking to’ since the West Ham game no doubt – we’ll stride on towards the quarter finals of this competition. It’s a City win.

Hyperlinks to be finishing in a bit…

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Halloween came early!

All Hallows’ Eve – All over the place!

That has to be the worse defensive display I’ve seen from a Manchester City side…certainly in the last decade.


Blame


Managers don’t like to do it and, for the most part these days, players are also very diplomatic when asked questions following games etc; preferring to, understandably, keep things ‘in house’. I’m neither a player nor a manager…

 
I’ll absolve Hart & Zabaleta who, under the circumstances of having to almost defend alone yesterday, did what they could – particularly Zabaleta who was straining every sinew in order to try and almost single handily hold things together.

I was almost at the point of being disgusted with Vincent Kompany’s behaviour yesterday and how the heck he stayed on the pitch I will never know! For a Captain he should have used his still CLEARLY obvious frustrations following the midweek game in Russia and used them in a different way. He was petulant to say the least and could quite easily have put us in an even more vulnerable situation at Upton Park yesterday. Sort your head out before next weekend Vinny mate…

Regular readers will know that I’ve been banging on for over 18 months or more about the need for us to sign a quality left back and I was very sad not to see us do so this summer-gone. However, my wish for new blood in this area of the team was mostly, I have to admit, due to my doubts about Aleksandar Kolarov as a defender.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Gael Clichy is absolutely ‘TOP quality’ but I’ve always felt more comfortable with him back there than Aleks. But yesterday…jeeeze! What a ‘mare he had!

And finally (for the defence at least)…did we sign two Eliaquim Mangalas in the summer and, if so, why did we only play the good one against Chelsea? Perhaps he’s an identical twin and he sometimes fancies a few days off (far too many for my liking so far).

Where do I start? Unlike his assured, Rolls Royce performance against Jose’s men at the Etihad on his debut, he’s since looked SO out of sorts it’s embarrassing! Partnerships do, sometimes, take time to ‘bed in’ of course and in the unforgiving Premier League and general fast-paced fixtures list I’m not sure what the answer is.

I have seen enough of him at Porto, in that debut against The Pensioners and in brief flashes in other games to believe that we have signed a high-quality defender and I do have to remind myself that he joined us very late on; has never played in England before and is (only?) 23 ½. But crikey that was a 3/10 performance if ever I saw one; despite improving slightly as the game wore on. I’ll just leave it at that if you don’t mind…

As for the rest


A 'Worldy' from our maestro...
Our Octopus continues looks like one out of water; clearly floundering like his ex-Porto teammate to adjust to life in the Premier League.

Navas was frustratingly ineffective yesterday.

Toure is still not finding his feet; showing once again only very brief glimpses of last season’s footballing monster within.

Aguero did pretty well and CERTAINLY made his presence know in the first half at least.

Silva was quite brilliant again and scored a WORLD class goal.

Just give me a decent strike partner...PLEASE!
And then we have Dzeko. Oh my…

On a day where the defence quite rightly gets the most scrutiny & slating and on a day where I, at least, give Mangala a damming 3/10 rating; not even by his low standards did I ever think I’d be giving a lower score to someone not in the back 4 yesterday.

On the M.E.N.’s interactive rating system I gave him a non-knee-jerk reaction “2” this morning but have, since, been asking myself how the hell he deserves such a high score. What did he contribute to receive 2 marks?

Not for a couple of seasons have I seen a forward show such a lack of interest in playing for Manchester City and if there IS, indeed, an attitude and lack of conviction, motivation and determination from some of the players in the camp then Edin encapsulates that just perfectly.

In some ways, Edin has becoming our new Mario Balotelli but without the silly hats and training bib tricks etc.


How can he be so ‘up for it’ on a cold night in Russia but not in yesterday’s almost perfect playing conditions? This fella continues to baffle the hell out of me to the point of wanting to scream! And with us only having Aguero and Jovetic following the departure of Negredo in the summer, I don’t even have to ask the question – we simply CAN’T carry the Bosnian any longer.


With a resigned sigh I say…

But, no doubt, he’ll bang a goal or two in during a crucial part of a crucial game or two; will prove to be the ‘match winner’ on occasions and will, once again, win the plaudits of the fans and neutrals alike. He’ll then, no doubt, get another run in the team and will silently slip back into his old ways and continue the never-ending cycle over and over again; playing the part of Curates Egg to perfection.

Why the coma / cold shower…again?


Similar to the CSKA encounter, why did it take us having to react to the opposition for us to show our true potential? DIFFERENT to the game in Moscow we actually started reasonably well against The Hammers until their goal on 21 minutes.


But it was only when we went 2-0 down did the ‘cold shower treatment’ wake us up and just as with our Bosnian enigma; that too is starting to bother the hell out of me.

I’m trying to find nuggets of positives from yesterday’s game and apart from a good shift from Sergio and a MotM performance from David, there was Steven Jovetic’s performance when he replaced his far lesser striking colleague on 59 minutes. He was quite brilliant and, without a shadow of a doubt, needs to be given a run alongside the Argentinean now. I just hope both can stay fit!

We hit the woodwork twice (was it perhaps three times?) and Milner offered far more in 17 minutes than Navas did in 95.

But that’s about it – Pellegrini, once again for me, showed another example of his sometimes ‘slow to react’ policy and these episodes are becoming a little too worryingly frequent for my liking. I don’t think I would have even started with 4-4-2…

At the end of all that I do have to make a point of giving West Ham United and Sam Allardyce a lot of credit for a fine performance and good tactics. They are certainly not in a false position at this still-early stage of the season.

Sam Allardyce and tactics hey? WITH disrespect to the large-headed one - whatever next (and for me that shows up Pellegrini even more)?

A bit of injustice thrown into the mix…


  • Their first goal was off-side.

  • There was a blatant back-pass in the second half that was ignored / wasn’t even appealed for in the second half! Even more strange was Fred Eyre’s own opinion that it WASN’T a back pass (I was watching the TV but listening to live commentary on the Radio Manchester) because, he said, it hadn’t been nudged back to the West Ham keeper with any part of the lower half of the player’s body? Really? Well I can’t speak for Fred but my thigh / knee is below MY waste...
 

  • Can anyone tell me why West Ham’s Morgan Amalfitano wasn’t sent off after he scored their opener? Having already been booked in the 6th minute, isn’t then-jumping into the crowd – even if he was to claim that he was simply helping to rescue his colleague, Enner Valencia, whose momentum saw him go hurtling into the City fans behind the goal – a sending off offence? Besides…he didn’t, “help”, his colleague; he simply patted him on the head when he joined him in the stand!
Anyway, I hope the MCFC employee / interviewer on City’s only post-match (and most uninspiring) interview takes a look at herself and her comments that, “…the woodwork was our biggest enemy today”. Err…no Miss, that’ll be the City defence.

Comment / food for thought?


As you do, when things start and then continue to go awry, I got to thinking yesterday - and once again this morning - whether we now have too many leading personalities in the dressing room.

You’d think that with a dressing room full of determined characters like Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, James Milner and Frank Lampard you’d have no issues whatsoever about the recent and growing doubts about our mental strength of character and determination to push on from last season’s ‘domestic double’.

But is there possibly an issue of, perhaps, TOO many chiefs? I don’t know; I’m just throwing that one out there and asking the question…

Moving on (as quickly as possible)…


Stick or twist? What DO you do against Newcastle United in the League Cup on Wednesday night Mr Pellegrini?

Not that I ever would not-give-credence to this, often-considered by many, a lowly trophy at (still) our stage of development as a club under our UAE owners; the Newcastle game has now taken on even more importance in my eyes. And this is for 2 reasons:

-        Firstly, although – and perhaps because of the fact – we have the first derby of the season coming up on Sunday afternoon; there’s a flippin’ good argument to ‘stick’ with our strongest 11 against the Geordies and, most certainly, our considered main ‘back line’. The back 4, at least, clearly need some serious game-time together; they need to ‘bond’…not least before that truly tense and all-important game at the weekend.

 
-        Secondly, and not wishing to sound too dramatic at this early stage of the season, we are in danger of imploding very early on here and could, therefore, find ourselves with (1) A huge gap to claw back in the league following the Manyoo v Chelsea game this afternoon and, quite possible, (2) Out of the Champions League as well. Therefore, retaining the League Cup might now look far more appealing than it once did to some fans and club officials.

 

To finish by looking at ‘our little hiccup’ positively…


I’m sort of glad that we’re having these issues not only this early on in the season – whereby we have time to ‘fix it’ - but also before the game against Van Gaal’s men; where it’s surely better to go into this game, at least, with the creases ironed out rather than to show the kind of worrying trends that we are doing against a quite frightening attacking force that the team from M16 have at their disposal.

So sort it out quickly City…

Friday, 24 October 2014

Poor and frustrating – how WILL we react?

A quiet shake of the head and a sigh was all I could muster as the final whistle echoed around an almost empty CSKA Moscow stadium on a cold Tuesday night. The lack of any more effort from me to show my displeasure in front of the television was MORE than matched, it has to be said, by the player’s own second half…“exertions”.

 

Picking through the pieces…

 
After the Spurs game I included a “positives” & “negatives” section when reviewing the game - for this one I feel that I need to include what was and what wasn’t within our power that could have influenced the game and, possibly, the outcome.
 
What wasn’t within our control was the frustrating lack of support from our own, most-innocent fans. It was absolutely outrageous of UEFA to include our fans in a ‘stadium ban’. If they - or any Russian officials - had any safety fears that the ‘locals’ may take exception to the presence of away fans then surely they had enough confidence that their own, local Russian police could protect any travelling support.
 
Then, to make even more mockery of the farcical situation, there was a notable 500 or so home support that had been labelled as, “delegates”, who…what, then apparently and suddenly had decided to purchase & wear CSKA Moscow gear and pledge their support for the home side during game? Huh…CSKA didn't even try to hide their dodgy tactics, did they?
 
Then there was the ‘deciding penalty’. For me – and having NOT since seen it – it was certainly “soft” but also falls in the category of “I have seen them [previously] given”. Not quite the resounding protests of the City players and officials but, as I say, for me it was soft rather then outright dodgy.
 
The weather. I’m being really, REALLY kind to our players here but…as it’s been SO very mild at the back end of Summer / beginning of Autumn in the UK then I suppose I say that it might have been a factor in favour of the home side. As one post-match, newspaper report put it (something like this anyway), ‘…the cold Russian night air certainly appeared to get to the bones of the Canary Island-born David Silva (to name just one City player who appeared to be affected).
 
And then I suppose we had a lack of Champions League experience & influence in the shape of Frank Lampard and, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, we still had no Samir Nasri available to us.
 
But that’s about it for the "excuses"…
 
What was within our control was the fact that, despite knowing the full task in hand in order to salvage this Champions League campaign, we started off so flippin’ slowly and just didn’t turn up for the second half, for the most part.
 
I kept reading, in some quarters of the press at least, how well we had played in the first half. Really? I personally recall sitting there watching a City side with no urgency or impetus in large parts of the first half and against a home side that was sitting deep with a 5-4-1 formation; a visiting side which looked like they simply had to turn up and hope that the home side were simply going to give up and roll over for us.
 
When CSKA didn’t ‘play ball’ and then, in fact, had a couple of decent chances themselves; we decided to FINALLY wake up and began to show something like a Premier League performance. The result of our awakening? We found ourselves 2-0 up at the interval!
 
So what the ‘eck was that second half performance all about?!
 
Well…I have little idea to be honest. I can’t actually put my foot on it other than to mention a few of the more obvious observations.
 
  1. Without wishing to appear to jump on any recent bandwagons Yaya Toure was very poor again. You look to the likes of those kind of big players to ‘step up’ and make a difference. Simply put…he didn’t.
 
  1. Silva’s passing. Again you look to your game-changers and, before I go a bit negative on him, David has been a jewel not just ‘in general’ for Manchester City but he’s been my player of the [very short] season so far. But, as I noted against Tottenham last Saturday, his passing was off again on Tuesday night. Perhaps it’s BECAUSE he’s often the best player ‘in there’ orchestrating things in the middle that I’ve singled him out but…there you go. And so, leading on from that…
 
  1. …the passing in general from the rest of ‘em was truly, truly appalling for the most part. And I think once that fairly simply task [of passing to a teammate] leaves you then you are, basically, in trouble. Amongst other small issues we need to sort that out fast Mr Pellegrini
 
  1. The tactics. Okay, so 4-4-2 seemed to work once we’d snapped out of our initial cold-induced coma and, in fact, Edin Dzeko seem to thrive in the chilled air – he had a fairly decent game ‘up top’ with Sergio Aguero. But it needed to be changed once we were 2-0 up. That, to me at least, was obvious and it concerns me that Pellegrini seems to have a Champions League ‘mental block’. It’ll concern the owners even more though I’m sure…
 

Palpable

 
What was notable for me was the reaction from ‘the camp’ after the game. Our ‘skip’ was quite vocal in his frustrations; particularly, and most understandably, about the UEFA so-called 'fan ban’. He was making no excuses for the performance, which, quite rightly, he pointed out was not acceptable. But I’ve never seen him so annoyed otherwise.
 
Joe Hart is rarely one to shy away from telling it as it is following a poor performance either but he too appeared more ‘irked’ than usual.
 
But then we have our Manager’s reaction. Cool as a ‘long green salad thingy’ he more-often-than-not is but, occasionally, the post-game, red-eyed, irritable one comes out to play too. On Tuesday night this side of his character was playing out with ‘bells attached’.
 
Not only did he appear irritated at the performance; to me, when being interviewed, he seemed slightly embarrassed at the result too. And, I wondered at the time and still do to some degree, how much our Engineer was fearing some boardroom backlash about this seasons expectations in this particular competition.
 
‘Our man Zaba’ has also since vented some anguish and irritation at the performance & result and when you collate all of those personalities that have to, surely, be given a lot of credence; then it leaves me with a twang of nerves about what might be happening in the camp.
 

Want some salt in the wound?

 
Well in addition to Ahmed Musa’s pre-match claim that CSKA could exploit our defence we then had, and I have to say quite rightly too, Glenn Hoddle & Co. on Sky Sports scratching their heads as to why we can’t come close to reproducing our league form in Europe.
 
But in addition to that lot we now we have our next opponent's Managers, Big Sam, telling us how he thinks that our players lack the attitude to want to push on from winning the league last season.
 
Now usually I’d take these kind of observations with a pinch of salt; particularly with the guy we now have in charge of our players oozing a general calmness and a 'positive order' to things.
 
However, it doesn’t pass me by that we still have a large chunk of the same players who did the very same thing under Roberto Mancini; whereby, back then, they won the league and then, somehow and for some strange reason, decided to, in comparison to the previous season at least, almost have a season’s rest; allowing Manyoo to walk away with the title.
 
Albeit a tiny one, a small alarm bell is definitely sounding in my head regarding this and if there IS indeed some kind of internal issue going on in the dressing room, it needs sorting…and sorting pretty damn quickly!
 

Reaction

 
I’ve seen a level of frustration and irritation from all the afore mentioned players since our trip to Russia to believe that even a brilliant performance and win against West Ham United might not be enough to completely banish the Champions League demons from Tuesday night. However, for me a whole-hearted-team, crackin’ performance we must have at Upton Park - although of course I’d still take a ‘papering over the cracks’ win / not-so-good performance for now at least…
 
However, what I REALLY want to see starting against this weekend’s opponents is this…
 
It’s been obvious that with the acquisition of Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando that the intent, this season, was to build a solid base in order to ‘sure up’ the back and, therefore, allow our more adventurous players to ‘do their stuff’ and damage the opposition as much as possible. And, okay, I’ll get our Manager’s excuses out of the way for him.
 
-        Willy has never played in England before
-        Pablo Zabaleta had a long, long season last time out followed by a hard and long, long World Cup campaign
-        Bacary Sagan too had a long World Cup and didn’t start back domestically until very late on
-        Similar Eliaquim Mangala; who both started very late with us and who, like Willy, has never played in this difficult, English top division before
-        Then we have Fernando who, just as we were starting to see why he was brought to the club, then got injured
 
All very annoying issues indeed and have, most certainly, hindered our plans.
 
But they’re all fit now and, most certainly should be, starting to 'fire' - we need them to start clicking soon so that this season’s ‘master plan’ can begin to take fruition.
 
On Saturday (and beyond) I want to see a solid defensive unit being [additionally] protected by our ‘Octopus’ in the middle. And given that solid foundation I want to then see Yaya, Fernandinho, David, Samir (when fit again), Frank, Jesus, James, Edin, Stevan and Sergio tearing teams apart with barely a seconds thought for what’s going on behind them.
 
You look at the quality of those players at the back that I have already mentioned and with the addition of Hart, Clichy, Kolarov, Kompany & Demichelis and, well...crikey; we have one hell of a potentially envious defence there! If we get that sorted then we’ll take apart all in our way…well, domestically at least.
 
Forget the panic shouts for Ross Barkley or Mesut Ozil to be brought into the club in January and, most certainly, forget those who are already shouting for several of our players to be ‘shipped out’ in an almost frenzied, mid-season re-build of our side; both of which I’ve read about in recent days and hours.
 
Of course, yes, it certainly is irritating and quite often bewildering to see that with all of our potential we do seem to flounder at times.

But I say with no naivety nor bias whatsoever; in both Pellegrini and these players we can trust and, in particular, with the likes of Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta and Lampard in the dressing room it won’t be long before we see things starting to ‘click’ once again.

It could be FAR worse, lest we forget; we could be Liverpool with Mario Balotelli in the camp…
 
Let’s just hope, then, that it clicks tomorrow against West Ham but, just as important, let us not 'flap' if it doesn’t.
 

 This is how I think we’ll react in tomorrow’s early (12:45pm BST) afternoon KO.

v West Ham United 

4-4-2:
 
 
_______________Aguero_______________
 
 
 
 
________________Toure_______________
 
 
Milner___________Silva___________Navas
 
 
______________Fernando______________
 
 
 
Clichy___Mangala___Kompany___Zabaleta
 
 
 
 
_________________Hart_________________
 
Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Sagna, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Jovetic, Dzeko
 
 
That, for me, is Pellegrini’s strongest defence. Although, of course, he will rotate the defensive flanks throughout the season more than the central pairing; this back 4 (and keeper) provides the most solid base. I know Zaba played on Tuesday and, of this, our manager may go with Sagna instead; but I’m gonna plump for this as a back line.
 
Fernando to ‘hold’ 'n' 'break up' - we need him to establish himself and make this position his own.
 
And I’m going for our boss to go for, what I’m calling a ‘solid’ diamond formation, with David in the heart of a ‘5‘, Fernando at the bottom end, Yaya at the top not far behind the striker and Milner / Navas on the flanks. Equally David & Yaya could well swap places.
 
Aguero to lead.
 
A strong bench, particularly with 2 strikers if / when needed.
 
Result? Pre-season I put in a “W” next to this one without much thought. Post-CSKA – and particularly after seeing the almost shocked reaction of the players – yesterday I almost went for a “D” [for a draw] in East London.
 
However, although I think we’ll look nervous in the opening 20 minutes or so and that The Hammers will almost certainly be sensing that anxiousness within us – perhaps even taking the lead and forcing even more pressure and doubt upon us for a time – similar to the Tottenham game; I’m going for us to eventually 'rally' and really take these to town in the end.
 
It’ll be a tense and passionate affair without much doubt…and it’ll be an away win too.