Sunday, 26 January 2014

“Never in doubt”

Those were the 3 words text to me by a friend and fellow Blue about an hour after the game. Although I said to my wife at half time that I was confident that we’d come back at Watford in the second half, I quite honestly believed – and said so – that we might have to settle for 2-2 and a replay at Vicarage Road. Thankfully a much transformed City side proved otherwise…

Calling all central defenders…and left backs!

If we are unable to prise a top-draw central defender from the clutches of another team in the January transfer window, I make no excuses for perhaps sounding so dramatic by saying that our failure to do so could be our undoing in our pursuit of the Premier League title (along with 3 cup competitions of course). Not for the first time – but never so obviously – was it so evident yesterday that we struggle at the back without key players protecting our goal.

Spotlight on yesterday’s “defence”

Aleksandar Kolarov: For all his improvement, attacking qualities and ability to both create goals and score the odd screamer; he just cannot defend. So much, in fact, do I refute him as a defender and give him some credit going forward that I think the club need to re-list him [from their ‘defender’ to ‘midfield’ category] on their WEB site. But who do we have as back up? A year or so ago I would have been crazy to even suggest listing Gael Clichy as ‘back up to Kolarov’ but such is the decline in the Frenchman’s performances; that’s where we pretty much stand! Not for the first time do I find myself bemoaning the left side of our defence…

Micah Richards: For all his fine endeavours yesterday for which he has to be given credit…he’s just too flippin’ fat and, therefore, lacks the agility needed to play in a fullback position. Taking into account (once again) his recovery from (yet another) injury; he just appeared to be completely out of his depth against a determined Championship side yesterday. I was not surprised – but was relieved – to see him being replaced by Zaba. What he did [by bulking up WAY too much] to his body in the vital years of him-finishing his growth has, in my non-expert opinion, had a long-lasting, detrimental affect. He looks more Rugby player than footy…

Joleon Lescott: Had a fairly decent game yesterday; certainly improved a lot when pitched alongside our Captain in the second half. But I can see why Manuel doesn’t quite fancy him long term. He looks almost robot like at times; there’s just no fluidity to his game at all. He’s been a great servant to the Club and DOES indeed work well with Vinny. But our new style of play under ‘The Engineer’ seems to have lost the England man (perhaps that’s the issue with Clichy & Nastasic too but I can’t understand why-so with those two); Joleon just doesn’t control and use the ball at his feel like our Chilean manager would like him to.

Martin Demichelis: The guy brought in as ‘cover’ is now being used more and more by the man who knows him so well. But rather than believing that it’s because our manager has such faith in the Argentinean; I think it’s rather because he DOESN’T have much faith in Lescott and the-shadow-of-his-former-self Nastasic. At best Martin is ‘adequate’ but when he’s NOT at his best he looks totally and utterly lost and fragile on the field of play. He just does not have the power nor pace for a central defender’s life in the English leagues; even against a Championship side he looked very vulnerable yesterday. Having said that…

…a quick note on Jack Rodwell: Jack has been out for months; some might say it’s more like years having only played around a dozen times since signing for Manchester City in August 2012. Yesterday he looked WELL of the pace; completely lost and he, therefore, offered the back 4 no protection whatsoever. There…I’ve thrown-in a little nugget of an excuse for that appalling defensive display yesterday. As with Micah, I was not at all surprised – and was equally relieved – to see him replaced at the interval.

Retuning from lay-offs taken into account, both Micah & Jack did themselves no favours against Watford yesterday; neither did Joleon and I honestly can’t see any of those 3 at Manchester City next season.

All hail the Manager!

Like the fans – well…ANYONE in fact with eyes on the pitch yesterday – he saw what was happening and just had to change it. Slightly uncharacteristically he was more than honest in a post-match interview when he stated that he would have changed the whole 11 at half time if he could! That just sums up the high emotions swelled in the manager by such an abject first half display; surely he wasn’t including Navas & Aguero there, was he?

So he did change it and with Komps & Pablo coming to the rescue by steadying the ship – and with Demichelis moving into midfield and having a much better time of it – Pellegrini engineered a fine second half display and comeback. Well-done him!

Lopes was quite rightly removed too; he followed up his fine performance against West Ham with a much, much lower-key performance. I don’t know if Watford had done their homework and saw either a threat or a young lad ‘there for the taking’ but he was harassed and muscled out of the game completely. It’s often been said of the Portuguese youngster that his physique makes him look beyond his years; a powerful man already as opposed to a growing young footballer. Yesterday he looked like a growing young footballer…

Aguero is just ON FIRE at the moment!

But when Vinny (and Zaba) are out we look totally lost at the back (and that’s without going on about the left-back situation) and if we don’t get this seemingly elusive centre half in by Friday; I have some serious concerns about our excellent attempt at winning more than one trophy this season.

And as if I needed my defensive fear rating moving up a notch, there was a moment yesterday - not spotted by anyone that I’ve spoken to yet - where our Captain pulled up; went to hold the back of his thigh and in typical Vinny style thought better of it and, after a few minutes, looked to have ‘ran it off’.

He’s a delicate peach indeed and I just can’t help feeling that he’ll go missing again before the season is out…

I have to give at least one line of credit to Watford for yesterday’s display – they sure didn’t play like a team 15th in the Championship with only 1 win in 10; they played with no fear against us yesterday.

Back to league action…

There’s a whole 4 days to go but I’m gonna stick my predicted line-up for the Spurs game in now, if I can be so bold…

Formation: 4-4-2










Subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Richards, Nastasic, Demichelis, Garcia, Jovetic.

Hart gets his place back (I’d start using him in the F.A. Cup too now – we need a consistent defensive ‘unit’ to start building up a dependable bond; especially if we’re NOT going to sign a new guy by Friday).

I think Manuel will look at the display against Watford and will pick his strongest back 4. Although there’s debate about whether Lescott or Nastasic should get in that considered-strongest back line; I think he’ll look at the reasonably successful Kompany/Lescott combo as being the slightly better option. Surely…SURELY he’ll see that even an off-the-pace Clichy is better than Kolarov in defensive duties!

Silva should be back from his ‘pain in his hamstring’ and I’ve not heard anything to suggest why Fernandinho can’t play. So with Yaya & Jesus also pretty much odds-on for a start also; that’s a fairly strong midfield 4 considering Nasri is out.

Dzeko had a game to forget yesterday but I can’t see him starting Jovetic just yet. Steven, though, continues on the bench at least.

Negredo doesn’t have much of a chance of making it and neither, apparently, does Milner; who has a groin ‘niggle’. Both players should be fit for the HUGE Chelsea clash at the Etihad on Monday 3rd February.

Apart from perhaps Jovetic and the option of ‘ball whipping’ Kolarov; it’s not exactly an inspiring bench, is it? Let’s just hope we can do the job with the starting 11.

Result? Hope, for the right reasons of course, I’m wrong but…a draw.

Transfer update (including new, reasonable ‘links’):

With the end of the transfer window indeed looming, here’s a little update on the piece that I produced the other day

No news but remains 4/10 for a loan move; 2/10 for a permanent one

Likewise, no news but with Rodwell having a stinker, I’ve moved the chances up one to (a whopping!) 3/10

Nothing further on the Brazilian other than his agent SAYING he’s going nowhere and so he stays at 1/10

This chappy has, by all accounts, said that he doesn’t want to leave Porto. Those apparent quotes came out around about the time that we were supposed to have put in an actual bid close to Porto’s valuation of £38M (around 40M Euros). Stays at 4/10

The sure-to-be-Chelsea-bound player almost disappears from my list but I’ll keep him at 1/10 for now…

FAR more likely than Luke Shaw but, thanks to some information received this week (thanks Tom!), it would appear that he’s about to sign a new contract. Hasn’t signed one yet though…but drops one to 3/10

No more news, remains at 8/10

Nothing more has since come out about the Argentinean left-winger and with club efforts surely focused on the defence; I’m dropping this one down one to 3/10

All quiet again but with the need for someone at left-back so high, the chance of signing the Spaniard stays at 5/10

Two new names added to the ‘not completely ridiculous’ transfer-in list are…

Have been linked many times with this guy before; it’s as though the world won’t be happy until he’s wearing the sky blue of City. Good player and although he has a COMPLETELY different physique to Di Maria; similarly he’s an attacking, left-sided winger/forward that would certainly add a dimension and give us more options. At 27 years of age he’s a very experienced, powerful, POWERFUL player who has both goals and assists aplenty in him. Being previously linked with us several times I’m going for a very cautiously optimistic 3/10 Again, the defence is the priority for us…


Another player who has been linked with us before. Although at 19 he might not be seen as someone who can step straight into the mid-season-pace of an English Premier League campaign, I wouldn’t rule it out at all – Nastasic managed early life in the Prem extremely well before he faded a little… As I say, we’ve had links with Kurt before; at 19 he fits the ‘building long-term’ plan and it’s certainly an area we need to strengthen of course. Although I think Mangala would be a better January option, I’m going 4/10  Even if we get Mangala before Friday I wouldn’t mind having a look at this chap again in the summer as well though…

Additional update (26.01.2014 - 2:30pm):

Blaise Matuidi (Defensive midfielder - Centre)

Although this looks like a 2+2= 9.75 link in the fact that Blaise is out of contract in the summer AND, apparently, PSG want Gael Clichy; this rumour sort of makes sense. I don't think Pellegrini is going to run with either Javi Garcia or Jack Rodwell next season and with Gareth Barry all but gone too - and with a good & crucial chunk of this season to go too - we need cover/competition for Fernandinho. Bags of French league experience and a 'good age' at 26. From the brief bits I've seen of him he looks combative, good in the tackle and energetic. 4/10

Tick-tock, tick-tock…


  1. Some very interesting points made there, Steve. I was quite happy to settle for a draw at 0-2, but once we got it back to 2-2, I thought there was only going to be one winner.

    Watford played well, and their first goal was a beauty, and punished our defensive errors for the second. They had that chance to make it 3-3 as well.

    I was thinking the same as you regarding Richards' physique, but on listening to 'Blue Moon Live' tonight, a point was made that he doesn't do weights. He did look sluggish yesterday, and I wonder if the injuries and collective time out have taken their toll irreversibly for his City career?

    I think now that players for City have to be effective both in the PL and CL...this is the next level barrier being applied by the senior management, and where the likes of Lescott and Richards may fall short.

  2. Hi Colin... Certainly Micah's persistent injuries haven't helped; I feel sorry for him because at one stage he was playing SO well he was keeping Zaba out!

    But in his early years he was known as 'The Salmon' by his colleagues because of his agile 'leaping' abilities. I recall him being fast; quick on the turn and generally so adaptable he could play at centre half and midfield as well as right-back.

    I think it was after his longest time out with an injury that he came back looking like a rugby player; I recall that there was a collective gasp from the stands when he came back. He did 'something' to his body and I remember that it was when he was about 20-22, I think. Since then his whole physique has changed. It was also about the same time as Patrick Viera apparently pulled him to one side and noted that he was the last to arrive and first to leave training...

    I've no doubt that he works terribly hard to be fit for a starting place but he's battling his own body in more ways than one now. I was always hoping Micah would be a City man for life but like you I think this 'new level' we're heading into might just be a little bit over his head...sadly.