Saturday, 31 August 2013

Glad we’re still smarting.

You can’t expect to win every game and if you do, you’ll just end up sounding and behaving like arrogant Manyoo fans; who have been doing just that for years (especially those who grew up knowing nothing outside of the reign of Fergie). But I am pleased that some of us are still feeling the hurt of the Cardiff defeat, especially Pellegrini; who says that he was indeed angry at the manner in which we lost in Wales last Sunday.


Clinical performance needed

My heart says, “Go and SMASH Hull City off the park this afternoon” and it has been saying this for most of the week. But being only 5 ½ hours away from the early KO – and having watched Manuel’s pre-match press conference very early this Saturday morning – I seem to be taking on-board some of his famous serenity. We need to show that we feel the pain of that defeat in other ways; by producing an almost faultless display of neat passing, fine organisation right across the pitch and some clinical finishing.
Of course I’d like to see us win by the same margin as the Newcastle opening game but a professional 2-0 win will do for me also.

Cup draws should see us progress

So the cup competition draws are out and, starting domestically, we have the chance of some minor revenge for our F.A. Cup Final defeat; drawing Wigan Athletic at home in the (Capital One sponsored) League Cup.
However, due to Manyoo drawing at home also (against Liverpool) the Police have, quite rightly, raised concerns and it’s City who have drawn the short straw; moving our game 24 hours earlier to Tuesday 24th September. This means that we only have just over 48 hours following the Derby at 4pm on Sunday 22nd September and this will, I’m sure, force our Manager to put out even less first-choice players than he perhaps would have liked. Still, we should progress into the 4th round…
And looking at the Champions League draw against Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen, I’ve done a quick, realistic and perhaps at little pessimistic ‘Win, Draw, Lose’ calculation. I have given us 11 group points. There’s a good chance that we’ll get 14 points but as a very minimum; 11 points should see us finish 2nd behind Bayern.
Those who know me will know that I’m not THAT bothered by the Champions League (WHAT!?). Please don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the importance that success in this competition brings. Top players look to teams who challenge strongly in this competition. Top Managers too need to see the Club’s ambition to compete at the top level of European competition. And, of course, that’s where the big revenue comes from.
But - and I’ll keep coming back to this I’m sure - I am a realistic Manchester City fan who cringes every time I hear an over-excited comrade get too excited, too soon and starts sounding like an arrogant, expectant Manyoo fan.

So how soon is too soon?

I want to see us first become a force in this country; be more consistent in winning more domestic competitions. I want to see us win back-to-back Premier Leagues over the coming years before the need for us to become a major force in the Champions League. And although there’ll room for both at some stage; that’s just not quite yet.
8 years. In 8 years time I hope we will have built up a fairly regular pattern of winning the Premier League every other year at least. I hope we keep sticking our name on the F.A. Cup too and will make it to the odd League Cup final as well.
And, yes, I would ALWAYS want us to qualify from the group stages of the Champions League and will, like most, be urging our team to progress as far as is possible. I will be excited when we do…but equally I won’t be crying in my beer if / when we get knocked out. Not just yet anyway.
(Artist impression) Academy - part of our long-term future
I’ve taken the figure of 8 years from about 2 or 3 years ago; when we really started to get a team together full of quality in most departments rather than the odd “statement of intent”, “marquee signing”. A 10-year plan to build the momentum of this Club in a sensible, steady, progressive manner. And in 8 years time, I believe that we’ll start to see the fruits of our new youth development too; as home-grown players will start to make their mark in the first team.
So whether it be 11 or 14 points taking us into the knock-out stages this season, I’ll then take my seat at the Etihad and enjoy the Champions League ride and see where it takes us.
If you share this philosophy, just watch the expression on non-Manchester City fans faces (particularly Manyoo “fans”) who, I’ve found, look completely perplexed when you tell them that you don’t necessarily want INSTANT success in ALL competitions. It’s really quite funny…
As Manchester City fans the majority of us, thankfully, have learnt to be more patient than most fans of others top-flight Clubs. And with our new, calm Manager at the helm; believe me when I say that it’s a quality that will pay huge dividends.

Saturday Footyday

Love it! It’s now 8:03am; I’ve been awake since 6:10am, the sun is shining and in less than 4 hours I’ll be heading off to watch my team play. Life is good.
The bar will be, I’m sure, open in the stadium before noon so it’ll be an ‘am’ pint for me...but I won’t be spending a fortune on a Jamie Oliver pie at half time. Those who have read my posts before will know that it’ll be a Hollands pie from Tesco done in the oven before I leave the house. Saving some money…it’s the future!
I don’t MIND the early KOs but it does mean that you’re footy day is sort of over by 2:30pm (plus added time). But with no other plans for the day ahead, no doubt it’ll be straight on to the pub to watch the other results spill in and, perhaps, take in a live TV game in the early evening.
Dry, sunny weather + 3 point + several pints + 1 curry + no work tomorrow = Bloody-good weekend! Whatever you're doing, have a good weekend also.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bits ‘n’ bobs.

Good result between Chelsea & Manyoo – neither team moved 3 points further away from us and Manyoo have used up a home game by dropping 2 points.

Negative or job done?

Some may criticise Mourinho for playing with no true recognised striker in an almost 4-6-0 formation; indeed I’ve already passed a (never goes) red in the street who did just that. But a point at Cold Trafford by ANY team is still an achievement and he should be given praise for sharing the points with Moyes’ men. Beat your rivals at home and draw with them away and you’re setting yourself up with really good chance of winning the title.

It’s all gonna be about the defence over the next few days…

Nastasic – Was on the bench against Cardiff and so I’m hopeful that he’ll be partnering Lescott for the home game against Hull City (early KO of 12:45pm BST).

Zabaleta – Has been a bit critical since the defeat in Wales of a change in defence tactics, which he said contributed to the 2-3 reverse result last Sunday. He said,

"Two goals from set pieces for us is hard," adding, "It has changed for us as last season we were marking zonally and now it is individual marking and sometimes it is hard”.

It’s a bloody good job Mancini has gone or Zaba would be in the dog house now…

Martin Demichelis - Despite negotiations on-going about a fee, it looks more and more likely that it’ll be the (33-year old in December) Argentinean joining us by 2nd September. Having said that, the name Adil Rami has cropped up again today. Not for the first time have we been linked with the French centre back from Valencia. Another previously linked – albeit not this summer but rather further back under Mancini’s reign – is PSG central defender Mamadou Sakho. Seems like a talent and for something in the region of £8M, it would appear he is attracting interest of many both in the UK and further afield in Europe.

Left-back link! – Although I can’t get too excited about a Kolarov replacement just yet, it is heartening to see us at least being linked with a supposed talented 17-year old, Brazilian left-sided defender. Abner is his (shorter) name (Abner Felipe Souza de Almeida) from a Club called Coritiba. We shall see…

With Kompany now seeming to have at least 2 injury spells per season lasting anywhere from a month to 12 weeks – along with the nickname Mancini gave Richards of “crystal” due to his fragile nature – as long as we get SOME quality defensive cover in before the window slams shut then we’ll all breath a little more easily I’m sure.

Sniping from some quarters…

Hart has been taking some hits yesterday and yet again this morning. Indeed some sources are suggesting that it’s not just a defender that we’ll bring in before Monday’s deadline; a highly unlikely link with Real Madrid’s, Spanish international Iker Casillas has broken in the press.

David Platt is the worst sniping offender - coming out with very bitter-sounding words suggesting that he & Roberto were planning on moving our Joe out of the Club; going for Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic as his replacement.

Even ex-Blue goalie Nicky Weaver was interviewed and the headline was that Weaver thinks Joe should be dropped for a while. However, I’ve listened to the interview and Nicky isn’t suggesting anything like this! I think it’s more like talkSPORT who are taking the cheap shots with their headlining here…

What a good idea!

It transpires that Manchester City have signed their EDS up to the UEFA Youth League, which comprises of all 32 Clubs who qualify for the Champions League. Whatever the draw for the first team will be the draw for the reserves too. Following the abandonment of the NextGen Series due to lack of funding, what a crackin’ idea!

This’ll be great experience for the lads (and, indeed, for every youth player at each of the Clubs involved)!

Thank you, as always, for reading and of course…KEEP THE FAITH!

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

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Quality and value.

That was sublimed last night. Real quality football. And with Negredo only coming on late and no Jovetic or Nastasic – along with powerful players like Richards & Milner also to come in when required – we can only get stronger.

Closing down

Along with many other qualities he brings to a team, Pellegrini, it has been said of; the word ‘possession’ is right up there near the top. It was so very clear to see this last night; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Manchester City side chase down every ball so vigorously every (short) time the opposition had hold of it. We just didn’t let Newcastle rest for a moment; we looked super sharp and fit and they just had no answer whatsoever. The scoreline should have been more…

Dzeko looked a different player – he looked mobile and far more agile that I ever believed possible. The Man of the Match award was well deserved.

Jesus! Jesus is fast. Not just when flat-out but he has a fabulous turn / short-burst of speed too that almost never failed to beat his man last night; enabling him to get in a cross. No wonder he got the most assists in Europe last season. If he stays free from injury I’ve heard too that he has an engine like Milner – he’ll play all year if he’s free of niggles.

And although Fernandinho may have had a slightly quieter game of the 3 new guys who got a run-out last night; it’s clear he has quality and worked very well indeed with a very trim-looking Yaya. When one bombed forward the other sat back and covered quite naturally.

Fighting fit

I don’t know if Mancini's ‘Hill of Hell' is still at City’s Carrington Training Ground (I suspect not); I know a lot of players have come out and said that it has been the toughest pre-season training session they’ve ever had. But it was clear last night that it’s all been well worth it.

Those City fans who ‘wobbled’ a little when they saw the performance against Arsenal in pre-season should indeed listen to those City fans who pay little attention to pre-season games (and to Vincent Kompany; who said that it had been a gruelling week’s training in the build-up to the Helsinki game). Just look at the sharp contrast in the results and performances of both teams in the Premier League over the last 3 days…

Great value

Whatever the cost of your ticket last night it must surely go down in your book as great value for money. For those who pay for their TV Sports packages likewise.

What was also great value last night was the match-day program. For the same as last season's price of £3, not only did you get 82 pages, there was a fabulous tribute to Bert Trautmann! Seriously, if you only buy one programme this season and get the chance, then try to get yourself a copy.

What a wonderful tribute City paid to the great man both in the programme and in other ways too – the video footage, the players warming up in goalkeepers tops with his name on (to be auctioned off for one of his charities), the mascots wearing goalie tops and the minutes applause just before kick off. Well done City!


Not-so great value

As previously posted, I was right about the price of the Jamie Oliver Fayre. I got speaking very early on to a nice chap and lady at the bar in BT City Square and they had purchased a Jamie burger and chips. £4.80p for a very small (I’m sure nice) burger and £2.70p for a very small carton-cup of chips! Absolutely disgusting price (£7.50p!) for the amount of food you get and, quite rightly, the chap said it would be the last time; adding that it was just curiosity. I don’t blame you fella…

I was somewhat curious about the “Rainbow (vegetarian) Pie” and, like him, was going to try one (one day soon AFTER pay day) at some point. Not sure I’ll even bother given the size of the burger – I’ll stick to my Holland's pie cooked at home and wrapped in foil thank you very much…

Back on the pitch

Worrying to see Kompany strain his groin last night. His frustration and determination to walk off the pitch as normal as his fresh injury would allow was there for all to see. But, I have heard, he’s since tweeted and is confident he won’t be out for long.

I can’t see him being ready for Cardiff City though and with doubts about Nastasic for that game too, it leaves a bit of a hole!

Having said that, I’ve not been a fan of Garcia since he joined us - as a 3rd Mancini-choice defensive midfielder/central defender newcomer - but he performed really well last night when coming on for our injured Captain (despite being called James Milner by the tannoy announcer).

I think Newcastle sought to take advantage of Vincent’s absence and, subsequently, Garcia saw plenty of the ball in the short time he was on. But he cleared everything and looked very composed it has to be said.

Aguero. What can I say? I think I’ll simply leave it at, we’ve got one of the best strikers in Europe in Sergio and I love him to bits.

Silva was brilliant too and typified more than most the desire to charge down everything last night. Fantastic performance from our little maestro.

Looking ahead

If we go into the tough, tricky game away at Cardiff City on Sunday afternoon with the very same attitude and desire - and don’t presume the newly promoted team is beaten before we’ve kicked the ball - then that should see us though to another 3 points at the weekend.

Let’s hope Villa get at least a point at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night. That’ll help us in two ways; it’ll also irritate Mourinho just enough before the Manyoo clash on Monday evening…

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The big KICK OFF! Well, almost…

Of course it is for 14 of our Premier League rivals; 4 more teams play tomorrow before, finally, the one that really counts.

All systems go for launch

Perhaps there were a few moans when TV companies grabbed a-hold of the fixtures and we were pushed to Monday night; perhaps I was one of those who gave a slightly resigned sigh.

But it couldn’t be better really. Not only are we going to avoid the miserable heavy rains and high winds forecasted for today – making it trickier for our lads to strut their stuff on the green, green grass of the Etihad – but it gives the boys a full 2 days extra recovery time and preparation following the many players who travelled to & from - and played in - international games this week-gone. Add that to your early list of moans too, Moyes (4:50 on this video link)!

Aguero is fit to play and there are no other injury/fatigue issues according to Pellegrini’s first, Premier League, pre-match press conference. And although not ready for Monday night’s opener, even Nastasic has recovered quicker than expected and is already training with the first team!

All systems go for…lunch (or tea/supper on this occasion)

And this’ll be our first taste, literally, of Jamie Oliver’s new endeavour into stadium food with his Fabulous Fanfayre joint venture. I hope it works and that fans really enjoy what he has to offer. Jamie might well get up the nose of some people but I have a lot of time for cheeky – and increasingly chubby – Essex lad. His principles and forward-thinking ideas are all there and as a Chef; I very much love his style.

He’s joint-first of the so-called celebrity Chefs/Cooks along with Nigel Slater in my book.

However, we’ve been down this road before and very recently too. Marco Pierre White designed and supplied our last ‘food revolution’ and what did we get? A slightly larger than normal (but still very small for the price), locally sourced pork and black pudding, glazed pie. It looked lovely (I couldn’t vouch for it being a veggie) and was told by many that it WAS very nice indeed. However, for the size of the thing it was very expensive – something in the region of £3.50!

For that, which is still a ridiculous price for a pie even these days, you want a good, stonking-sized pie that’s going to satisfy even the hungriest footy fan. Although we’re mostly catering for the home crowd of course; could you see a little dinky pie (locally sourced or not) satisfying the average Newcastle, belly-waving fan?

No, I can’t either...

I’m sure Jamie’s new burgers, hot-(pig)-dogs, chili dogs and whatever else will be really, really nice and will, most probably, be a ‘step up’ from what we have at the moment. But be prepared to be a lot lighter in the pocket as you take in the calories this season.

“Rainbow Veggie Pie”? I might try one…one day soon after pay-day just out of interest. Generally, though, it’ll be 4 cheese ‘n’ onion pies from Tesco for around £3. Stick one the in the oven as you’re getting ready for the match and wrap it in foil. Job done for little over 75p. Sorry Jamie…and Manchester City.


And while most are eating their tastier, locally sourced ‘whatevers’, we’ll now be doing it in and around “BT City Square”. Yep, the sponsorships just grow and grow at City and so be careful; if you stand in one place at the ground too long you too could soon find yourself branded on the forehead!

But rather than bemoaning the onslaught of companies that City are striking-up deals with; I think it’s great and absolutely necessary. We have fingers in so many (locally sourced) pies now that we’re putting ALL of the celebrity Chefs to shame! Does anyone remember 20-odd years ago when we didn’t even own our own shirt-selling store at Maine Road?!

Financial Fair Play worries? Yeah whatever…

Notable opening, Premier League fixtures

I’m sure that they’ll be some crackin’ games and loads of goals but do you know what; none really stand out as being particularly mouth watering to me if I'm being honest.

Who have Chelsea got? Hull City (Tigers) at home. Arsenal? Villa at home is hardly a thriller. Even a glance over to Anfield sees (only) the visit of Mark HughesStoke City.

Manyoo have a tricky visit to Swansea City and might not be a bad’n (I’ll be watching that one at 5:30pm) but out of all of ‘em – and only really because it’s an all-London affair - the Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur game seems about the best of the bunch. If Ian Holloway continues his attacking style as he did with Blackpool when last in the Premier League, it could be a crackin’ game! You watch, it’ll be a boring 0-0…

Although very excited about the start of the season (for Premier League followers), Norwich City v Everton; Sunderland v Fulham, West Bromwich Albion v Southampton and West Ham United v Cardiff City hardly set the pulse racing. I still can’t wait, though, to listen to the live reports coming through and seeing the highlights later on…

Fantasy Premier League team is all set up and ready to go too…

Stevie Wanderers

Money spent:
£100M from £100M

Starting 11 (formation 3-4-3):




Guzan, Garrido, Hernandez, Johnson

Try to win the league of course; certainly to finish higher than last season's 10 from 22 (23 teams this season) and top-4 at the very least.


It’s back! Although I’ve really enjoyed the fabulous sunshine summer we’ve (mostly) had in the UK for a change – and also quite enjoyed (mostly) switching off and recharging my footballing batteries – I’m really excited about this season.

Whatever your other weekend (and occasional Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) activities might be; make sure you make footy the priority – all other routines and tasks must now fit in around the beautiful game.

And if you ARE heading to The Etihad on Monday evening, make sure your locally sourced burger, pig dog or pie has settle well in your stomach before, unavoidably, glancing over to the Geordie, belly waving lot...


Prediction? A City win - and high cholesterol all round in the away end…

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Pap and not Pep…

As posted in late July I had serious concerns about the link - and possible acquisition - of Pepe from Real Madrid. He might well be a very good and very experienced defender but I was really turned off him...and it wasn’t his advancing years and subsequent price tag that was putting me off. Rather it was his fiery, ‘red mist’ and downright nasty temperament. Thankfully that one LOOKS to be dead in the water.




So it might surprise some to hear me get quite excited about being linked with a chap called Kyriakos Papadopoulos from German side Schalke 04. Why surprised? Well if you’ve seen his YouTube clips he too looks like a bit of a nutter.

However, if you HAVE studied various Pepe and Papa videos closely – and read a variety of reports on both – whereas the old, should-know-better Pepe is far more nasty and hot-headed; the much younger Greek defender's 'gritted teeth moments' are more like untamed passion.



What else?

For a stocky, strong-looking defender the guy has pace too, something, which, a lot of City fans have been quietly saying our defence lacks at times. He looks to have good timing in the tackle too…and of course there’s no questioning his all important attitude and commitment.

And at just 21-½ years of age, how perfect to build a solid foundation for the future?

We were linked with this chap not too long before rumours started about Roberto leaving the Blues; being tipped as a summer transfer target back in February/March of this year. There’s still time of course and I’m really hopeful that we’ll at least make some enquiries.

Other links

Also circling in the press are links with someone at the other end of their footballing career in the form of Napoli’s Captain and centre back Paolo Cannavaro. Just turned 32, he has BAGS of top flight experience and, in particular, Champions League experience. Totally different kettle of fish from the Greek but the signing still has it’s merits. Seems to be a very low key, professional player indeed and a well respected one I’m sure; despite the lack of first team appearances for his country.

Doesn’t look particularly slow either for a 32-year old but I’m guessing this signing wouldn’t exactly address any ‘lack of pace’ issues we might have at the back to any great degree.

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.