Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Don’t be silly Mr Pellegrini.

For me tonight’s game is not just an interruption of the Premier League, it’s a outright disruption…and potentially a detrimental one depending on how our manager plays it. I don’t exaggerate when I say, ‘get this wrong and it could actually harm our Premier League hopes’.

Pride could be our undoing

Allianz Arena
Will I be proud if we beat Bayern on their own patch by 3 goals and finish top of the group? Proud?! I’d be on the floor in shock! But yes, I would be very proud indeed.

Will I be proud if we win by the odd goal or even manage, “just”, draw in Germany? Absolutely!

Would I still be proud if we were narrowly beaten; giving an excellent account of ourselves on the supposed biggest Club football stage in the world. Of course I would.

But this SAME pride is probably gushing through most of our players too - even the most cynical footy fan can see that, SOME players care more than just about the size of their bank balances.

On this occasion, however, this ‘pride’ worries me a little.

I, of course, don’t want us to get completely mauled in Germany; neither will our Manager. And I’m DAMN certain the likes of Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta, Milner, the revitalised Nasri, Aguero and Negredo will either! That’s why I would hardly pick any of those players tonight ahead of our absolutely vital game against Arsenal on Saturday.


Just as it was at the Etihad; this is going to be another fast, fluid, typical Pep Guardiola, 4-6-0 / 4-5-1 type of game and so could I ask you, can you see Kompany wanting Bayern to get the better of him and his defence? Can you see Vinny pushing himself anything less than 100% for the whole 90-odd minutes? Can you see Zaba doing likewise? And Aguero? No, neither can I.

They’re up against one of the (or perhaps ‘the’?) best Managers in the world and some of the best PLAYERS in the world. Of course they’re not going to want to look like a bunch of Muppets in front of millions…and that’s what concerns me.

There’s even a rumour that Silva might play a part in tonight’s game!

We’re through to the next round, we don’t NEED to finish top of the group. All this, “…if you finish top you get an easier draw” talk is absolute b…...rubbish in this competition. EVERY game is hard from now on and so why risk injuring or tiring players unnecessarily ahead of what could prove to be such a pivotal game in our very own Premier League?

Regular readers will know what I think of the Champions League measured against where we are in terms development both as a Football Club and with our current team. We’re not quite there yet and we should concentrate our efforts on being more consistent domestically before we try to conquer Europe. In my opinion, we’re at least 3 years away from seriously challenging for the final.

“But our owners what us to be successful in Europe too and have spent lots of money on players. They expect…”.

Of course they do and yes they HAVE spent fortunes on building the team. And I’m not suggesting for one moment that we simply roll over tonight. I’m not suggesting either that each season we should not try to qualify beyond the group stages OR not try to ‘push on’ beyond that.

But we should NOT be risking our, yes I’ll say it, ‘bread & butter’ for the chance of some caviar; not just yet anyway.

So, with my neck fully wound back in, I’m gonna stick two lots of ‘personnel’ & ‘formations’ in ahead of this evening’s clash – what I think he’ll pick and what I would pick.

Pellegrini v Bayern Munich:

Formation: 4-5-1:











Me v Bayern Munich:

Formation: 4-2-3-1:











Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Boyata, Kompany, Rodwell, Negredo, Aguero

Where I think we’ll agree…

-          Hart: He’s not being used for Premier League games at the moment and so he just has to be used in other competitions.

-          Kolarov: The use of Kolarov has been forced due to some “feet” injury issue to Clichy. I say, in a strange way, thankfully Gael wasn’t fit for this one. He’s not even travelled and so hopefully they’re working to get him right for Saturday…

-          Demichelis: Although he looked a little jaded at the end of the WBA victory and more than a little ropey against Southamptonand although he MAY be feeling a little stiff from such a heavy fixture list of late – he has bags of ‘top flight’ experience that will be needed at the back this evening.

-          Fernandinho: A must in a game where you’re trying to quell the opposition as much as possible.

-          Toure: Although he can often, as he did at Southampton, start to look for that wall to lean on when the fixtures pile up; we need his presence in the middle for this exceptionally tough game. There should be enough recovery time, even for him, before the Arsenal game 3 ½ days later…

-          Navas: Was virtually rested for our trip to the South coast and so should be fresh and raring to go. Seems to play better from the start as opposed to being an ‘impact substitute’ for some reason I’ve noticed.

-          Nasri: Without Silva, he’d have to put in another shift as one of our main, creative midfielders/wingers.

Where we differ…

-          Kompany: No! Do I need to say any more? As he does; he’ll push himself hard and, in my opinion, too far in this fixture. We need him for the Premier League.

-          Zaba: If Manuel can tell Micah to ‘stay put’ and not bomb forward quite so much for this one, he’ll do just fine. I would rather have Zaba available for Saturday’s game.

-          Garcia: Are you joking? He’s a 3 to 4/10 man in the Premier League; how the ‘eck will he perform away at Bayern?! Milner all day long along-side Fernandinho.

-          Dzeko: This isn’t JUST about saving Aguero from getting injured or fatigued ahead of the Arsenal game; if we pack the midfield against the German side and get the ammo flowing from the wings from Nasri and Navas then the experienced Bundesliga player might…just MIGHT thrive. Yes Aguero is far more mobile in, what is sure to be, a very fast & fluid game. But I just get the feeling that, if played correctly; Edin would see the fruits of our endeavours in this one.

Both are very similar…and I HOPE Pellegrini learnt his lesson from our last encounter. There was a collective GASP at the Etihad from most of the City fans when we saw his all-too-obvious 4-4-2 line-up. Even the ‘fairly inexperienced’ must have known how Pep liked to play and could see what was coming our way with such a rigid formation and thin, central midfield.

4-5-1 / 4-2-3-1 might seem like tomato / tomahto. But I’d like to think that with Fernandinho & Milner sitting slightly deeper - protecting & helping the back 4 a little more - it allows Yaya & Co. to (mostly) head in just one direction; in support of the lonesome striker.

Result? Tut…huhhhhhh…I’ll stick with my original gut instinct and go for a defeat. A narrow, ‘head held high’ with, hopefully, no injuries (including pride) defeat. But a defeat nonetheless.

Now let’s move on…

Having already missed two games so far this season due to a short, ill-timed break in Edinburgh (Norwich City) and a bonfire night spent in the house minding my petrified dog (CSKA Moscow); I’m devastated to report that I’m going to miss the Arsenal game too! I know, I know…

I am very much looking forward to my Saturday morning flight with my wife to Tenerifeand I will be back for Christmas and, therefore, the Liverpool & Palace fixtures – but still…what a game to miss, hey?

So as I will be, no doubt, busily readying myself for ‘warmer climes’ over the next 4 days; I thought I’d ‘mash in’ a pre-Arsenal Blog posting too.

Quick note here: I still don’t own a mobile device to ‘Blog’ while I’m away from my PC at home and so, for now at least, “being away” also means “no Blogging” (short of finding a Spanish Internet Café on this occasion – can’t see that suggestion going down too well though…).

Now stop crying in your beverages; it’s not too long to wait...

So assuming that we’ve come back from Germany unscathed, I’ll get straight into my predicted line-up against Arsenal and the 12:45pm (BST) KO on Saturday 14th December.












Subs:  Pantilimon, Kolarov, Richards, Lescott, Milner, Navas, Dzeko.

Hopefully the medical staff can do their stuff on Clichy in time for him to take his rightful place ahead of Kolarov. It’s still too early for Nastasic and so it’s Martin and Vinny in the middle of the defence. I think Silva will be back for this one, which is probably going to be bad news for Navas. And, no doubt, it’s ‘same again’ up front.

A stronger looking bench with Navas sitting in there too now and, no…it’s not a misprint. Being under the cosh, as I’m sure we will be tonight, I’ve got a feeling that Hart will be called upon a lot…and will come through the game in fine style. And with Costel “allowing” his 9-foot, extended-armed frame to be chipped by a delightful, Osvaldo goal last Saturday; I’m just going for a punt that Pellegrini will plumb for Joe against the Gunners.

Perhaps I’m putting 2 & 2 together and am coming up with 17.6 here but it’s my guess and I’ll stick my neck on the block as always.

Result? A City win.

2 back-to-back 'aways' taking us into Christmas.

The King Power Stadium
The King Power Stadium is up just 3 days later as we face Leicester City in the quarter final of the League Cup. Unlike a lot of fans of top-4 clubs I actually want this one. Apart from those City fans who have let our recent successes and new-found wealth go to their heads; for me we’ve not quite reached the stage yet where we can be TOO picky about what trophies we’d like to win.

And so despite wanting to see John Guidetti get a shot here and would love to see a returning Stevan Jovetic get a run out too; I hope he doesn’t weaken to team too much. Leicester away is not a terribly easy place to visit for a cup tie.

I don’t know why I’ve said “see” John & Steven; what are the chances of finding a pub in Tenerife showing an English League Cup game? Is it even on TV I wonder?

Craven Cottage
Craven Cottage after this and a full strength City should come back with 3 points against Fulham. Under their new Manager, Rene’ Meulensteen, I watched most of the game against Aston Villa the other day and once they got their head of steam up, they actually looked like a decent threat going forward.

But IF we play our top game then these are the places we should be coming back from with full points if we are to believe we can win the league this season.

Very shrewd partnership

Just a final note on something I read the other day. Ever since Oldham Athletic appointed the then-unknown (to me) Lee Johnson as Manager in March of this year, I have been quietly telling a few people to watch this fella. Radio Manchester ran an extended piece on him at the time of his appointment and together with a few things that I’ve since read; I think he’s going to be a very good Manager in years to come.

He’s very modern and forward thinking. Such a (very) young chap in Management too; he’s gone about his early coaching and Managing in the right way by taking notes, ideas and techniques from some of the best around the world.

So I was a delighted - but not necessarily surprised to see with our very own forward-thinking Football Club - when I read that we might be getting together with Oldham in the hope of supplying them with some of our EDS players; in order for them to get some good, league experience to aid their development.

Yes of course ‘loaning out‘ is nothing new and it goes on all over the world of football. But consistently loaning players to one club under the tutorage of a manager with such modern ideas and techniques right on our doorstep? That just sounds like a winner to me!

In case I don’t ‘Blog’ or otherwise miss anyone before Christmas Day...

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