Sunday, 31 August 2014

‘Hats off’ and the ‘T’ word

I suppose you’ve got to hand it to Mark Hughes and Stoke City; they certainly ‘did a number on us’ yesterday. 73% possession just wasn’t enough to break down the Stoke wall(s) and a fully expected 3 points turned into a miserable zero on a dull and eventually very wet afternoon / evening.

So what went wrong?

Well, as I say, I think we have to give some credit to Stoke - they came with a game-plan and it worked. Defend, defend and defend again…and then hit us on the break. It certainly isn’t the first time teams have ‘sat’ and done this either at the Etihad OR on their own patch to a large degree and it won’t be the last.

And, once again, in fairness to Stoke - and in the first half - they created some chances for themselves with some lively play in very short bursts. They also, I have to remind myself, had a couple of chances to add to their goal later on in the game.

It’s almost surprising to see that we had 16 shots on target [to their 2] because, and quite rightly, my mate frustratingly screamed out 3/4s of the way through the match, “Will SOMEBODY please shoot!” There was a sense of a little TOO much tippy-tappy from City and not enough ‘drive’ at times but, then again, what CAN you do when faced with 2 layers of Stoke City shirts?

We did rattle the crossbar in the first half and of the two teams we did look the more likely to score. It wasn’t a terrible performance (I think the M.E.N. player ratings are a little harsh).

But with the creativity that we have in the likes of Nasri, Silva, Toure, Navas, Fernandinho, Jovetic & Aguero  (and ‘pushed on’ fullbacks) that SHOULD have been enough to unlock them on our ‘own patch’.

But I find myself repeating – ‘well done’ Stoke. At one point we were so far up the pitch that I pointed out at the time that we were playing a kind of 1-3-6 formation. As crazy as it might sound, this then turned into a kind of 0-5-5 formation as we put tremendous pressure on the Stoke box.

Just as I had pointed out this crazy-sounding team set up – BANG! 0-1.


Yeah it’s a small set back, especially as Chelsea picked up another 3 points and added 3 goals to their ‘GD’ column in a mad 3-6 away win at Goodison Park. And having picked off Newcastle away and last season’s runners up Liverpool at home the Typical City reared its ugly head again yesterday. It didn’t do my Fantasy Football team much good either, as my Captain & Vice Captain Aguero & Jovetic both hit blanks.

Back to reality, though, and we are also awaiting news on Fernando’s injury, which looked like a ‘groin thing’.

Although I’ve heaped plenty of praise on Mark Hughes’ side I will add that I thought they ‘roughed us up’ a bit too. I’m not crying ‘foul’ too heavily here - it’s a so-called man’s game after all.

But there was an awful lot of ‘digs’ and ‘clips’ going on yesterday. Once again, however, I suppose you could say ‘well done’ for that too because they got away with it for the most part and it did appear to rattle us a little.

But let us not forget they also got away with a blatant penalty. I say blatant because it LOOKED like, from my seat at the time, that the Stoke player ‘left a leg dangling’ but I couldn’t be certain as to how much that affected Yaya forward run towards goal or whether contact was made. Having now seen the footage a few times it an obvious penalty for me and the fact that Yaya was booked for diving was a complete farce.

Then again, Stoke had their own penalty shout in the first half when Kolarov made contact with the lively & dangerous Diouf right on the line.

So there was an ‘unlucky’ aspect to yesterday’s defeat too and, at the risk of sound-bite-clichés; we will get the rub of the green in the long season that lies ahead – we’ll recover whilst at the same time other title chasers will stumble on their ‘off days’.


Any positives?

As we trouped away from the ground in the increasingly heavy rain (where was the forecasted mid-afternoon sunshine yesterday by the way?) my friend & I were trying to be a bit philosophical about the defeat. It might, we discussed, not be such a bad thing to have an early defeat like this. We agreed that it might… 

  1. Remove any possible complacency following 2 tough-game-wins prior to this disappointing “shock”.
  2. Perhaps shake-up any fence-sitting doubts if the club were / ARE thinking of adding to the squad before Monday’s transfer deadline of 11:00pm (BST).
  3. Add some additional steely resolve ahead of our tough trip to Arsenal (after a flippin’, early-season international break).
Another positive – although he wasn’t exactly at his VERY sharpest yesterday and also almost came a cropper of Stoke’s obvious intent – was that Sergio got a full game under his belt. Nothing like a competitive game to get match fitness back an’ all that jazz…

Yeah of course this was an expected home win that turned into a defeat and that does stick in the throat a little.

But I remind myself that single points away at Newcastle AND at home to Liverpool wouldn’t have been an out-of-the-question scenario at all…and so for me, in some ways, we’re a point AHEAD of where we could-well have been at this stage. Glass half full…

Transfer possibilities?

Well I’m not really looking any further than ones we’ve been linked with many times before in the attacking / creative department and that’s Isco and Radamel Falcao.

Will he move? Will it be to City?
Falcao seems intent on leaving AS Monaco and they seem “happy” to let him go. At one point – and very recently - he was “definitely” heading to Real Madrid and has been continuously linked with a move to Arsenal too.

We’ve been consistently linked with the phenomenal striker ever since we came into a little bit of cash and this time a £20M, two-year loan has been muted. Considering the purchase value of the Colombian that, to me anyway, sounds like we are seriously trying to negotiate a way of adding a top-quality player to our ranks without blowing the good work we’ve done to satisfy our F(not-so)FP sanction. I’m giving this one some credence.

There are rumours too that we are considering a similar paid-loan-deal to allow Alvaro Negredo to leave for a season. However, I find it a little bit strange that it’s Real Madrid who are the apparent interested party; particularly for a player once rejected by the Spanish club and who won’t be clear of his current injury for another 2 months or so.

Isco & Manuel Pellegrini - Old friends...
In the mad, mad merry-go-round that is the football transfer activity – and although I’m talking about players in different positions here – I just wonder if a move by Real for the Monaco striker will see Isco finally surplus to requirements in a change of emphasis / formation-style by Real? And IF we get Isco surely that WILL be the end of (HAHM-ez) Milner.

STOP! I wanna get off!

I’m sure that, if we are in the market for a £20M player, it won’t affect our UEFA sanctions…won’t affect, that is, if we can off-load Micah, Scott & John. Suitors at home and abroad are, I’m sure, lining up to sign all 3 and I’m guessing any stumbling blocks will be our asking prices AND their considerable wages.

On the player’s part if they have anything about them when in a position of clearly not being wanted by their current employers – they will surely do all they can to move now and get some first team action elsewhere.

As for MCFC, although we shouldn’t be ripped off, of course; I’m not sure we should be asking for much more that £5M for each player. £15M would be plenty to ‘soak up’ any bid for the afore mentioned (or other similar player).

Sky Sports' Jim White

As for any possible Premier League admirers for those players, an Everton, Newcastle, QPR, Southampton, Stoke or Swansea-type club could do FAR worse than to put a bid in for all three! Three very decent players that would add a lot of quality to a side in a bid to either retain their Premier League status or to make a push for a Europa League placing. Put the word out if you can…

And put your seatbelts on folks - the last, mad 24 hours is fast approaching...

1 comment:

  1. Yes, a disappointing and frustrating day, and all credit to Stoke. Take this on the chin, and move on.
    As you say, Steve, the most frustrating aspect is the delay now until the 13th of September for our next league fixture, to try and correct this setback. Let's hope we get a clean bill of health for all our players on international duty.