Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Could have been worse…but not much!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a weekend - in the time that we’ve been challenging for the title over the last few years - where every team in the top 3rd (or there abouts) won…and we lost. We’ve lost some ground on a few teams, we’ve allowed a few to catch up and the only way it could have been worse is if we’d have come out of the Chelsea clash with injuries to key players. Let’s be thankful for (very) small mercies.

Can only look ahead...

Determined to make us a more solid unit.
What we need to do now is steam-roller Newcastle in the League Cup on Wednesday night to get it out of our system and then take that renewed sense of belief into our November (and December 1st) fixtures; 5 from 6 of which are at home. With home Premier League games against Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City along with an away trip to Sunderland, we need to take maximum league points in November / December 1st to make up some ground. 12 points from 12 with those fixtures shouldn’t be seen as unachievable.

Positives from the Chelsea game

We deserved a point before…THAT last-minute incident. In fact I’m not sure too many would have begrudged us all 3 if the reverse had happened at the end.

Good start - ignore the M.E.N.'s comments...
The Manchester Evening News (M.E.N.) gave Demichelis 6/10 and pointed to a few errors. I saw past those and saw a very classy-looking, intelligent defender who was pitched into one of the more difficult games of the season. He did well.

On fire!

Aguero too is having a crackin’ spell of form – what a goal! “If only” and “what could have been” springs to mind when I look back at last season’s struggles to find the net far more than we did.

Zabaleta had another good, 7/10 game; Silva was a solid 8 and alongside Nasri they both caused Chelsea a lot of problems on their own patch. I thought Pellegrini’s decision to play a solid, central midfield 3 of Fernandinho, Garcia and Toure was very good and worked well; and all 3 came out of it with good 7/10s. It wasn’t Nastasic’s finest game but it wasn’t his worse either. I think the M.E.N. were a little harsh giving him 5/10; but then again perhaps his part in the pantomime trick at the end didn’t help his cause.

And that leads me on to…

…the negatives

More questions and microscope observations have already been levelled at our – and England’s – Number 1…and I can understand that. It was a howler after-all and, as the M.E.N. pointed out, the latest in about half-a-dozen major faults in the last year for both club and country. After some good displays and notable saves in recent weeks; his confidence will have taken yet another dent.

On a downer...again.

Already we’ve had scrutiny by national TV pundits, wall to wall newspaper coverage on our Joe and an ex-City goalkeeper being interviewed on local television. And of course some will try, no doubt, to ‘raise the eyebrows of the uninformed’ when Costel Pantilimon takes his place between the sticks for our League Cup clash at St. James’ Park on Wednesday; a game the Romanian was always going to start [regardless of Hart’s form].

One (never goes of course) red at work even told me yesterday which keeper City are “after” in January. Can’t recall the name…not interested. Willy something. Whatever…

But another concern for me is also further annoyance. It’s something that I’ve been banging on about since way before the summer transfer window closed. Some players – and perhaps Joe is one of thoseneed, no, THRIVE on healthy competition to keep them on their toes. Perhaps Joe doesn’t see Costel as much of a threat?

Needs a kick; needs competition.

We have it at right-back with Zaba & Micah and PLENTY of competition in midfield / wings and up front. But Clichy’s form and performances have been way below his usual standard this season so far and for me the reason is obvious. What on earth does he have to worry about when all he has behind him challenging is Alex Kolarov?

Perhaps it’s not that simple; perhaps the chopping and changing (through injuries an’ the like) of the central defenders has been a major, upsetting factor also. But for me – and sorry to bore regular readers – it’s also because we are in desperate need to sign a quality left-back to provide the sort of competition Gael, I’m sure, will thrive on and rise to.

Missing in action

Other questions have been niggling at me recently and one of them is surrounding a player I think most of us were drooling to see in action this season. What’s happening with the lack of game time Jesus Navas is getting? Okay, competition for places an’ all that is fantastic – and that kind of strength-in-depth of quality is the making of a top, top side.

Pace to burn!
And, of course, not every game suits; I recall bemoaning his exclusion away at Stoke and when he came on with 17+ minutes to spare I was rubbing my hands in anticipation of him making a real impact. He didn’t.

Not only was this guy going to tear apart and terrorise defences, we were told; he was going to bring into the fore a frustrated Dzeko who was utterly desperate for the kind of service most of us believe he was deprived of under Roberto Mancini. And that’s why I’m sometimes surprised at Jesus’ lack of inclusion on the wide, perfectly formed grasses of the Etihad Stadium instead of Nasri. Just try to recall, if you will, how Navas performed on the opening fixture at home to Newcastle

That brings me nicely on to Edin Dzeko himself. Of course Aguero is in very fine form and although the goals might not be flying in for him in recent games; it’s clear for all to see what Negredo brings to the game. His fine runs, lay-offs, power and all-round positional play is a joy to watch. There’s no doubting that the Spaniard works really, really well with our pocket-battleship Argentinean.

So this leaves Edin, once again I’m sure, contemplating headin’ for the exit door in January (although he has denied, whenever asked, ever wanting to quit the Blues). Nothing has been said of this in the press over the last few days (yet) but I can just see it brewing if things don’t change for the Bosnian very soon.

But he often doesn’t do himself any favours, does he? Just look at the clear chance he missed against CSKA when he was brought on; along with his poor play and terrible touch in general, albeit on a poor pitch that evening of course.

Still frustrated - patience ran out?

We’re only 13 games in (all competitions) and there will be many, many opportunities ahead for the Dzeko / Navas-supply combo to be given a go…I’m just not so sure Dzeko has that much patience left in him.

And if he does go, I wonder if we’ll see someone like Lewandowski come in as a replacement…possibly even a straight / cash-included swap? Sorry John Guidetti, I’ve not forgotten about you (far from it).
Coming in?
Despite little niggling, injury set-backs at the beginning of his Manchester City career, I bet Jovetic is a little shocked at his limited opportunities too…

Waiting for another chance. Tomorrow perhaps?

Next up...

St. James' Park
I’m sure some of those who are feeling left out will get their opportunity to shine tomorrow night and, so, here’s my predicted line-up, formation and result…

vs Newcastle United:











Subs: Wright, Zabaleta, Kompany, Toure, Silva, Nasri, Aguero

Perhaps on this occasion my prediction is a bit of, ‘this is what I’d pick’ more than what I think Manuel will choose. But having said that, I don’t think it’ll be far off this.

The goalie is surely a ‘nailed on’ choice for the League Cup; I think he’ll give another run-out to Demichelis too (3 days should be enough recovery time and he needs the game-time in order to gain more fitness). I think Lescott is a shoe-in for Nastasic and, quite naturally, Richards should be able to give Pablo a rest at right back.

Surely…SURELY this is a game for Jack Rodwell and working alongside him; Milner would provide a powerful and hardworking engine room. Surely Navas on the right and I think there’s room for Jovetic on the left. I’ve seen him play there before and it would give Nasri & Silva a rest following their fine, hard-working game against Chelsea – and we need them fresh to destroy Norwich on Saturday!

And with Navas FINALLY supplying the ammo; it’s got to be the (rested) Negredo and (even MORE rested) Dzeko up front for this game.

A powerful bench “just in case” and I think that’s a good line-up. I’ve included Kompany on the bench too; I’m not sure of his current status but I don’t think he’s far off and so if we’re comfortable; it might be worth sticking him on for 20 minutes or so ahead of the Canaries visit.

Lopes - Another opportunity?
Guidetti - Comeback game? Too early?

I would like to have seen a few EDS players in there and perhaps he will give a chance to the likes of Lopes. I was hoping by now also that Guidetti would have been slightly further down the road of a return to fitness and that he too could take advantage of some League Cup games. Perhaps we will see John, if not in this round then (hopefully) the next…

Result? A win for City.

This'll be my last entry for about a week; I'm off to Edinburgh with my wife for a short, 4-day break. Heading off as we are very early on Thursday; I'll actually be missing the Norwich home game! That wasn't good planning...especially having had to endure a full month of away games!
And although we're back home in time, I'll be absent for the CSKA return fixture too. It's bonfire night when we play the Russian side and until I design and build a sound-proof box for my dog; we're on dog-calming duty that night. Poor little thing...but I hope he bloody-well appreciates the company and can shut up barking in anger at the fireworks long enough for me to enjoy the game on the telly...
A repeat of this would be perfect, please, Sam...
PS. I promise to try and get some updated photos of the new training complex soon as there have been some real, noticeable changes over the last few weeks. I'll aim to get back down there early November. Most noticeable is the main, 7,500 seater stadium within this complex but other structure to are really starting to come on too.

Additionally, they've now closed-off/re-positioned the main entrance to the East Stand side of the Etihad Stadium itself at the corner of Alan Turing Way and Manchester Road...and there are some construction vehicles there too now. This, no doubt, is the beginning of the work on the bridge that will link the stadium to the training complex. Exciting times continue...

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