Sunday, 25 August 2013

From the sublime to the…fully anticipated.

My spider sense was tingling before this game. Perhaps it was because we were going to be without Kompany, Richards and Nastasic; leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the defence. Perhaps it was due to it being Cardiff’s first ever home Premier League game; meaning that they were going to be ‘right up for it’. Perhaps it was just years of watching City...and, therefore, being all too familiar with such fixtures and almost-inevitable outcomes. Either way, I just sort of knew what was coming.

Typical City?

Well I thought we’d thrown away that tag quite some time ago and, of course, you can’t win ‘em all – Chelsea, Tottenham and Manyoo will trip up this season. But Monday night’s game against Newcastle was sublime and so it rankles with me a little how we can score 4 and keep a clean sheet against an established Premier League team and concede 3 to the new-comers.

We all knew the heart of our defence was a potential weak link; a little thin on the ground as we are for quality cover. The lack of pace from Lescott & Garcia was always going to leave us vulnerable to the counter attack; Zabaleta isn’t exactly Usain Bolt, leaving just Clichy and, perhaps, Fernandinho to bomb back and cover with anything LIKE pace.

But, as it turned out, it wasn’t necessarily Cardiff’s break-aways that caused us the most trouble. No, it was the lack of simple defending especially from set pieces. We need to buy a quality central defender and soon!

Is Martin Demichelis the answer? Well he certainly has PLENTY of top-flight experience with 174 appearances for Bayern Munich, 84 for Malaga and 37 Argentinean caps. He probably doesn’t solve any lack-of-pace issues that we might have but Pellegrini knows him well and so it does seem to make sense. I’d still like to see us go for Kyriakos Papadopoulos; albeit far less experienced I think he’s got a lot to offer – and 57 appearances for Schalke 04 and 16 Greek caps is nothing to be sniffed at.

But perhaps more experience is the answer and I just hope Txiki Begiristain comes up with the goods in time before the Hull City game on Saturday.

So what’s the damage?

Even the eventual league winners will lose 3, 4 or perhaps even 5 games. And if you look at City’s first 6 fixtures…

-          Newcastle at home

-          Cardiff City away

-          Hull City at home

-          Stoke City away

-          Manyoo at home

-          Aston Villa away

Cardiff City always looked like a banana skin waiting to happen. And, in a strange way, I’m glad Pellegrini has tasted his first Premier League defeat so early on – now we’ll see what he and his backroom staff are made of.

Although our Manager was, quite rightly, issuing words of warning to his players before the game not to take Cardiff City lightly; the lack of concentration at the back suggests that they didn’t exactly take on board his advice.

So, sticking my neck on the block, I predict us destroying Hull at the weekend. And with the Cardiff result still leaving a somewhat sour taste in the mouths of the Manager and players, I’m sure; we’ll be much more on our guard against Stoke & Villa away. As for Manyoo at home? Well…AT home – and IF we play like we did against Newcastle - then I can only see a win for City.

The Cardiff result is an early setback; there’s no doubt about that. But I recon we’ll be going into the Derby on 9 points and if you’d have been told that we’d have 9 points from our first 4 games, most of us wouldn’t have been TOO disappointed.

It’s a blip and one, which, will be repeated by our rivals in the very, very long season ahead.

And at the other end of the pitch…

I’d been for a mini-break with my wife in the County of Rutland leading up to the game; we actually only made it home with 55 minutes to spare for the KO. So I still haven’t seen any of Pellegrini’s pre-match press conference.

According to the Daily Mail our Manager has already issued a warning to Dzeko about him finding the back of the net more consistently if he wants to remain at City. Even as someone who, last season, couldn’t stand looking at the sulking Bosnian at times; I think that’s a little bit harsh just 2 games in. MotM against Newcastle; their goalie did a lot to keep his efforts out.

But I must admit that with competition for places being so high; that’s what happens if you’re slightly ‘off key’ or are misfiring as a striker. Aguero still looks threatening and creative even when not on the score sheet and, in a way, that’s 2 from 2 substitute appearances for Negredo (the first wrongly being disallowed for off-side against Newcastle). Edin scored a belter against Cardiff yesterday, of course, and perhaps Manuel’s comments came before the fixture in Wales. However, I can see the Spanish striker starting games pretty soon if Edin doesn’t keep his performances high.

I’m a little frustrated with forwards too. In my Premier League fantasy football team I’m allowed 3 strikers. I picked 2 from City; one of them is Dzeko and who’s the other? Jovetic! Tut - I might have to have an early-season re-think…

Hart flutters…

Anyone else slightly concerned about Joe Hart’s form? I wasn’t TOO alarmed until the Cardiff game but other City fans have been commenting on some noticeable errors in pre-season and again for England v Scotland. Yesterday saw a continuance of some very uncharacteristic faults and poor decision making from England’s number 1.

Is it time for Pantilimon? Well, like strikers; goalies too thrive on confidence and so I wouldn’t put Hart on the bench JUST yet.

But like Dzeko, Joe; you had better watch your back…

The others

Big game tonight of course – Manyoo v Chelsea at Scaffold Trafford. We could do with a draw really (and lots of injuries and/or red cards for both sides would be a bonus); we don’t want either team pulling a gap even at this early stage if possible. Second best result would, of course, be a Chelsea win – and for my fantasy football team a clean sheet for Ivanovic and a hat-trick from Hazard (I’m having a terrible week points-wise).

There…done! Jovetic has now gone and in comes Tottenham’s Roberto Soldado

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