Monday, 30 September 2013

Pellegrini needs to learn…

…and he needs to learn quickly.

Shared blame

Of course the away defeat to Villa and the draw away at Stoke is not only the Manger’s fault; certain players (usually the same culprits) need a long, hard look at themselves and their performances too.

But Brian Kidd (or someone) needs to have a word with Manuel soon and point out the following…

  • You can’t weaken a team away from home in the Premier League too much and not expect to drop points. It’s a very dangerous game you’re playing and 1 point from a possible 9 (and we were very lucky to come away from Stoke with that point) is not title challenging form. In fact, considering we’ve played Cardiff City, Stoke City and Aston Villa it’s pretty-damn appalling really.

  • Kolarov is simply not a defender (when will someone at City finally realise this?) At best – and I’m being very kind here even finding a place for him in a Premier League team starting 11 – he’s a left-sided attacking winger.

  • Similarly, you can’t play a left-sided combo of Nasri and Kolarov! For all his improvement (attitude, quality and work-rate-willingness to track back) under our new Manager compared to how unhappy and poor he was under Mancini; Samir is still never going to provide the kind of defensive cover (when required) the likes of Milner & Silva can. And when Kolarov’s about, it’s pretty much required for most of the game!

  • And at the risk of going on about it TOO much; go and get a flippin’ good left-back in the January transfer window Manuel…like you should have done in the summer! Clichy just has no competition whatsoever.

  • Away from home, is Fernandinho really the answer to sitting in front of the back 4 while Yaya is doing damage at the other end? He’s no Nigel de Jong. More like the sorely-missed Dutchman is Jack Rodwell; even Milner being played in that role makes more sense to me. Forget Garcia

The old, all-too-familiar 'self destruct' button gets leant on again...

Talk about shooting ourselves in the flippin’ foot against Villa! 67% possession away from home, 20 shots (compared to 8) and 13 corners to their 2 and we STILL concede 3 goals and get beat!

It’s just over 40 hours since the final whistle went and I still feel sick. Although it has to be seen as somewhat fortunate; what an opportunity missed as both Chelsea and Spurs cancel each other out with a point a piece and Manyoo car crash at home to WBA!

I hope the players can pick themselves up for the Bayern game on Wednesday night more than I can because, personally, this all-too-obvious obsession with a European competition taking over our League campaign is starting to nark me to the point where I’m not bothered at ALL about the Champions League. At the very least the rested players need to play like their lives depended on it even if it’s only for the Manager’s sake.

But having paid a whopping £43 (for the privilege?) for such a potential spectacle against the German side, I suppose I’ll have to turn up and look like I’m bovered.

Sorry for sounding so frustrated and irritated, hopefully normal service will resume shortly…

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Away the lads!

So, it's away at Villa today then. And “away” was the topic of a conversation that I had in work with a fellow Blue the day after the demolition of Wigan.


Don’t forget your toothbrush!

My work colleague-Blue was slightly bemoaning our draw for the 4th round of the League Cup and he couldn’t quite understand why I didn’t see it as a bad'n too. So, slightly perplexed myself I said, “Well perhaps an away game against Newcastle is a little tricky but it could have been a lot worse”.
However, it soon transpired that my fellow Blue had looked into things a little deeper than I had done; whereas I watched the draw, shrugged my shoulders, turn the TV off and had gone to bed on the Wednesday night, he’d looked at the fixture date to see how it slotted in with our other games. ‘Must try harder’ I thought to myself…
I could instantly see his point as he listed the run of away games, which culminated in our trip to the North East.
Saturday 19th October            -           West Ham United away (Premier League)
4 days later…
Wednesday 23rd October       -           CSKA Moscow away (Champions League)
4 days later…
Sunday 27th October              -           Chelsea away (Premier League)
3 days later…
Wednesday 30th October       -           Newcastle United away (League Cup)
And the West Ham fixture, he continued, falls just after a hell of a lot of players have been away all over the world on international duty. Fair enough…YIKES!
If these fixtures hadn’t fallen after such big, World Cup qualifying trips around the world I would probably not be too concerned at all. But that does leave us (not just us of course) at some risk of not being able to fully assess returning players in time for the West Ham game.
But before I sound like a whinging, conspiracy-theorist David Moyes; this is why you have big squads full of quality players. Not everyone will be playing international games or will even be travelling with their countries; this is where the likes of Micah, (the recovering) Demichelis, (the recovering) Guidetti, Jack Rodwell and a whole host of EDS players will need to step into the side and cover for the aching limbs (or worse) of their returning colleagues.
And besides, unless you are unlucky enough to get drawn away in every leg of the both the League and F.A.Cups, you have to play pretty much the same number of home and away games throughout the season. Just look at November's fixture list of 5 games, 4 at home...followed by another home game on 1st December.
Besides, I’ve found when watching City down the years that a run of consecutive away games of 3 or more seems to focus teams. The early acceptance (and planning) that you and your colleagues are going to be 'on the road' a heck of a lot seems to somehow galvanise players. It’s often the returning home fixture where our lads in the distant past have shot themselves in the foot after a good set of results away from home…
However, that is certainly a lot of toothbrushes that will need to be packed in time for October…although these days the players are more concerned with packing their headphones, iPads ‘n’ the like.

Absentees both good and bad

No disrespect to Aston Villa’s other attacking players but it’s extremely good news that their main threat, Christian Benteke, is out of this game with injury.
Not so good news is the continued absence of David Silva and the slight concern over the missing in action, Sergio Aguero. A slight worry perhaps that they’re not going to be playing in a top-flight Premier League away fixture…but that’s where the jitters end for me. From what I’ve heard, had we not have been playing such a hard Champions League fixture just 4 days later against Bayern, I recon these two key players would have been risked for our trip to Villa Park.
Once again it’s being made perfectly clear that the European competition is firmly in the sights of Pellegrini & Co. Thankfully, unlike the many rested players against Stoke before the trip to Plzen, we have more players at our disposal to choose from and we go into this away game in better form and confidence than we did at the Britannia Stadium.
Probable line-up against Villa then…

Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Richards, Lescott, Rodwell, Milner, Jovetic
Should be a win…

2:27pm update...

Actual line-up against Villa…

Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Richards, Lescott, Garcia, Navas, Jovetic

Still should be a win…

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

What a blast! Now let’s blow Wigan away…

For large parts of the (wonderful) Derby last Sunday we were awesome. Ignore the disrespectful ‘…but how much of it was down to Manyoo being awful’ lines; we put them to the sword in true style.

Need to follow it up…

Any long-serving Manchester City supporter will tell you that there are two words synonymous with our wonderful football Club. Not such wonderful words, however, which are Inconsistent and Typical. The I.T. crowd have groaned and bemoaned how we have shot ourselves in the foot many times down the years; ruining what started all-too-briefly to look like we were about to turn a corner or, even better, dared to gather pace and put something of a run together.

Indeed following our last Manager’s summer departure and some indifferent form under our new boss this season so far; it has been suggested by some that we have annoyingly rediscovered our inconsistent tag.

So I say with no regret of exaggeration that I am desperate for us to follow-up our Derby win with another against Wigan tonight in the League Cup, followed by a solid and clinical display at Villa Park on Saturday; leading us to another 3 points.

Had we have been given a favourable choice of evenings to play in this round of the cup (Manyoo being given the Wednesday slot) following a tiring game against them just 48-hours earlier, I recon that Mr “wanting to win all 4 competitions” Pellegrini may well have gone for a stronger line-up. He may well DECIDE to include a few from last Sunday’s game…but I’m guessing not many.

In fact, as I stated on 13th September, I’d be quite excited to see how we’d fair with a team full of so-called ‘second stringers’…despite what I said about the need for consistency and getting through to the next round of the League Cup.

With some slight re-adjustments to my last line-up on the 13th - not least due to Kompany coming back to us earlier than expected with a Superman display last Sunday (and assuming that we’ve been secretly getting Guidetti fit to start this one – I can hope…) - I wouldn’t mind the following line-up tonight:

v Wigan Athletic:









Subs: Wright, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nasri, Navas, Negredo, Dzeko

No disrespect to Wigan, but I would hope (unfamiliar as they might be in playing together) this starting 11 would be enough to get past them at home. There would be a strong bench as back-up if needed but the starting 11 still has SO much talent!

But I suspect not, as I say; surely Dzeko would get a start and I think I’m being more than optimist to hope that the rehabilitating Guidetti will even make the bench. With Rekik out on loan to PSV and Clichy still (probably) recovering from a knock, it looks like Kolarov will have to put another shift in (he too did very well on Sunday going forward – he had little to do defence-wise).


I hope Lopes gets a start (or at least a run-out at some stage) and perhaps another EDS player that I’ve not mentioned too. I’m also really looking forward to Rodwell doing a good shift and really want a good look at Jovetic. Tonight’s game could be an enthralling one. Can’t wait.

Then it’s onto Villa away. A team that, compared to last season, is having a really good start to this campaign. And with Benteke fighting to be fit for the 3:00pm, Saturday showdown (remember those?) we need to take advantage of the big man’s possible absence.

Regardless of whether he’s fit or not, most of our stars, I’m sure, will get a rest tonight and will enjoy a buoyant-mood training week. So rather than digging up horrible traits of the past; perhaps they’ll begin a new (another new) era and blow Villa away rather than us-having to use either the “I” or the “T” words.

But it starts with Wigan Athletic tonight…

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Derby – Possible line-ups and analysis

With news that some of our players are only just coming back into full training late on this week it’s difficult to be sure who exactly will start (and who might make the bench). But as accurately as possible, here’s my take on the teams that might take us into the first Pellegrini v Moyes Manchester Derby.

First of all a quick note: Due to a family bereavement of losing my father-in-law this week I have not been focusing on footy as much as I would have normally throughout a Champions League week and leading up to a Derby. It is for this reason that I didn’t do a post-Plzen write-up and am keeping this one fairly simple also.

Manchester City


(Assuming Clichy, Richards and Silva are not going to make it)










I’ve just got a feeling that Manuel will ask the lively (if nothing else) Fernandinho to do a man-marking job on Wayne Rooney; assuming, as I am, that Moyes will ask Wayne to sit deep as usual between Van Persie and the midfield. Similarly, I think our Manager might use Aguero slightly deeper too; making up a diamond-attacking 4 behind Negredo.

Looks solid enough (apart from a worrying left-back situation) with, affectively, a back 5 protecting us against any Manyoo threat. This also gives us plenty of creativity & pace on the wings and many goal threats of our own; allowing Yaya in particular to do more damage by being given a more attacking remit.

Of course if Silva is fit to start you can put David in Aguero’s position and I would imagine that Sergio will sit up front and Negredo will, once again, find himself on the bench. But that aside...


Pantilimon, Lescott, Boyata, Rodwell, Milner, Jovetic, Dzeko



_______________Van Persie_______________









_________________De Gea________________


Don’t know or care much…

The only problem I can see if these are the formations and personnel, is that with Fernandinho watching Rooney; Yaya is going to have to ‘dig in’ and help battle against Carrick and Fellaini. There is a strong argument in this game for the inclusion of Milner & Fernandinho in the middle in a 4-2-3-1, where the attacking 3 would be Nasri, Toure & Navas behind a lone striker of, probably, Aguero.

Rating out of 10…

Hart                             9
De Gea                       7

Kolarov                      4
Evra                            7

Nastasic                     8
Vidic                           8

Kompany                   9
Ferdinand                  7

Zabaleta                     9
Jones                          6

Fernandinho              6
Carrick                       6

Toure                          8
Fellaini                        7

Nasri                           7
Young                         6

Navas                         8
Valencia                     7

Aguero                       8
Rooney                       8

Negredo                     8
Van Persie                 9

Pellegrini                    7 (Good but still new to the Premier League)
Moyes                         8 (Knows how to, in the past at least, both frustrate and, indeed, beat City. Also has more Premier League / league-Derby experience with Everton)


Manchester City:      91
Manyoo:                     86


2-1 to City.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

In good Kompany

Our sorely missed Captain travels with the squad to the Czech Republic and it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll play. I’d rather not risk him if he's only 80% or there abouts; for me it’s far more important to win the game on Sunday.

Pellegrini’s focus

Even at this early stage it appears as though Manuel is placing a lot of emphasis on the Champions League, whether that’s his own desire or his remit from Executives above. Perhaps it’s both. A much weakened team against Stoke, his own words (stating that we need to win the game against Viktoria Plzen) and the possible early inclusion of Vinny tonight has lead me to believe that this is the case.

Speaking of our Manager’s words I had to play, 3 times, a section of his pre-Plzen match interview to truly believe what I was hearing, as he said…

“Without Vincent, except the game against Cardiff; the defence played very well” [adding that we have 3 clean sheets in the 3 games, which is correct and fair enough].

Clean sheets aside..."played very well"?! Did he watch the Hull & Stoke City games? Like me did he not watch an uncharacteristically below par performance Nastasic had against Hull on his (fare enough) return from injury? Did he not see Lescott get turned inside out on more than one occasion against The Tigers? Did he not see Garcia struggle, once again, to do an impression of a central defender and did he not see the gaping hole at left-back where Kolarov should have been?

Considering he has no issues with English; I’ll be keeping an eye on Pellegrini’s quotes from now on…

Regardless of whether Kompany plays or not, I get the feeling our training cone left-back will be chosen ahead of Clichy again tonight. Huhhhh...great. Let’s just hope Clichy is being 'prepped' for the game against Manyoo on Sunday.

David Silva is still missing, having not travelled to the Czech Republic.

Beer, beer we want got more beer…

According to the Manchester Evening News Plzen’s ground has a bridge leading to the local (and very large) brewery, which houses a bar that can hold 4,000 people! Huh…sounds like the amount of fans Mary D’s tries to squeeze in pre-match…


I text one of my footballing buddies to tell him, knowing that he usually attends most European away games. He was sat at Manchester Airport at the time and replied, “Tut…and I wasn’t going to have a drink either”. Yeah right Steve...

The Club’s PR Manager has promised Manchester City fans a warm welcome...


Looks like a fun time will be had by all then!

Here’s hoping for a positive result AND performance from City. I’ve no idea about Plzen and so just cannot even try to predict an outcome - just gonna sit back and (hopefully) enjoy…

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Disappointment tinged with relief

Looking at the personnel chosen to face Stoke City yesterday, I went from a confident feeling of a fairly comfortable win to a foreboding feeling of a Cardiff City repeat. Even the best teams with the strongest depth in quality can struggle when you change SIX players for an away game in the Premier League.

Why so many changes?

When I saw the line-up I text a few Blues and said, “Yikes! Kolarov & Garcia in the defence; Jovetic & Negredo start up front. That’s 4-3 to us then…” (I said somewhat confidently AND jittery at the same time). How wrong was I as it ended up 0-0?

We looked AWFUL at the back and how Stoke didn’t win it only they-themselves will know. They must be kicking themselves as they missed the bulk of the chances. We had ours…but not many.

Regular readers will know that my two least favourite players are Garcia & Kolarov and I felt fully justified yesterday in my lack of admiration of these two. Both were terrible at the Britannia Stadium; our left-side of the defence was virtually non-existent. Kolarov’s afternoon wasn’t helped with the lack of (decent) cover that he got from Samir Nasri. In fairness the Frenchman did track back quite often but proved totally ineffective in doing so, as time and time again we were exposed down the left.

I’ve said it before and I’ll bemoan it time and time again I’m sure; when Clichy is out (even allowing for no Vinny to organise the rest at the back) we are gonna get destroyed down that flank…and we were only playing Stoke yesterday! We simply failed to strengthen in the summer in what was CLEARLY an area of concern. Simply put, Clichy has no competition behind him whatsoever; we may as well stick a training cone at left-back when Clichy is being rested.

So was Pellegrini resting so many with the Viktoria Plzen just 72 hours later? I for one hope not. I’ve said before that we’ve not yet arrived as a Club; where we’ve achieved enough domestically to be casting one eye on European competition when competing in a Premier League game. Crack things domestically on a consistent basis and THEN start to seriously challenge in Europe. I’ve heard that Pellegrini wants to challenge hard all 4 competitions. Well that’s very ambitious and admirable but, I think, a little silly for our stage in development.

But in guessing the Manager’s reasoning for weakening the team yesterday perhaps I have it wrong. I have to remind myself that most of these players have just come back from international games (the price of a squad full of top talent); some of them played 90 minutes for their country and some travelled a very long way to do so. Perhaps some of them WERE jaded and/or were carrying a few niggles.

All of a sudden with that theory, a 0-0 draw at a ground where we often lose – and with a Champions League away game and a derby looming - doesn’t feel that bad. But, as I say, a (fortunately) good display from Hart aside; we were lucky to get away with a clean sheet yesterday.

Up front

Our own threat up front wasn’t up to much yesterday either. As I expected, Dzeko was indeed dropped to the bench and Negredo didn’t start with Aguero. Apart from one excellent pass from Negredo to Jovetic resulting in a spectacular volley over the bar from Steven (and a late Jovetic header just wide), the Spaniard and Montenegrin looked, well…like they’d never played together before.

With the mostly-defensive Rodwell getting his first start of the season and with the sometimes frustratingly inconsistent Toure sitting deep too; the middle of the park was never going to provide much creative spark. And with no Navas and an equally inconsistent Nasri keeping one eye on the much-lacking left back position; our attacking prowess was doing a fine impression of the invisible man for most of yesterday.

0-0, as I say, is starting to look more & more “pleasing” a result…

Elsewhere in the Prem…

The good news is that Chelsea suffered a shock defeat away at Everton. Perhaps I’m being a little unkind on The Toffees but I suspect most fancied Chelsea to grab all 3 points…or at least a draw. So despite drawing at Stoke, Chelsea sit behind us in the table at this early stage of proceedings.

So do Manyoo…sorry I’ll say that again. So do cheating Manyoo, despite a lucky win at home to Crystal Palace yesterday. Yes they (predictably) dominated their home game against the newly promoted Londoners but not without the help of the diving Ashley Young. Not for the first time have we seen the largely disappointing winger fling himself to the ground in (OR NEAR) the penalty area and he did so twice yesterday.

And those didn't even include the dive outside the penalty area yesterday that won them a penalty and a Crystal Palace player sending off just before half time!

Despite taking serious flack from most of the press and a certain TalkSPORT Presenter for not strengthening in the summer; it’s Arsenal who sit at the top after 4 games!

And they sit on the same wins, draws, loses, goal difference and points as they local rivals Tottenham. Spurs, I’ve said before, are a worry for me. They have a really good squad and, like us, haven’t found top gear yet…

Liverpool sit in 3rd with an impressive 3 wins from 3 and face an away trip to Swansea City on Monday night.

Position                                  P         W         D         L        GD      PTS
     1st             Arsenal              4          3          0          1          3          9
     2nd                   Tottenham           4          3          0          1          3          9
     3rd             Liverpool           3          3          0          0          3          9
     4th             Man City            4          2          1          1          5          7
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
     5th             Manyoo             4          2          1          1          4          7
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
     6th             Chelsea             4          2          1          1          2          7

Rested, recovered and regrouped

Being as totally unfit as I am, I’m really suffering with a sore back and incredibly aching thighs on this grey, Sunday morning. This is from simply bending down and wood-treating several fence panels yesterday morning / early afternoon! With Saturday being the only dry day from last Tuesday to this coming Tuesday – and bracing myself for some 50-Mph winds and lashing rain for most of today - I just had to while I could (I’d been putting it off for weeks).

A little hung over too, I now intend to sit in and rest my aching limbs and muscles; have a bowl of homemade soup in the afternoon and watch the rain batter down on the windows whilst watching whatever footy might be on the telly. That’s what Sundays are for aren’t they?

Considerably fitter than me; I hope that the majority of the City lads are well recovered too. I hope Pellegrini’s decisions pays off and that they’ll put a tricky tie in the Czech Republic to bed on Tuesday night.

Feeling rested and regrouped, we then really need to start to show our quality in the Premier League; starting with a certain game at home to Manyoo. A quality Premier League performance is something we’ve, somewhat worryingly, not seen since the opening game against Newcastle United; a fine memory of a very fine performance but one, which, is starting to rapidly disappear in the fogs of time…