Sunday, 28 July 2013

Taking shape

With 4 signings settling in, the majority of which have swelled our attacking options; focus switches to the defence.

Chinese takeaway

So we leave China and take with us the Asia Trophy. And from the fitness exercise (literally) in South Africa; the team seems to be taking shape and is looking slightly more like the settled side that Pellegrini may start with come Monday 19th August 2013. Having said that, only one of the new signings started in yesterday’s 1-0 win over Sunderland and a slight surprise for me was the early inclusion of David Silva [after his late stay in the Confederations Cup] who had a crackin' game; with several sublime passes to Negredo & Dzeko.

I suppose that I shouldn’t be too surprised either to see Navas on the bench yesterday and, instead, James Milner starting again on the right wing – James is having a fab pre-season. It’s probably wrong and slightly inaccurate to say that Milner is a ‘naturally fit’ footballer; that would suggest that he doesn’t work out / train hard. He just looks so lean, determined (as always) and, in particular at the moment, very sharp. Not that James never impressed whenever he got his chance under Mancini last season. (Yaya, it has to be added, looked on the lean side also for a pre-season...)

But this is what happens when you bring in MORE quality to your squad; the existing players in those positions ‘step up’ yet another gear – that’s why I desperately want us to off-load Kolarov and get better quality competition for Gael Clichy

Negredo, despite a few wayward shots yesterday, looks every bit the player I was hoping for and expected him to be. Despite slightly misfiring yesterday; I know he can be a clinical finisher. And in addition to his well-documented body strength, his run-timing, passing and general interplay with his team-mates is excellent. What a signing!

Fingers crossed

Was anyone else bracing themselves for an injury to one of our players in the two games in rain-soaked-pitch China? I was. Conditions were appalling for both games and although not blamed on the pitch; it finally happened yesterday to Matija Nastasic. Our Manager wasn't, understandably, overly-committing himself to answer when asked about the severity of our young defender's injury but did state that he was, "...concerned".

Defence matters

Hopefully medical scan-results will show nothing to serious to our key central defender when the team back in Manchester very briefly; before jetting off to Germany for the Audi Cup against Mad-Mario & Co.

Should scans to Nastasic’s injury prove bad, it opens up the debate even further about the need for us to sign another central defender. While a lot of sensible Manchester City fan comments suggest that we don’t need to – having Kompany, Nastasic, Lescott and the option of Richards in there too – Pellegrini would appear to differ; as persistent rumours about the same two Portuguese & French defenders continue.

Joleon Lescott would understandably disagree with our new Manager’s apparent opinion and is desperate to find out where he stands in the pecking order. As it stands at the moment (when all are fit), I would put him next in line behind Kompany and Nastasic…and, therefore, not far down the pecking order at all. But even with 2 years remaining on his current contract; bringing in a top-quality centre half wouldn’t be a good sign at all for the player who has rarely let us down and, who, played very well indeed for the most part next to our Captain for a considerable period of time.
Injury to Nastasic? Queue 'time to impress' for Lescott in Germany and, possibly, Helsinki too...

French connection or Portuguese Piri piri?

If it is, indeed, between these two then it’s a no brainer for me. Both look very good and have bags of top-flight experience but…

Pepe: Was 30 in February 2013
Rami: Was 27 in December 2012

Pepe: A rumoured £15M+; Real apparently want closer to £22M
Rami: A rumoured buy-out clause of £7.75M; probably costing us more like £10M to £12M

International Caps:
Pepe: 51 for Portugal
Rami: 25 for France

Notable domestic teams played for:
Pepe: 64 times for Porto, 138 times for Real Madrid
Rami: 160 times for Lille, 53 times for Valencia

Pepe: Prone to explosive, red mist moments. Has missed about 15 games due to suspensions (10 of which were a ‘block-ban’, which affectively ended a season for him). Often gets unnecessarily involved with opposition players; appears easily wound up and has been known to get in trouble for comments regarding officials
Rami: No notable negative incidents

It’s Adil Rami for me…

Leaning left

If we are to believe reports, apparently City have slapped a £6M valuation on our only weak link in the team…Aleksandar Kolarov. This has, apparently, somehow “catapulted” Galatasaray into pole position to sign the left-back come left wing-back, with Juventus (why would they..?) still on the radar for his services too.

I’m boring myself with the amount of times I say that I hope we see the back of this guy sooner rather than later and so rather than say it again, I’m simply going to indulge myself and have a quick, fairly realistic look at who we might get in to replace him as direct competition for Clichy.

If he’s going anywhere, he’ll surely following his former manager to Scaffold Trafford. His chances of more first-team appearance will probably be higher at The Swamp than it would be a City too and so it would seem unlikely that he'll be swapping dark blue for sky blue.

I’d like him though; Gael & Leighton slogging it out for the left-back slot would see both players put in regular 8/10 performances most weeks I’m sure.

Approximate cost: £14M
Chance: With Manyoo’s Moyes sniffing around, 3/10

With a new Manager at Real Madrid and with their interest in signing Gareth Bale, if the Spanish giants are successful in their bid for the left-sided Welsh wonder, then why not make a bid for this fella?

The arrival of Bale at Real would surely see Fabio well ‘n’ truly down the pecking order, with the already well-established Marcelo Vieira there too. And like both Marcelo and Gareth, the Portuguese player likes to attack down the left as well as play as an out & out left back, defender.
I have to question why on earth Real are pursuing the Spurs player for £60M to £100M (depending on what article you read) when they have 2, very fine left backs / left wing-backs!

Definitely worth a punt.

Approximate cost: Aged just 25, lots of top-flight experience and with 4 years left on his contract, probably £25M+
Chance: (if Real sign Bale) 6/10

Marcello Vieira

As above…

Approximate cost: With only 2 years left on his 5-year contact extension but with a whopping 170 Real Madrid and 25 Brazil appearance; at just 25 years of age also, we would probably be looking at £30M+
Chance: (if Real sign Bale) 5/10

Jetro Willems

I’ve liked the look of this guy very much since we were first linked with him in the 2012/2013 Winter transfer window. For his age (just 19 in March 2013), he has a decent amount of experience with 46 games for PSV and 8 for the Dutch National first team.

Looks good – cool in his defending; ability to take on a player and attack, has skill on the ball, can cut in AND fly down the flank and has a very good range of passing along with very accurate ‘crossing-into-the-box’ ability. Pretty much the whole lot really!

Approximate cost: With [young] age on his side and with 3 years remaining on his contract, I’m sure PSV would be asking for £15M or there abouts.
Chance: If we really wanted him, 8/10 (but be careful of a, “we want Guidetti in part-exchange” deal…)

Taking shape also

…is the new Manchester City Academy across the road from the Etihad Stadium.


I intend to stick my camera lens through and over the perimeter fence where possible very soon to give everyone a look at the progress so far.

Watch this space…

Monday, 22 July 2013

Yer standard black...

So this is City's new away kit for 2013/14...

Two-tone black

Smart enough. And I'm sure when seen in it's entirety, with black shorts and socks; the lads will 'look the part'. But, as I've mentioned before, it's just not City. It doesn't remind me whatsoever of the St. Mark's days (the suggestion doing the rounds) - where's the white cross?

No, this is one of those 'standard' kits that clubs bring out when all involved [in the creation of a new kit] have not had their creative cup of coffee - either an all black / all dark grey / all navy blue number. Boring.

And at a whopping £55 for adults (£60 for long sleeves) and £42 for kids, sorry, parents; a bit of a rip-off too. Having said that, I'm now hoping they'll bring out a 3rd kit and redeem themselves a little with something more interesting...and more Manchester City!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Exciting times, sad news and strange goings on…

Outside of the 90-odd minutes of a game I always try to stay level-headed when it comes of all things Manchester City. Rarely will you see me go ‘over the top’ with positive predictions and/or go ‘chest beating’ in public - I'll leave that activity to those of the red persuasion. However, I won’t lie that with the capture of Negredo AND Jovetic linking up with the likes of Aguero, Dzeko, Guidetti, Fernandinho, Milner, Nasri, Navas, Silva & Yaya; it’s left me with a fluttering heart to say the least.

Incredible attacking options

There are too many formations and possibilities to go through; besides which, I’ve done them in previous posts and I’m sure most of you have done similar.

But nevertheless, we now have SO many attacking options that I would have to be made of cold stone not to get energized and ‘fired up’ for the coming season. With, hopefully, Lescott and Richards signing new deals soon; I have to say that our back line looks (mostly) good enough to both start and endure the season too.

In Pablo and Micah we have two right-back options.

Micah again being able to perform in central defence along with Kompany, Nastasic and Lescott; 4 should be enough...with youth options (and Garcia & Rodwell) behind those.

In Clichy too with have a very good left-back indeed. But – and this won’t surprise regular readers – our only weak link in my opinion is cover for the Frenchman in the form of the totally inept Kolarov ("...yeah but he’s good at free kicks". SO WHAT?!).

Keep our defence as tight as possible (with one of the best goalkeepers around behind them) and our attacking potential is enough to frighten anyone in England and abroad.

RIP Bert

I was very sad to hear the news that Bert Trautmann had passed away on 19th July. What a goalkeeper and a man who has had to endure many-a-hardship and heartache. If you’ve not read his Biography by Alan Rowlands then I would say to all fans of football, as well as those interested in recent history; to go and get it.


I was fortunate to have met Bert at one of his book signings in Mary D’s pub near The Etihad about 8 years ago. It was in the large, back room early-to-mid one Saturday morning before it filled up with fans for a home game. I was kind of nervous and it wasn’t helped by the fact that I got there early...and was the only one there apart from the great man himself, his daughter and the author Alan Rowlands.

As I approached him I recall saying that I was very pleased to meet him. Then - and I sort of now-cringe at my next, unplanned line - I said, “My dad was called Bert”. I only cringe now because I don’t know whether he couldn’t understand my quivering voice…or just wasn’t interested. Either way, he didn’t react at all beyond a little grunt as he signed my book. I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that he was, in fact, a little embarrassed and/or grumpy; that at the start of the 1-hour book-signing session there was just one fan there…me.

Anyway, it was still a huge honour to meet the great man; my dad wasn’t alive but he would have been chuffed to bits for me; that I’d met the man that my dad often talked about with great fondness. Before I left I spoke to Alan Rowlands briefly and left him with a free copy of a fanzine that I used to help run and write for, ‘A Million Miles Away’. I never did hear from Alan with an offer to join the Author’s fraternity…

And in other news…


Manyoo’s persistence in the pursuit of Cesc Fabregas is certainly an ambitious one; I can certainly see why they’re going for him - he’s a very good player indeed and they’re desperate for at least one decent midfielder. But it smacks of desperation rather than ambition to me. There’s even a rumour that they will double his wages in order to reel him in (oooo…careful now; Rooney won’t like that!)

I believe Cesc when he says he doesn’t want to leave Barcelona. It was his dream move when he left Arsenal and he’s not been there that long. And for those who say (and I've heard them), “Yeah but it’s not really worked out for him in Spain…”, I say, “60 appearances and 20 goals from midfield for one of the best teams in the world packed with megastar players. Really? It hasn't worked out?”

And…don’t Arsenal have first refusal? Surely even the overly-prudent Wenger would at least make a bid to bring him back to the Emirates

And the Rooney debacle rolls on. From a City point of view I hope he stays with the ever-so-slowly, listing ship. Despite the fact that he’s still a fine player and massive goal threat (I like him for his ability); an unhappy player who clearly doesn’t get on with Golum and where most of the fans dislike him to say the least will do JUST FINE for me…


Well it would appear that Benteke and his agent have brilliantly manoeuvred themselves to get the big man a new, extended contact to 2017 at Aston Villa. He comes out of it with an extra £28,000 (now £56,000) per week too!

One minute the Belgian was being - most likely and if so understandably - berated by the Villa fans on chat pages for showing a lack of respect after their Club and punted £7M on the relatively untried and unknown player and then, what? One good season in a struggling side and he apparently ‘wants away’ from the midlands club.

He was even, by all accounts, wanting a move to be secured before he had to face up to his colleagues for pre-season training. Then all of a sudden, new contract and a quote from Christian saying,

"I am very happy to be back here in Birmingham and at Aston Villa, and to sign a new contract.

"This is a great club and it has given me a lot. Now I have to give back to my team-mates and the fans who have always been right behind me."

What? Watford or Udinese?

I thought I was hearing things the other day when I heard that Watford has signed 7 (SEVEN!) Udinese players. I was even more perplexed that they’d done so following a club transfer embargo; preventing them from, presumably…signing any players.

Not keeping up with all things; Hornets the seemingly bizarre episode form the Twilight Zone soon became a little clearer. They are, apparently, owned by the same people – the Pozzo family – and so Udinese & Watford are understandably operating as sister clubs. The embargo, it turns out, is due to the previous owner’s misdemeanours and the League 1 Club are allowed to sign players with the scrutiny and permission of League officials.

Phew! I thought I was going a bit dippy there for a moment…

Back to all things City

Two quick words on our pre-season tour of South Africa:

Fitness (&) publicity.

Four words on Maicon:

Goodbye and good luck.

Considerably more words about our trips to China, Bayern & Helsinki:

Key players back; looking forward to seeing the shape of our side develop.

A few more words for the boss:

Hope your mum gets well soon. (Update: Since this post, news that Manuel Pellegrini's mother passed away last weekend came though. I would like to join others in passing on my sincere condolences).

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

AmaZulu Vs Manchester City

AmaZulu? Weren't they a British pop band from the 80s? Anyway...

Pre-season friendly:

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa

Thursday 18th July 2013

8:00pm kick off local time, (7:00pm UK time)

A link to live game will appear here: Click here

Team news...

HT: AmaZulu 1-1 Manchester City
FT: AmaZulu 2-1 Manchester City

Starting 11 and (approximate) formation:



_____________ Fernandinho ____Toure________________




_______________________ Hart______________________
Amongst the subs...

Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Boyata, Lescott, Barry, Garcia, Razak, Rodwell, Cole, Nimely

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Supersport United Vs Manchester City

Pre-season friendly:

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Gauteng, South Africa

3pm KO local time

Link to live game: Click here

HT: Supersport United 0-0 Manchester City
FT: Supersport United 2-0 Manchester City

Starting 11 and (approximate) formation:







____________Barry___ Fernandinho ___Razak_________






_______________________ Hart______________________

Costel Pantilimon, Joleon Lescott, Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Yaya Toure, Emyr Huws, Cole, James Milner, Matija Nastasic, Dedryck Boyata, Alex Nimely, Facey.

Aguero, Dzeko, Guidetti…Jovetic AND Negredo?

Is it possible that we will start the season with 5 strikers in contention for a starting place? That would appear to be the suggestion in recent days.

Keeping all happy...and not just the strikers.

Using 3 of those in Pellegrini’s 4-3-3 come attacking 4-5-1 would keep most of those forwards reasonably happy (with the other 2 on the bench) but with our army of midfielders; it’s unavoidable that a few noses will get pushed out somewhere.

Shear class and unless injured/fatigued or dropped for tactical reasons; surely our Argentinean hero will get more starts than not.

The ‘Edin debate’ is a clear and well documented one, with most agreeing that he CAN be a very useful and dangerous striker and one, which, was used incorrectly under Roberto Mancini’s reign. Edin isn’t a back-to-goal type striker; anyone with any decent knowledge of football can see that he would thrive on the kind of service where he attacks the ball in front of goal. With the wider options now available to us in midfield supplying the ammo; this season could see a much-revitalised Bosnian...and Pellegrini seems keen for Edin to stay.

Exploding onto the scene in Holland for Feyenoord with a whopping 23 goals in 20 games in 2011/2012; the eternal question being asked by Blues fans is, “Can he ‘do it’ in the Premier League?” Until he is given a go we can, of course, never answer that question. But under Pellegrini it’s odds-on that he will get his chance this season. If he’d have stayed free of injury last season, Guidetti would have been given his chance to play under our new Manager at Malaga; as the Chilean wanted to take the Swedish striker from City on loan. John must have been buzzing when he heard who Mancini’s replacement was going to be and I for one hope he can recover from his physical setbacks and grab his chance with both hands feet.

Stevan Jovetic:


I was openly and very recently a little cool on Stevan and I don’t mind back-peddling a little now; admitting that I may have been a little harsh just 4 days ago. My concerning issue with the Montenegrin was that we needed to replace both Balotelli and Tevez and I just didn’t see Jovetic’s striking record being able to hold-up in the Premier League; being as he is about a 1 in 4 striker for both Partizan and Fiorentina. Even periodic viewing at his ‘best bits’ on YouTube (most of us do it I’m sure) between 6 and 24 months ago - when we were first linked with him - didn’t convince me. But the guy doesn’t seem to play as a direct, up-front striker most of the time (like the next fella on the list) and if we ARE to bring in two new strikers before the start of the season; I can see now how his trickery and creativity (as well as an ability to score too of course) in an “advanced” rather than an “out & out striker” role would prove very useful indeed.


This guy excites me. His stats suggest that he’s a late bloomer; getting better and better with each season. He didn’t break into the national side until he was 24 and being as it is, a tremendously difficult team to muscle into; 6 goals in 14 appearances for Spain is impressive in itself. And on the verge of his 28th birthday he’s about to come into his ‘peak age’ for an outfield player. Strong and direct; the Spanish striker has a crackin’ powerful and accurate shot on him. And being left-footed I can just see him being perfect for Manuel’s fluidic and changeable system; perhaps being used to ‘come in from the left’ from time to time.

So perhaps there IS a place for all 5 strikers. I can just see on occasions, for example, something like…

_____________Aguero OR Dzeko_____________









Left on the side-line

But, of course, and getting back to my point about some faces being shoved out, that line-up/formation would see Barry, Garcia, Rodwell, Sinclair, Milner, Yaya, Nasri, Guidetti (and Aguero OR Dzeko) fighting/settling for a place on the bench!

As a fan at least, that’s a nice position to see our team in, isn’t it?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Striker link-switch leaves me a little cold.

All appears to be going quiet on both Alvaro Negredo and Oscar Cardozo; two potential signings, which, quite excite me. And as talks of the Spanish and Paraguayan joining City subside, news – AGAIN – is surfacing of Montenegro & Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic seems to be gathering pace.

Stevan Jovetic
Is it just me or does Jovetic leave anyone else feeling a little cool? His stats see him as about a 1 in 4 striker at both club and international level and although he’s only 23; stepping into the Premier League with those stats doesn’t bode tremendously well. Goals were very much at the heart of the problem last season (if you now call league and F.A. Cup runners up a problem of course) and so Stevan doesn’t appear to be a step in the right direction of solving that issue.
Time – and the Montenegrin himself – might prove me wrong and if we do sign him, I truly hope so of course. It could be, like most summer rumblings, just pure speculation. But this one seems to have been simmering for 2 years or more now – it’s like the Cavani link; a ‘Mancini target’ that just won’t go away.

That’s what friends are for…NOT!

In the mean time, it has emerged that Sergio Aguero has told “friends” who then, presumably blabbed to someone with ‘press’ links, that he wants a move to Barcelona. If he did, I’m sure he meant some time in the future and not right now. Family issues aside he seems very happy at City and which player wouldn’t be excited by the changes that are happening to the Blues at the moment?
I hope he’s not manoeuvring for a switch to the Spanish giants just yet or ANY time for that matter and I’m sure it was an ‘off the cuff’ remark that was taken the wrong way; then sneakily leaked to the rumour-mongering press.

First press call

Manchester City Press Room
Before jetting off to South Africa for a pre-season tour, Manuel Pellegrini is to hold his first press conference along side Fernandinho today (Wednesday 10.07.2013).
I’m really looking forward to what he has to say and, in particular, to see how he handles (I’m sure) cheeky questions from some of our press guys & girls. Update: Click here for press conference.


Tackling the defence

One report states the Pepe deal is dead and another says we’ve agreed a fee. I for one hope that it’s the former
Although no deal extension has been agreed, Lescott appears to be staying put. Joleon wants to stay and it would appear Pellegrini WANTS him to, which is good news in my opinion.
Often disliked by Mancini for not being a defender who can take the ball out of defence and link up well with the midfield, talk is that Pellegrini likes his defenders to [just] defend and his midfielders to concentrate most of their efforts on attack. That certainly would suit Joleon.
Slightly more worrying is the links to other clubs of Micah Richards who himself has not signed a deal extension. I am confident that Pellegrini would like Micah to stay and I think he will. We’d be daft to let him go; we need him & Zaba competing for the right-back slot - and let’s not forget that Micah can play centre-half quite efficiently too.
I want to start seeing us being linked with a move for a left-back soon; as cover/competition for Clichy. All has gone quiet on Kolarov being linked with a move away since we, apparently, have (rightly so) turned down a loan move with Juventus.



Before adding this latest blog post I found myself looking up how hot it was in South Africa at the moment, where the lads are heading for the first part of their pre-season tour (other pre-season activity sees the Blues travel to Hong Kong, Munich and a one-off game against Arsenal in Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium, Finland). I was surprised to see that it's considerably cooler than it is here in very sunny and very hot Manchester. So the players should have no issues with the heat at least.
The squad that travels to South Africa is:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Costel Pantilimon, Richard Wright, Eirik Johansen
Defenders: Micah Richards, Maicon, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy, Karim Rekik, Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasic, Dedryck Boyata, Shay Facey
Midfielders: James Milner, Fernandinho, Samir Nasri, Gareth Barry, Denis Suarez, Emyr Huws, Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell, Abdul Razak, Yaya Toure
Forwards: Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, John Guidetti, Alex Nimely, Devante Cole

Alternative destination

Not heading to South Africa is left-sided defender Karim Rekik, who is off to PSV Eindhoven on loan for the rest of the season. Let’s hope a season in his homeland will aid his route into Manchester City’s first team.
Finally, just a quick “hi” to the Blue that I bumped into and chatted with in Stamford during a brief holiday in that area. I didn’t catch his name but originally from Altrincham, he’s keeping the faith as much as possible from the Lincolnshire / Rutland / Cambridgeshire area.