Sunday, 11 August 2013

Something to work on.

"Just pre-season" or should we be concerned about the defence? 12 goals conceded in 7 games against teams of varying ability could either be looked at as a team getting to know new systems / management styles...or could it be some early alarm bells? Certainly there’s no new defensive teammates who are 'having to get used one another'…yet.


Recent collapses & lapses

I don’t think I’d even be mentioning this if we’d have slowly been improving at the back; tightening up and looking a little more solid as we went though game numbers 5, 6 & 7. But the fact is that 8 of those 12 goals conceded have come in the last 3 matches; albeit against very good opposition in AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Arsenal.

Nastasic key?

Every City fan I know has nothing but praise for how the young Nastasic has settled in so quickly at City since Roberto brought him in from Fiorentina. He looks a very cool and solid defender who has great positional awareness and ball control. And, so, of course we were without Nastasic for those final three, very leaky games.

But is that the reason? When without Matija are we really so soft in the middle [of the defence] and are we really going to fall apart that easily? I would hope not of course. I’m certainly not pinning the blame on any one individual here but it’s worth mentioning that if Joleon Lescott is fighting hard (I’m sure he is) to secure more 'starts' and, indeed, an extension to his current contract then he must be as gutted and worried as any of the back line to see goals flying in past both Hart and Pantilimon. Boyata too – who is trying to impress – can’t be too chuffed either…

Words of discomfort

What keeps nagging at me – and has half-prompted me to write this piece – is the words ringing in my ears from players following certain pre-season games. And, strangely, when I’ve gone to revisit these pre-season, post match interviews that I know I’ve seen on City’s WEB site…they’re nowhere to be found!

Hart, Micah, Kompany, Lescott and I’m sure Zabaleta and Milner too have all come out with words along the lines of ‘getting used to new systems’, ‘getting used to how the [new] Manager wants us to play’ and ‘we perhaps showed a lack of concentration at times' (worrying, I’ve heard that one said by a few players post match recently...)

All fair enough I suppose. Of course we DO have a new Manager and of course he’s gonna be different to Mancini. But ‘defending is defending’ isn’t it and, as I’ve said, we’ve not taken on any new defenders to shake up that department too much have we?

New faces

Now I’m not going to on about Kolarov again – for regular readers you’ll know my thoughts on him. I’m (still) boring myself talking about wanting to see the back of him ASAP. And, indeed, I can hardly blame him for any defensive errors against Arsenal yesterday; being, as he was, firmly attached to the bench for the whole game.

But we DO need better competition for Clichy at left back and perhaps our defensive lapses (whatever the reasons) ARE the reasons why we’re constantly being linked with a variety of central defenders from across Europe. I just hope they can pinpoint the problem soon being, as we are, just 9 days away from the big KO!

Management style to blame?

We’ve all heard how our new Manager likes to set up his teams. “Possessional football”, “Attacking style”, “Attractive” and “Flexible” are all words that have been used to describe Pellegrini’s management style. Most of those words & phrases, of course, suggest a very offensive style and could, therefore, also suggest us being left somewhat vulnerable at the back.

However, “defensive 4-5-1” and “very solid” are also words that have been used by those who have studied “The Engineer” and the sides he has managed and so I suppose that I shouldn’t be overly worried there.

And I’m not worried. A (very) little concerned perhaps? I suppose so. But only because – like the man himself, his players and the board – I’m more & more looking for near perfection from our team these days after years of hoping for the best but often expecting far less than…

An finally, on this subject matter, I have to remind myself that as a player Manuel played 479 times for both club and county as a central defender – so he should know best how to fix any issues at the back.

A quick word on ‘them’…

It’s good to see…

  • Rooney is still upset and, more importantly, is further upsetting ‘the camp’ and fans
  • Cesc Fabregas appears to be going nowhere
  • Everton have issued a ‘hands off’ for both Baines and Fellaini
  • They got beat at home by Seville in wobbly gob’s testimonial by the same scoreline as Arsenal beat us
  • That Gollum looks more and more startled and pressured in his new role. Looking increasingly uncomfortable; there are even (joking?) rumours that the purple nosed, bacon-faced one will be back in charge by Christmas! J

I’ll watch them today (I’m not as hung over as I thought I would – and should – be after my Ale Trail, long day out yesterday) and, of course, hope the worse for them. It would be rude not to…

All change…but why?

Is nothing sacred anymore? Of course certain situations have meant that teams have had to adapt to survive or, at least, get some much-needed cash in. Caledonian Thistle became Inverness Caledonian Thistle following a merger many, many years ago. Leyton Orient have changed their name many times in their early history and, of course, you can’t get a bigger change in English football that Wimbledon to MK Dons!

We too have gone from St. Marks, to Ardwick FC to Manchester City and there any many more that I’ve not even thought about I’m sure.

But more recently is the well publicised change at Cardiff City of their home kit from the blue & white we've all known for as long as we can remember to red & black. The Club’s new owners have kept the nickname of ‘The Bluebirds’ (I’m sure they didn’t want to though) and have even kept, in very small terms, a Bluebird on their Club’s badge…below a flippin’ great (Welsh) red dragon! To add insult to injury, their second kit is all yellow and they have a, wait for it… 3rd, BLUE kit! (again I'm sure that was to insultingly appease the fans).

Anyway, that’s sort of old news now; I’m talking about the proposal of changing the name of Hull City to Hull City Tigers!

Sponsorship (however awful you may think of the company your team is getting into bed with) and stadium name changes are (often understandably) now commonplace in order to get a much-needed cash injection into your Football Club. But Hull City already have the nickname ‘The Tigers’ - what’s the point of changing the name of the football club to incorporate the name “Tigers”? Is it going to make more revenue? I can’t see how.

However painful change can be for traditionalist (and I’m one of them to some degree) it is sometimes very necessary of course. But change for changing’s sake is just downright annoying in my book.

Do we hate success?

On our Ale Trail travels yesterday my City friend and I were asked by a Huddersfield Town fan what we thought of the Abu Dhabi takeover of our Football Club. We, of course, both said that we were delighted and I was interested to see his reaction. He just couldn’t understand it; asking in a rather puzzled fashion why we would be happy to become part of a group of teams who are now making the sport somewhat elitist.

We tried, in vain, to explain that although they have, of course, ploughed millions of pounds into the first team (and that it has worked in bringing us success after years of barren trophy cabinets don’t forget); the owners are also not-only developing the youth set-up but are also improving the area of East Manchester for the community in general. He was still having none of it.

Even his friend and fellow Huddersfield Town fan couldn’t understand his questioning of our take-over; adding that we (as City fans) have had to wait YEARS for any success…and so why wouldn’t we be happy?! No…he just couldn’t agree.

I’ve been bracing myself for this kind of questioning for some considerable time now; I just knew that this was the feeling ‘out there’ amongst many (jealous?) fans of other football clubs. I too recall being envious when I saw so-called rich investors ploughing their cash into the likes of Portsmouth and Aston Villa and thinking, “Why? Why them and not us?”

Apart form being a traditionalist (no problem there); I can only think that this was his reasoning too...

After that we talked with some fondness about past Huddersfield Town and Manchester City encounters…and, naturally, the 10-1 cropped up.

I was also talking to them about my love for their old ground, Leeds Road; explaining to my mate that I recall a particularly brilliant, old terrace called Popular (East) Terrace, which looked very much like our very own Kippax. Wonderful old ground (I told you I was a bit of a traditionalist at heart).

Kippax Stand (before it was re-developed to an all-seater)
Their new ground is good too and was, in many ways, the beginning of the ‘new look’ stadiums, my mate pointed out. I’ve not attended a football match there but did once go to see The Beautiful South and R.E.M. there before all 4 sides were complete. It’s a very prominent stadium from the train-line as you approach Huddersfield train station.

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