Friday, 28 March 2014

Clearer picture

2-week task: To stay within striking distance of Chelsea & Liverpool, as we go into our first game-in-hand-match (Sunderland at home). Do that and we’ll go a long way to being ‘home & dry’!

But our first task: Beat Arsenal…or at the very least come away with a point.

As simple as that?

Well of course not…and football, of course, has more twists ‘n’ turns than the Snake Pass, even at this (very) late stage of the season - just yer 7 games left for our rivals!

But with Chelsea not playing in mid-week, our emphatic win in Stretford and Liverpool ever-so-slightly eking out a home win against lowly Sunderland; all of a sudden the top of the league table picture looks a little clearer. Just 2-points behind one of ‘em and just 3 behind the other with 2 games extra to play over both of them; what is required of us, at least, is clear…if not so simple.

Another night at Cold Trafford; ANOTHER win

It’s becoming a (nice) habit isn’t it? In fact wasn’t that the first time we’d recorded THREE back-to-back swamp wins since the early 1970s? Something like that…

David Moyes sure is racking up a lot of Manyoo records, isn’t he? It’s ‘first time’ also in the Premier League era that they’ve lost 10+ home games in one season and Edin Dzeko’s 42-second strike was the fastest ever goal conceded at Stretford Rangers in the Premier League.

Well-done David! Keep it up fella…

Special mentions

Well, he’s done it again. Just when I think I’ve worked out Edin Dzeko [generally for being a low-on-confidence, ‘out of sorts’, sulky-pants who couldn’t trap a bag of cement let alone a football] he begins to ‘turn on the style’. Edin followed up his impressive display and goal-scoring at the KC Stadium with another fine display and ‘brace’ at the Theatre of Comedy. Well done him; long may it continue.

Demichelis too (even next to apparently ‘intimidating’ Kompany). He’s looking far more assured and his calmness and intelligent passing is very noticeable and effective at the moment. Still not sure I’d play his ‘reduced pace’ against Suarez, Sturridge & Co. but it’s too early to be talking about that one just yet…





Same again please Mr Pellegrini

With there being, most likely, still no Sergio Aguero available for this Saturday evening kick off at the Emirates Stadium, I think it’s gotta be ‘same again’ in terms of formation against Arsenal; if not exactly the same personnel [as last Tuesday night].

There has been no more news on our main ‘strike threat’ since Pellegrini’s announcement at the Manyoo, pre-match press conference, where he stated that Sergio was to re-join first-team training later this week.

This, to me, is either a purposely-secretive, low-key move to surprise us all by giving him a place on the bench against Wenger’s men…or he’s fallen behind with his rehab and might even be a doubt for the Southampton home game a week later. Either way, I don’t want him to be rushed back ahead of the Liverpool game or any of our vital, remaining games for that matter. We need him back but fit to destroy the opposition in the remaining 6 or 7 games.

So it’s straight on to my [Pellegrini] predicted line-up and formation:













Hart, of course; Kompany, of course, Zabaleta (you know the rest…)

And in the “of course” column I should really be adding Demichelis…and so I’ll do just that. There’s no WAY our Manager is going to drop the revitalised Argentinean and, to be honest, why should he at the moment?

Left-back is a bit of a quandary…but not much. I was going to suggest that he might like the counter-attacking option of Kolarov ‘from the start’ but these 4 are starting to properly gel and have been responsible for 3 out of 5 Premier League clean sheets in a row (the 2 Argentineans having playing in all 5)!

Equally I was going to suggest that Milner’s fine performance against Fulham could be repeated this coming Saturday; with both the attacking / supporting and defensive options that he gives us. But I’ve gone for our ‘Engineer’ using Garcia & Fernandinho as a protective shield; allowing the ‘3 usual suspects’ to have free, all-out, attacking reign in support of the in-form Dzeko. Navas, along with the rest, was excellent in the Derby in a 4-1-4-1 and although I liked the look of that formation against Manyoo, I think he’ll go with Nasri, Toure & Silva as an attacking 3 for this one.

Even without Aguero on the bench (if that’s the case) we still have a very, very strong bench to choose from. If it’s not working out; the fact that we have Kolarov (for his attacking/crossing ability), Milner, Navas, Jovetic AND Negredo is absolutely awesome!

Result? Well The Gunners are shaky & flaky at the moment and although they’ll want to put both an appalling display & result at Stamford Bridge and a shock 2-2 home draw to Swansea City behind them ASAP – as well as them-being acutely aware of Everton’s threat just behind them in the league – our gushing confidence, if applied correctly, should be enough to come away with all 3 points.

My head is telling me, as it did before the Derby, that I should be looking for this one to be a draw but, unlike the Derby, I just can’t go with that on this occasion. We’re playing with such vigour and self-belief at the moment that I’m convinced we’ll be just too strong for them. It’s a City win for me…and WHAT a win that would be!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Who the ffff…..hell do you support?!

Quick note before the Manchester / Stretford Derby regarding who Manyoo fans are supporting at the moment. Hey? Read on…

 I don’t know why, exactly, I’m thinking this (perhaps just because it’s a funny tune) but it might ‘add to the experience’ to click & play the sound-track above and listen whilst reading this one…

“We only hate…”

If you’re not acutely aware already, Manyoo fans have ‘banged on’ loud and oh-so-VERY-flippin’-long about how they HATE these ‘so-and-sos’ and ‘those lot’ etc. One of those teams (and sets of fans) to have ‘got it in the ear’ in the past include Leeds United and despite their misfortunes and slide-down-the-divisions; you can still hear embittered words of loathing towards them whenever the need or occasion arises.
So having recently listened to a few of them (we all have to endure them from time-to-time; like a child sigh-fully reconciled whilst being lectured by an apparently wiser & older sibling) go on about who they would like to see win the league this season; I just wonder what their true feelings are ahead of tonight’s clash.

On a similar occasion…

I’m taken back many, many years when, ironically, we were about to play Leeds United at home (at Maine Road). Leeds were vying with Manyoo for the title and I recall that if Leeds had beaten us that day, it would have made it very difficult indeed for Manyoo to win the league that year – and even harder to swallow seeing the trophy being lifted high on the other side of the Pennines.
And so before the game – and having little to play for ourselves as the season approached the climax – I recall ‘Blue chatter’ being all about whether we did indeed want to hand a massive favour to Manyoo by beating their closest league rivals. Opinion wasn’t exactly split either; the majority - myself included - couldn’t have cared much at all if we’ve have ‘taken a bullet’ that Saturday afternoon.
But then kick off came. The atmosphere was electric and all talk and thoughts of us ‘rolling over’ were completely banished without anyone uttering another word. We wanted a win! Blue pride took over and we screamed our support for the lads. And do you know what? It worked! We smashed Leeds 4-0…and Manyoo later went on to win the league.
So recent ramblings from a few reds at work have mirrored that occasion. They’ve actually told me that they would HATE for Chelsea to win the Premier League…adding that they HATE Mourinho and his ‘poor style of play’ and CAN’T STAND the thought of John Terry (who they HATE by the way) holding the cup aloft.
Equally they HATE Liverpool and for the same HATRED of Steven Gerrard they don’t want the so-called “bin dippers” to pick up the cup either.

Nice lot aren’t they?
So who, exactly, would they LIKE to see win the league then? None of them have mentioned Arsenal and, surely, even they can see that-that’s not going to happen now. And, crucially, none of them have ever added the words…
“…and so I’d like to see City win the League”. J
So I ask again…WHO, exactly, do they HATE the least and who, therefore, would they "like" to see win the league out of the 3 of us?
Well a lot might get answered AFTER tonight’s match is out of the way because, I’m sure, quietly some of them might be hoping that we go on to win the league but not, of course, by taking (another) 3-points off their own, beloved team.
What a quandary for them hey? Shame. It’s a flippin' good job it’s not a 4-horse-race with Leeds ‘in there’ too, isn’t it?

Sunday, 23 March 2014

3 points AND confidence. Manyoo next…

As with most things in life confidence is a major factor in performance. In the second half yesterday you could see that grow and grow throughout the whole of the Manchester City team – as the game progressed we got our ‘swagger’ back!

Change up front

With news filtering through that Edin Dzeko was left at home due to being unwell, it was up to Alvaro Negredo to ‘front it’ alone - huh…well with the support of one of the best midfields in Europe of course. So I was braced for another frustrating game for the ‘out of sorts’ Spanish bull (sorry, beast) and I was so very pleased to see that frustration turn into satisfaction.

Kick up the back-side but, hopefully, he's back!
Alvaro himself might not see it like that in the slightest; after all he didn’t complete his main task as a striker, which is to score of course. But if he was to read this or any similar reports on his own performance yesterday then I hope he takes solace from the fact that, from the stands, it was very obvious that he’d ‘turned a corner’ in his recent misfortunes.

As well as desperately missing his Argentinean strike-partner his mobility had been hugely restricted following a most annoying and long-lasting shoulder injury. But all that was put behind him yesterday against ill-fated Fulham; he was mobile and his signature, all-impressive, interchanging-deft-touches were back for all to see.

He may-well not have scored but that makes the quite-correct M.E.N.'s score of 8/10 even more impressive.

Is ‘The Beast’ back? Well as much as I love the goal-scoring, intelligent powerhouse my only criticism is that he, like a lot of strikers, is a ‘confidence man’…and that can lead to some wildly inconsistent performances at times. If he DOESN’T take it too much to heart [that he couldn’t find the back of the net yesterday] then this was a big step in the right direction.

There’s no doubting, in my opinion, that when Aguero DOES return then the Spanish striker WILL come back with a bang! In the mean time, I’d start with him against Manyoo again on Tuesday (particularly if Dzeko is still slightly weak from illness) and give him another opportunity to put-in another 8/10 performance.

As for the game (and the rest)…

We certainly rode our luck in the early stages and on the odd occasion in the first half - my mate and I agreed that any better team would have punished us severely. But having shaken off some flaky moments, the back four solidified and gained in confidence (there’s that word again).

Match ball for the hat-trick hero!
The midfield was sublime and although it’s obvious to give Toure the ‘Man of the Match’ award for a monstrous display and SUPERB 3rd goal; Silva was his maestro-self at times. Nasri too and we also saw another very fine display from the (new?) vital component in the middle, Fernandinho.

Excellent performance
But it was James Milner who, for me, came closest to steeling the day’s crown from Yaya. James NEVER lets us down but when played in the right game, in the right position and in the right formation he gives us so very much more.

He has always had energy and guile aplenty but the England international has also moved up another level as the months & years have progressed since his Aston Villa days. His interchanging of passes with his colleagues is excellent (his long-passing too) and he gets himself in dangerous positions. The only slight criticism - and he-himself might admit it - is that he, perhaps, should finish moves off a little more than he does with a few more goals…but then again so should David Silva. James was unlucky, on occasions, not to score yesterday though and it certainly wasn’t for want of trying.

But he tackles / ‘back-tracks’ too and a player who can offer ALL that – especially an English one – is almost priceless these days and he would get in most Premier League sides I’m sure.

The defence, after their shaky start of course, all get 7s or 7.5s from me; another decent performance from Demichelis…with the added bonus of very rare goal!

Poor Joe Hart [with little to do]. The only difference between him and me (apart from the weight/muscles, the slight-difference in height and bank balance) was that he was stood up in the HORRENDOUS cold-wind, rain & hail watching the game and I was sat down mostly unaffected by the conditions under the shelter of a roof.

V Manyoo

Cold Trafford

Not much time between games and so let’s move right on with the preview of Tuesday night’s game in the borough of Stretford.

Predicted line-up / formation:











Pretty much 'same again' really I think from Pellegrini. Being away from home I think Clichy will step in for Kolarov [who drops to the bench] and with Kompany returning I think it’ll be Lescott who ‘drops’, providing Demichelis’ aging legs are okay to play 2 games in 72 hours or so.

My only concern is this new’ish theory that Martin doesn’t perform as well when pitched next to Vinny - there are specific rumours that he plays with a nervousness next to our impressive Captain. I hope that’s not the case (but we all have our favourites and not-so favourite colleagues at work) but if Pellegrini ALSO smells that in the camp; then I hope-to-hell he chooses Joleon to play alongside our Skipper on Tuesday night (and beyond).

Apart from that, carry on City! Although I got the midfield prediction 100% correct ahead of the Fulham game, I was wrong in how, exactly, they’d set up. Rather than 4-2-3-1 against The Cottagers we set up more like a fluid 4-1-4-1, with James more advanced than I thought he would be.

And although that might be the case once again, I think away from home in a Derby; Milner, if indeed Pellegrini goes with the same, might just sit a little deeper alongside the Brazilian ‘deep-man’; allowing Samir, Yaya & David to support Negredo and ‘do their stuff’.

Either way, with this ‘set up’ we’ll be hurting them in their weakest spot. No, not their often-crumbling defence but their often-hollow midfield. Pack (and boss) that middle with the quality that we have and we can have this game sewn up from the start!

As for the bench, well as it’s only just Sunday afternoon I’ve assumed that Edin might be feeling a little better; enough at least to make the bench. If not, perhaps Rodwell [good to see him on Saturday] will join the substitutes again or how about Lopes or even a Derby-day, wildcard-EDS forward?

WITHOUT Edin (or a Reserve-team attacking player) it leaves us a little thin for additional attacking options, although both Navas & Jovetic looked very sharp and lively when they came on (68 & 81 minutes respectively). Hope Stevan can stay fit until the end of the season.

Sergio returns to training later this week by all accounts; too late for Arsenal away on Saturday 29th March, I’m sure, and so we can perhaps look forward to seeing him back 'and firing' in the early kick-off (12:45pm BST) against Southampton on 5th April.

Don’t whatever you do tell Manual Pellegrini I said this but...prepare yourselves for a defeat in one of the next 4 games. I hope to hell it DOESN’T happen of course but I think it’s almost inevitable with the up & coming 4 fixtures. Believe me, it helps prepare the mind, body & soul for the disappointment. And take some comfort from the fact that we (and Villa / Chelsea) have given us some ‘hiccup room’ for one game at least…let’s just hope that glitch isn’t at Scaffold Trafford.

Result? My heart say a win for the Blues…and my head isn’t far behind either. We certainly shouldn’t fear this lot; they might be buoyed by wins at home to Olympiacos and away at West Ham Unitedbut it was only Olympiacos & West Ham United.

But I’m going to ‘sit on the fence’ with a draw, which’ll be fine as long as we then take at least 7 points from 9 from the following 3 games.

C’mon City! 

Friday, 21 March 2014

A ‘series of cup finals’ starts here…

A much-used cliché at this time of the season? Perhaps – but that’s precisely what these games are now; it’s exactly how we should be approaching each and every match. I’m sure Pellegrini will have a similar mindset.

20-days of destiny

Although all focus is and must be on Fulham, it’s hard for me, as a fan at least, NOT to look ahead to some obvious fixtures that will, I’m sure, play the biggest part of our 'run-in'. That’s not to say that after the dust has settled on Monday morning of the 14th April we should not see Sunderland (H), West Bromwich Albion (H), Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Aston Villa (H) and West Ham United (H) as opponents & fixtures to be taken lightly; but a trio of away games in just 20 days at Manyoo, Arsenal and Liverpool - interjected only by a home game against Southampton - are obviously the 3 trickiest / toughest of the remaining fixtures.

'Chatter' amongst Blues has already begun to focus on that period of matches and for my ‘two-penneth’, I’ve stated that 7 points from 9 of those 3 games would be great! In fact I’d even take 5; with a win and two draws in any combination.
I’ve said recently that it might appear to be looking on the slightly negative side – and Pellegrini would be having NONE of it of course (and quite rightly so) - but with Chelsea slipping up last weekend and with our 2 to 3 games-in-hand that we have over the chasing pack; we CAN afford to 'drop a few' and not be left too damaged by it.

But gaining just 5 points from those 3 'tuffies' would mean much MORE focus on the likes of Southampton at home etc…and, of course, 'Everton away' is rarely a good hunting ground for us.
So starting this afternoon – and despite Blues fans talk of ‘the 20 days’ - the team must plough all of their efforts into today’s game against the Premier League’s bottom side. Fulham won their first league game in 10 or more last weekend and if we DON’T pick up 3 points today then those 20 days will be one hell of a trial period!

No Aguero, no Kompany and so…

v Fulham









It’s a tough one for me to call this one [predicting the Manager’s thinking]. The attack-minded engineer’s instinct & desire will be, of course, to go 4-4-2 with two strikers at home and there’s a good argument for it. However, I even bore myself by going on about how poor the Alvaro / Edin combo is and, I have to add, I’m not even sure the Spanish ‘Beast’ is fully fit or otherwise ready to come back in without his Argentinean striking partner.

So I THINK he’ll go similar to how he set up against Hull City last weekend.

Hart, of course; Zabaleta of course.

No Kompany (suspended for one game) means that Demichelis is a certainty and although our manager MIGHT look at last weekends 'success story' of Martin & Javi in the heart of the defence (there’s no doubting they did a sterling job), I’m guessing that he’ll give Lescott 'the nod' today.

Clichy, along with the rest of the defence after Kompany’s (VERY) early departure at the KC Stadium, had a very good game indeed. However, at home and with possibly just one striker to start; I think he’ll go for the more counter-attack-minded Kolarov instead.

I was going to predict that he’ll stick with the same combination [as at Hull] of holding midfielders in Garcia and Fernandinho. However, similar to the mindset of 'Barcelona away' recently; Milner ‘in there’ gives us that counter-attacking thrust forward as WELL as some ‘nitty-gritty’ defensive work – he’s 'more fluid' and is certainly pacier that Garcia.

The 3 supporting midfielders goes without saying and Dzeko, I’m sure, will be ‘the one’ if he’s gonna go with just 'one up front'. Playing with 2 defensive midfielders also allows them to cover the defence a little more, which, in turn, will allow Alex & Pablo to 'support' on occasions too.

It also makes sense for Manuel to go 4-2-3-1 (4-5-1’ish) as Fulham will, I’m sure, ‘pack the middle’ as most teams do at the Etihad. With those 5 midfielders we should ‘boss’ the middle of the park and if we don’t have enough to crack their defence at the first attempt; then that’s one powerful-looking, attacking bench to fall back on.

Result? A week’s rest? Almost a full squad to choose from? Fully focused on the task in hand? Then it’ll be 3 points to City. Keep piling on he pressure Blues…

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Where we need to strengthen, why and who with

Grab yourself a brew and a butty, this one is a long one…

With games still to play and another trophy still to be fought for, it might seem slightly premature to start talk of summer transfer dealings. In fact, and quite rightly, eyes often get rolled whenever press speculation circulates in either October/November and from February to April about the next transfer window links to your football club.


…we’re getting so close to being a really, really TOP team it was just too tempting to wait until the transfer window opens on 1st June to lay down a few words. You see…I think we’re a team on a ‘knife edge’ at the moment - packed full of quality players on the one hand and in so many areas of the pitch; flawed and so very shallow in other areas of the squad. And the latter is going to start to hold us back if we don’t get on top of it soon.

Balancing on the ‘sharp piece of kitchenware’ as we are, we can either flap our arms clumsily and fall backwards – allowing the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to take a leap ahead and get a firmer grip on all things domestic - or we can ‘push on’ and really surge forward to keep ahead of the ever-improving Chelsea & Liverpool; whilst at the same time also take a step closer to the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

And with one eye on the fact that – before we release any of our overseas contingent from our ranks – we are nearing our quota of ‘maximum allowed none-home-grown players’; here are the areas of the pitch and the types of players we need to target in order to ensure that we fall the RIGHT side of the ‘blade’s edge’.


Left back:

It doesn’t take too much thought to see that this is an area that we MUST improve on next season…and it’s a great place for me to start. For all his improvement Kolarov is simply NOT a defender; at best he’s an average, occasionally useful attacking wing-back. ‘Next level’ material? Absolutely not.

As for Clichy; well he certainly has the ability and experience to be able to move forward with us as we, hopefully, progress even further…application of that ability is simply up to him of course. Personally I’d off-load Kolarov or completely retrain him and his mind-set to be a better back-up left-winger and stick with Clichy for the time being.

So we’ll need one...POSSIBLY two left-backs in the summer and here are some realistic and potentially good-enough candidates.

Clearly the next ‘big thing’ in terms of left-backs. Is he destined for Chelsea? I would say so if I’m listening to my head and not my heart; it certainly would be a momentous battle between Ferran Soriano / Txiki Begiristain and their Chelsea counterparts! Although only 19 years of age in July, Luke already has 50+ first-team games to his name; a lot of those in the Premier League and he has also worked his way both through and up the English, international teams.

Luke would, of course, add to the ‘English numbers’ in our squad and so, for many reasons, this one is an absolute ‘no-brainer’ - we really should be going ‘all out’ for this lad!

WHAT?! Have you gone mad? Well…not really. Although, I’m sure, the often-unpopular character wouldn’t want to move from one not-being-played situation to another; if Clichy were to ‘up his game’ wouldn’t you like Mr Cole as ‘back up’? I certainly would.

And with such a (still) top-class left-back in the squad, can you imagine Gael NOT upping his game considerably? Moving for Ashley would, in affect, be like signing 2 left-backs for nothing, as he’s out of contract in the summer!

Having fallen behind in the pecking order to César Azpilicueta - and is just NOT getting a look-in whatsoever for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at the moment – I’m sure he’ll be on the move in June/July/August. We gave 33-year old Martin Demichelis a 2-year contract recently; someone with over 100 appearances for his country and almost 400 Premier League games behind him I’d certainly offer the ex-Arsenal defender a 2 to 3 year contract. English too of course…

This one ‘reared his head’ in the January transfer window; came out of the blue really and was someone I’d never heard of at the time. Almost 40 appearances for a Sevilla, a Club we’ve done business with twice recently, and has broken into the very impressive Spanish national side. Can’t be bad, can he?

With us, surely, off-loading 2 or 3 foreigners in the summer; we could certainly afford to bring this lad in from overseas and at just 22-years of age in July; he’s an excellent age to ‘bed-in’ and create a formidable, regular defensive unit.

I’m certainly no scouting expert but regular readers will know that I’ve been banging on about this lad for about a year now; certainly every transfer window. The PSV attacking left-back looks to have a big future in the game and if we lose out on him to another Premier League club I will be furious! The vultures are now circling - Chelsea and, apparently, Manyoo are two teams who are, ‘showing some interest’. Damn them!

As I’ve already hinted, the Dutch defender with more than 10, full-international caps to his name can attack as well as defend; something Pellegrini often likes in his full backs. Like Perez, he’s young too; having only just turned 19 (with almost 70 games for PSV).

Central Defence:

Would you – or anyone – be surprised if I was to suggest that we need to bring in TWO, top-quality central defenders in the summer? Really? Well if I have to justify it then so be it.

Although he still has a year to run on his contract and is one of Pellegrini’s ‘favourites’, SURELY we’ll be saying, “Thank you very much and goodbye” to Martin Demichelis in the summer. So often a cause for concern at the back as much as Kolarov…and whenever PLAYED next to Alex; we may-as-well stick a big “Welcome in” sign on that side of the…“defence”.

Too slow and just not strong enough for the Premier League.

Lescott? Well basically he’s going in June isn’t he? And so what does that leave us with? Kompany is world class but, as we’ve seen, can often ‘break down’ and be out of action for weeks not just once but quite-often twice-a-season. And similarly we have the now-often-injured & out-of-form Matija Nastasic to contend with too.

Finally we have Boyata, who is simply not good enough and who often wasted his chances when given them…albeit, and fair enough, often played out of position. And although we might have one or two in the EDS; I’ll come on to them at the end.

And so that’s it; possibly one of the shallowest, central defensive units of any of the top-flight teams in the Premier League. BUY! BUY! BUY!

Top of the ‘wanted’ list! Some recent concern, however, is that he’s now not just coveted by Manchester City; Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain & Manyoo are all trying to ‘get their noses in’ apparently. NO! Here’s ours! Left-footed and class-looking. I don’t like the sounds of the nutter ‘behind the scenes’ at Porto who we’d have to deal but, HOPEFULLY, we can get this guy at the second attempt.

This guy certainly flew under my radar when he signed for Spurs from Ajax in July 2012 and so I suppose I can’t be too mad that, at the time, Roberto Mancini and his scouts didn’t pick up on him either.

What a pairing he would make with Kompany! Yes I’m putting 2+2+2 together here but he’s a left-footed central defender, plays for his national side alongside Vinny and is getting great reviews in the Premier League. In fact, in his relatively short time in England, he’s already amassed over 50 games for Tottenham. Although Daniel Levy is a very tough cookie to deal with and Jan, no doubt, WON’T come cheap; I’d love for us to stick a bid in for him.

Young Colombian centre-half Balanta plies his trade with River Plate in Argentina, who slapped a €15m asking price on his head when Barcelona started sniffing around. Very athletic, the 20-year-old is also astute in possession of the ball and is blessed with mounds of potential, which could very well be showcased at the forthcoming World Cup.

That was something I read somewhere a few months ago (and then copy & pasted before the Plagiarism Police start on me)…and I’ve since done the YouTube thing on him. He looks cool and class.

No Premier League OR European experience of course but he is from the neighbourhood-origins of our manager and so I can well imagine ‘possible interest’ from us for this 21-year old Colombian.

I’ve ‘championed’ this lad before. VERY powerful & determined defender with impressive defensive ‘stats’. However, alongside his often-‘red mist’ tendencies, he’s recently started to show signs of being a little injury prone. Still…he’s highly thought of and at 22-years of age is another one to mould & establish in a long-term defensive unit. Has over 60 games under his belt for Schalke 04 and 16 international caps for Greece.

He certainly has the class and we have been strongly linked with him in the past; apparently having even made an approach for him in January and so, for that reason, I’ve got to include him.

But similar to Kyriakos, he can be a nutter! But rather than naïve & youthful exuberance; Pepe is not just hot-headed…he can be very nasty with it too! I fear that if we went in for him (again) he’d spend more time in the stand watching his defensive colleagues rather than playing alongside them.

By all accounts this 20-year old would fit Pellegrini’s bill perfectly. Not only a 6’ 3”, established central defender with SC Freiburg who is also slowly making waves through the German international ranks but he can ‘play a bit’ on the floor too; with reports of excellent passing from the back. Looking for a bonus on top of all that? He can also play as a defensive midfielder! Barca are apparently sniffing…

Right back:

Zabaleta, 30 in January 2015, cannot continue to play in almost every game. Although one of my favourite players of all time and one who often looks like he COULD run & run for ever; we’d be wise to give the guy a break slightly more often than we do. A more-hungry, partially-rested Zaba from next season onwards would be priceless!

So I have to ask, do we have the reliable cover in Micah Richards? I would LOVE to be able to say “Yes” because, when not injured and in form, he’s a very good right back…and being English too is a huge advantage with ‘the rule’. But…I just can’t see it working out; whether that’s because Pellegrini doesn’t actually rate him very much or he continues to be very fragile. And so…

A rising and rising Premier League star who gets rave reviews from ‘those in the know’. Can attack too; once again another quality ‘The Engineer’ likes in his fullbacks. ‘Plied his trade’ in Ireland and had a brief spell with Championship, play-off-final-winning-Blackpool before racking up over 100 games with Premier League Everton; he’s also got 20+ international caps for the ROI.

At 25 – and like Luke Shaw – I’d go ‘all out’ to get this fella! However, he has a whopping 4 years left on his current contract and, I would imagine, is enjoying his football under Roberto Martinez. Bill Kenwright would also put up one HELL of a fight to keep him too. But we have some bargaining tools in our locker. They want Gareth Barry and I’m sure we could offer them Jack Rodwell and possibly A.N. Other too.

Slim chance but if there IS a chance…then go for it City!

I’ll get lynched by a fellow Blue and Blog reader if I don’t mention this Leeds United youngster. He has championed this English-born youngster for some time now.

Has won a whole host of Club awards to his name: Football League Player of the Month for March 2013, Yorkshire Evening Post Young Player of the Year 2012/13, Leeds United Supporters Club Player of the Year 2012/13, Leeds United Players’ Player of the Year 2012/13, Leeds United Young Player of the Year 2012/13 and Leeds United Fans Player of the Year for 2012/13.

I’ve not seen him play and don’t know how he’s progressing in 2013/14. What concerns me a little is that someone who is clearly held in such high regard by his Club & fans hasn’t played at ANY level for England at all…although he could, perhaps, simply be suffering from Leeds United’s position outside of the ‘top flight’.

If we don’t have better in our very own EDS, then at 21-years of age in September he could well be worth a punt. Another right back who is, apparently, equally comfortable at right-wing and, so, can ‘overlap’ as & when required.

The almost ever-present Arsenal right-back with over 200 games for The Gunners is out of contract in the summer and would prove to be an outstanding bargain. Of course his wage demands would be high but, as I say, no signing-on fee for a very, VERY experienced right-sided defender; who specialises as a full-back but has performed in the centre of defence at times.

At just turned 31 he’s slightly ahead of Zabaleta on age but certainly not ‘past it’ and would provide excellent cover/competition for Zaba. The established ‘Zaba factor’ might just put the Frenchman off from joining us but he has told Arsenal that he will leave in the summer if his time-served with The Gunners is not rewarded with a decent contract.

Certainly a possibility and a very good signing this one.

With a Championship player with no international caps at ANY level, a player who has 4 years on his contract to run…and Bacary Sagna; I feel a bit thin on the ground with regards to possible right-back signings.

I’ve done some research and can’t seem to find any more realistic players who would improve this area of the defence (I’m sure there are). But if we DON’T have a ready-made diamond ready to ‘step up’ from the reserves then, although not a priority; it’s certainly an area we need to be considering, especially if Micah is already starting to look at the housing market pages of the national newspapers…

So am I suggesting a complete back-4 rebuild? Well I’m not going to beat around the bush…YES. It’s most definitely the area we need to improve on the most. At the VERY least two central defenders and one left-back should be high in our manager’s thoughts.


Defensive midfielder:

Is Garcia good enough? No, certainly not. If there is a Club award for ‘most improved player of the season’ then certainly he & Kolarov would be vying for it. But when your starting position was no better than 3.5/10, then improvement would have to be considerably more than we’ve seen. On his VERY best day he gives us a 6.5/10 performance. I say again…just not good enough for us.

Rodwell? How ironic is part of his name? It would be very cruel on the lad who, by all accounts, tries EVERYTHING to improve his own health record…but there’s a good argument for the ex-Evertonian & England Under 21 player to be referred to as Jack Notwell.

So…it’s no WONDER Pellegrini was in the market for a back-up to 29-year old (in May) Fernandinho. And, having gone for Fernando of Porto so enthusiastically in January, I would imagine that Garcia, at least, is most certainly leaving us in the summer.


Well the Brazilian, defensive midfielder with a similar name to the Brazilian defensive midfielder we already have makes the list simply because we DID go in for him so keenly 2 months ago. However, Porto have since cheekily got the 27-year old (in July) to sign a new contract until 2017. Rather than being just a few million quid in January (on a free in the summer) the player nicknamed ‘The Octopus’ would now, surely, cost us in the region of £18M. However, it doesn’t seem to have put us off; we continue to be linked with him.

Seems decent and is certainly attracting interest from other top clubs. It’s just a shame we couldn’t strike up a deal with the hard-to-deal-with Portuguese side.

In many ways this one is a ‘no brainer’ for me. Knows the club, he LOVES the club, knows the Premier League and has only one year remaining on his AC Milan deal.

Same age as our current ‘number-one’ defensive midfielder; my only doubt would be his tendency to get niggley injuries. Perhaps not well know for his injury record; I can just recall several occasions where he was out for the Blues before his departure. He’s had his fair share of time on the treatment table in Italy too - competition for places taken into account; he’s only managed 35 appearances in almost 2 full seasons…

Don’t fancy de Jong? Then why not go for his older teammate? Okay so the Argentinean will be 34 in August but, looking at his record, he doesn’t seem to break down much.

Combative, but certainly not dirty – having only ever received 1 red card in his long career – the guy has BAGS of experience at the very top level. ‘Pitches in’ with the goals too! On a free? I’d snap this solid midfielder up…

Yaya’s international teammate seems almost tailor-made for City. The 100%-committed, engine-room tackler has proven to be a Premier League hit since his move from FC Twente in 2010; he’s already amassed almost 100 games for The Magpies.

Certainly won’t come cheap; having signed a whopping 6-½ year deal when he joined the Geordies, he till has 3 years left to run. And they’ll be stiff competition for his signature too; providing we could convince Newcastle to let him go that is.

The fact that we can offer him European competition AND, of course, a far better chance of a winner’s medal or three; we’ll sure be a lure for the Ivorian…as will the influencing factor of Yaya I’m sure.

Attacking / creative midfielder / winger

Now this might seem greedy of me but I make no excuses for wanting an addition to our creative ranks. I’m also aware that, by bringing-in another top-quality attacking midfielder; it’s yet another barrier to a potential EDS player breaking into the first team on a regular basis. But they have time on their hands and with our future-focus on youth development, their time will come soon enough.

Whenever Samir Nasri is out and whenever David Silva & Yaya Toure look in need of a rest and are playing at 70%; the heart is often ripped out of our [attacking] style of play. Look at the REALLY top teams in Europe – in fact just look ‘down South’ to Chelseaand see how many truly class midfielders they have in their ranks. It’s clear to me, at least, that we need just one more and so here’s my three most likely / available targets.

Another one in the ‘no brainer’ category. Has worked under ‘The Engineer’ before at Malaga and (almost?) followed Pellegrini to Manchester City last summer. Just 21 games for Real Madrid – some of those from the subs bench – is, apparently, leaving the Spaniard a little frustrated; apparently they’ve change formation / systems and he just doesn’t quite ‘fit in’ most of the time.

Yeah of course he might not get a start every game for us…but I’d sure do everything I could to convince him for a second time to make the switch to sky blue. Simply put, he’s another, slightly taller, David Silva-type player but younger (just 22 in April). Who WOULDN’T want anther one of those in your team?! Go-get him City!

Another class player who doesn’t always get selected for ‘The Whites’, particularly since the signing of Gareth Bale from Tottenham in 2013. 115 games for Real gives the Argentinean player an average of 28 games per season in all competitions.

He’s a quality left-winger / midfielder who can score as well as create. Used as a left-winger at City he’d give us all sort of options; not least allowing Nasri to work as a more central-forward midfielder; in order to ‘do his thing’ to, perhaps, even great affect.

Another big plus? Angel only has 1-year left on his current deal and so not only could they be tempted to sell the 26-year old; he shouldn’t cost a great deal at all considering he huge talent!

Givanildo Vieira de Souza is his real name and he gets a mention because he KEEPS getting linked with us. Whether under Mancini or Pellegrini; the ‘no smoke without fire’ theory keeps grabbing my attention.

COMPLETELY different (certainly in stature) to what Di Maria offers; he is strong, powerful and direct. Predominantly a right-winger but equally comfortable as a right-sided forward / striker and, therefore, could solve more than one issue.

The only thing that would put me off a little bit is that he’s moved a lot for a 28-year old (in July) and contract-ownership issues tend to follow him around…ala-Tevez / West Ham. Although I’m a bit nervous of going for Brazilian players for their often less-than-committed attitude (unlike their Argentinean cousins); I think this guy is different. He’d be exciting and would certainly add even more attacking thrust to our attack. Certainly worth consideration.


Here’s that phrase again – do City want to move to ‘the next level’? Well of course they do…and so get rid of Edin and go-get a top, TOP quality ‘hit man’ to compliment Aguero & Negredo. I’ve certainly not forgotten (often injured) Stevan Jovetic and if we could get another quality forward then the 4 of them – with the addition of Isco / Di Maria or Hulk behind them - would terrorise both the English and European scenes.

So who is that man then?

What a waste of a talent his transfer from Atletico Madrid to AS Monaco was – definitely a ‘for the money’ move. And, by all accounts, it’s not really working out for him – he certainly can’t be too happy that his side currently sit almost 20 points behind league leaders PSG.

Okay, so he’s also had cruciate knee ligament damage and has been out since January. But this HUGE talent has played only 17 times since his move in the summer of 2013.


  1. Well, of course, our Doctors & other medical staff would have to pay close attention to that knee of his.
  2. Having only signed for the rich French side less than a year ago the Colombian sill has 4 years of his 5-year deal remaining – they’d certainly be wanting to recoup most of their reported 60-million Euros they paid for him.
  3. Chelsea. Jose will be desperate to recruit some strikers in the summer and I get the feeling Radamel is high on his target list. I’m not sure, therefore, I’d want us to be locked into a summer-long battle for him – we need to do our business early like we did last season.
Romelu Lukaku

COMPLETELY different to Falcao of course. But if we ARE to offload Dzeko in the summer then this guy is ‘ready made’. More powerful than Edin he also has, of course, plenty of Premier League experience; ironically hardly any with Chelsea but lots with WBA & Everton on loan.
Would Mourinho be willing to part with him? Well, I just don’t think he likes him for whatever reason. Why, for example, when he often clearly struggles ‘up front’ does he allow the powerhouse to play for other Premier League clubs? Vital experience is one thing but at the detriment of your own campaigns? It’s a strange one…

With just 2 years remaining on his current Chelsea deal it is definitely approaching ‘decision time’ and if Mourinho DOES ‘go in for’ and get Falcao and A.N. Other then that could be the final straw for the 6’ 3” man.

This guy’s work-rate is excellent and he has plenty of goals in him; 27 in 35 games in fact…some of them after coming off the bench! And at just 21 in May, Vincent Kompany’s international teammate has a long & bright future ahead of him I’m sure. What better place to fulfil your dreams than at a club with a bright future also.

Want a 'wild card'…and a surprise? This guy scores wherever he goes and so just imagine, if you will, the 6’ 2’’ powerful striker being ‘supplied’ by the likes of Nasri, Navas, Silva & Toure and working alongside Aguero?

Want a couple of bonuses thrown in? He’s English (that’s that box ticked) and he’s a penalty-taking expert. He might be (just-turned) 32 but he’d make an excellent replacement for the possibly-departing Dzeko. Shouldn’t cost too much either - although recently an England international with 2 goals from 4; a 32-year old with just 2 years left on his Southampton contract shouldn’t prove too expensive.

A Scouse lad who has played for Blackpool, Macclesfield Town, Stockport County and Rochdale; he hails from the North West and might fancy a move ‘back up North’ IF he’s not put off by the competition for places up front. Surely though…SURELY he’d relish a shot at silverware and a few ‘winners medals’.

As I say, perhaps a surprise inclusion but certainly not an outlandish thought…

I’m not gonna go into the possibility of us signing a certain Mr Messi. Why? Well it’s nothing to do with the brilliant, BRILLIANT striker being unlikely to ever leave his beloved Barcelona; it’s simply the transfer fee. It would, reportedly, take a staggering £180M to £200M to prise him from the Spanish giants and that, quite frankly, is putting your prize egg in one very, VERY expensive basket. Financial ‘fair play’ aside; as dazzling as the guy is we’d be (very) wise to spread that sort cash around the pitch a little more…

So what ABOUT the Financial ‘Fair Play’ rule?

Well, simply put, I can see the following players leaving the wage bill in the summer either with or without transfer fee-funds coming our way:

-          Richard Wright

-          Dedryck Boyata

-          Martin Demichelis?

-          Aleksandar Kolarov?

-          Joleon Lescott

-          Micah Richards

-          Gareth Barry

-          Javi Garcia

-          Jack Rodwell?

-          Scott Sinclair

-          Edin Dzeko  Update (06.04.2014): More unlikely now...

-     Alvaro Negredo? Rumours are that if we are to get another foreign striker in the summer then it will be 'The Beast' who might make way, as unbelievable as that sounds [with regards to our early season, goal-scoring hero]

-          John Guidetti?

-          Alex Nimely

-          Luca Scapuzzi

 ...and perhaps a few EDS who are might be deemed not quite good enough.

That should help balance the books!

What about players 'breaking through' from the EDS?

Well the ones with a greater chance of making it to the first team during the 2014/2015 season (even if it’s only in the early rounds of domestic cup competitions) are…

* Karim Rekik             -           Central Defender

* Emyr Huws              -           Central Midfielder

* Marco Lopes            -           Attacking midfielder / winger – Left / right / centre

* Jose Angel Pozo      -           Attacking forward / striker - left / right / centre

* John Guidetti            -           Striker (providing he’s not sold or loaned-out again…)

* Devante Cole           -           Striker (a lesser chance, perhaps, but you never know…)

* Jordy Hiwula            -           Striker (similarly, a lesser chance but…)

I’ve not mentioned keepers. Quite frankly, providing he’s happy enough, we’ve got a perfectly good ‘back up’ to Joe Hart in the form of Costel Pantilimon. And, by all accounts, the likes of Angus Gunn & Eirik Johansen aren’t too bad either. But if Costel is to leave then, fair enough; perhaps go in for a suitable replacement. But that’s another Blog posting for another time…

As an absolute minimum? I’d say we need 5 players: A left-back, 2 central defenders, a defensive midfielder and a striker. Bonus signings would include an additional 2 players: A right-back and an attacking / creative midfielder-come-winger.

So, there you have it folks; all that is needed to keep us ahead of the game domestically and striving to join ‘the elite’ of Europe.

Thanks for taking the (long) time to read!