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...

Friday, 29 August 2014

Potty! Stoke is actually a Saturday, 3:00pm kick off!

How rare is one of these fixtures? Looking forward to it!

Straight to it then...

With a planned cheese & wine evening after the match the idea is not to have too many pre-match drinks. We’ll see how that goes…

Far clearer in thought will be, of course, Manuel Pellegrini; who will know better than most whether to choose Aguero over the bruised and cut Dzeko and whether to, perhaps at home to Stoke, give Sagna a starting run out. Maybe Fernandinho for Fernando and possibly a start for the impressive Navas.

Mangala & Lampard are still gaining match fitness.

Milner will be looking at this one closely too…and another place on the bench today might go a long way in him deciding his Manchester City future.

So, with various possibilities here’s my best shot at what the team might be against The Potters (with no pre-Liverpool Blog posting you will just have to trust me that I got the starting eleven 100% spot on).

v Stoke City









Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Clichy, Fernando, Milner, Silva, Dzeko

So, working from back to front…

Although, of course, there’s a chance Pellegrini might give Willy his first taste of Premier League action and just think, at this early stage - and at home to Stoke – he’ll want to maintain some consistency here. Joe to start again.

First start?
I’m sure we’ll see this happening for most of the season; another rotation at left-back will see Kolarov get another home game while Clichy sits on the bench. With Mangala still recovering his fitness (confirmed by Pellegrini in the first part of his pre-match, mostly Champions-League-based-questions press conference), Demichelis & ‘skip’ to continue in the heart of the defence. Having done a ‘full 90’ against Liverpool I think Zaba will be given the first of many rests [this season] today and having NOT played as yet, I think Sagna will take his City bow this afternoon.

If he does go with this back line then perhaps our ‘Engineer’ will want the security of Fernando ‘in there’ - both Kolarov and Sagan do, after all, have a reputation of ‘bombing forward in support’, which might leave us a little vulnerable. But I’ll stick with this; I think he might give Fernandinho his first full run out in place of ‘The Octopus’.

I don’t think Nasri & Toure have hit full throttle as yet and so I’m guessing that our manager will want to give them both another run out for that very reason. Silva, however, already looks close to his devastating best and with Navas playing so well at the mo; I just think he might reward both with a rest and a start respectively.

With his form and with the personnel available; Jovetic is ‘a given’…but the last one is a real 50/50 for me. Dzeko is currently nursing a badly bruised thigh and rather large cut, apparently, and although he is apparently non-the-worse for it; Aguero did take a knock in training on Thursday. So I’m sticking my neck out and will go for Aguero to get ‘the nod’ here; 2 for 2 in terms of goals and the lesser of the ‘patched up’ being my reasoning.

Pellegrini could, of course, break a starting 11 habit of a lifetime and go with an attacking 4-5-1 / 4-1-4-1 set-up…but I doubt that. Equally the likes of Jordi Hiwula might get a place on the bench but once again, I don’t think so.

Milner might be feeling a little aggrieved with a bench start but depending on how the first half goes; I would hope that he manages to get closer to 45 minutes than 15 and can make the most of that ½-game opportunity.

Result? We shouldn’t be complacent of course and, for me at least, Mark Hughes’ side does contain a few relative ‘unknowns’. However, it should be a comfortable home win where, with the usual patience shown under Pellegrini, we should eventually be looking to boost our goal difference too.

Meanwhile, in shady Europe

HowEVER the European rankings are worked out it hardly seems fair for the Champions of England to be handed, what most people would surely agree is, the hardest group of the competition. Although we were knocked out at the last 16 stage [to Barcelona]; as well as winning the English Premier League we did MAKE it to the knock-out stages [and didn’t get knocked out in the group stages].

I don’t go - and never have gone in for - conspiracy theories (a little naïve perhaps?) but there is a small voice now telling me that this is yet another F(not-so)FP beating from UEFA.

Bayern Munich (again), CSKA Moscow (again) and Roma? Really? And so who do 3rd placed Chelsea get in the Champions League? Schalke, Sporting Lisbon and Haribo Maribor. Okay so The Pensioners made it to the semi-finals of the competition last season but, as I say, it hardly seems fair in the Champions League now does it?

Want some salt in the wounds City? Here then…have the away Bayern Munich fixture slap-bang in the middle of an away trip to Arsenal before a home game to Chelsea. Yeah thanks for that.

Oh well, I suppose that’s what good / big squads are for…

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The good, the bad and the ugly (UPDATED - 27.08.2014)

Thanks to regular readers for their patience during the recent break in service; sorry to all for the lack of pre & post-match Blog postings…especially so early on in a new season.

The good

Having come away from the match last night completely satisfied with all things Manchester City ON the pitch it was tinged, only ever so slightly, with disappointment with regards to other things within the Etihad. And having been invited, along with hundreds of others recently, via the Club’s City Voice to comment on various issues surrounding the match-day experience; I thought I’d incorporate some of last night’s experiences in a post-Liverpool match posting.

At the very least I can then copy & paste some of these comments when contacting the club about my experience last night…

So, ‘the good’…

I could go through the entire team and heap praise on each and every one for their individual performances last night. Instead, I’ll just pick out a few that I believe deserve special mention. Starting from the back…

I thought Martin Demichelis stood out not only for his cool and oh-so-obvious experience, organisation and leadership last night but he’s found some serious pace too! Question 1 would have to be, “Is that due to the reduced weight after his severe hair cut?” Question 2 would be, “Due to his performances so far how long will Eliaquim Mangala have to wait to get a look-in?”

The only flaw in a very good 8.5/10 performance was being muscled off the ball by Sturridge for their only goal. Other than that, carry on Martin!

For “Fernando” read “Security”. He just gives you that extra layer and that more solid look than his similar-named Brazilian ever did. That’s not being unkind to Fernandinho in the slightest; it’s now clear that the ‘inho’ version likes to play his game slightly more advanced.

Stevan Jovetic is living up to everyone’s hopes and expectations. Simply put, we’d have won the league by the end of March / early April last season had he not have been injured for the most part. Fluid, creative, skilful and ‘goals’. What more can you ask for?

Edin Dzeko – Edin getting stuck in Dzeko! How often can you say that? He was throwing himself in and even ‘clattering’ with one Liverpool player last night and that was very impressive. Impressive that is, of course, until he limped off…and perhaps was as a result of his rare, new-found addition to his game. He looked (and looks) more ‘fleet of foot‘ too. Get well soon Edin…

Sergio Aguero is in danger of getting a ‘Super Sub’ label here. I’m joking of course. But what an ‘impact player’ he truly is. He did this on occasions last season if you recall. What a player – WHAT a player! Might get his starting chance against Stoke with Edin limping off…

Jesus Navas OR “Navas the hungry”. Whether it’s because he missed out on the World Cup [through injury at the last minute] or whether he’s just more settled [after a season at the club] but he looks like a man on a mission.

He’s just added 15 / 20% to his game and can count himself very unlucky not to start games at the moment. But once again - and like Sergio – what an impact player to be able to bring on!

And speaking of ‘the bench’; a look at last night’s was just ‘jaw dropping’. But what’s even more impressive is the players who WEREN’T on the bench! Yet to make it to the touchline are Mangala, Lampard and, of course, Negredo. What a squad!

I thought we pretty much dominated the first 20 to 25 minutes before a cautious Liverpool began to press us back. I decided, on 36 minutes, to nip to the bar and, yep, missed the first flippin’ goal! A goal which, you could say at that stage of the game, was slightly against the run of play.

But I was impressed with the (now familiar) patience and relentlessness we showed last night and we were ‘good’ for our 3-1 win against last season’s runners up. In fact, I would say that their fortunate Zabaleta own goal made the scoreline very flattering for them over ‘the 90’. Taking that one step further, I thought we could well have increased that scoreline by a couple more.

Solid start after two tricky fixtures; Stoke City at home next…

Also good? The speakers in the East Stand. We did not have distortingly loud ‘blurb’ of last season but rather loud enough, clear music / announcements throughout. Well done to ‘whoever’ at MCFC…


The bad

Oh my LORD the bar “service” near to where I sit was appallingly bad last night. It just does NOT…GET…ANY…BETTER with time.

And I swear that if I was a dishonest person I could have got away with TWICE not paying. In the carnage that was the supposed organisation of the staff; at my end of the bar you had one startled-looking girl taking the orders & cash while an equally bewildered and manic lad then ask me – and NOT his till-tapping colleague – what it was I had ordered and paid for. The first time it was “2 pints” and the second time “a pint and a [lukewarm] Bovril”. Each time I could have said “½-dozen beers and 2 pies”, as he had no clue whatsoever and never once checked with his colleague. Madness!

And the prices have jumped up ANOTHER 20p per pint. Crazy!

New season card readers on the turnstiles whereby, at first [game] try at least, my wife & I weren’t able to keep them in their wallets to hold up to the device for it to read. No, we now have to take them out and fully insert the flippin’ things.

A big hardship and travesty? Perhaps not. But in times of crowd issues / congestion surely a step backwards…

No working TV above the bar showing pre-match stuff and team news etc. and the now-tatty and ripped advertisements in the loo were showing pictures of LAST season's (better) home kit. That's really quite shoddy...

The ugly

Oh my stars and garters! I’d heard about this middle tier, electronic replacement of the flags and banners about a week ago; thinking it sounded half-decent and “modern”. But, for the moment at least, the permanent, in-your-face ‘light show’ is at best an over-the-top distraction that just shoves advertisements and various messages into your retina while you’re TRYING to enjoy the piggin’ game! Truly beastly!

If the eventual plan is for fans to create / re-create the previous material banners and they stop flickering / flashing up images and adverts etc. then perhaps it will be a good thing. But for now, at least, it’s a BIG ‘thumbs down’ from me.

The extra clock images at either end of the ground were okay I suppose…

To add to your overly-stimulated visual senses at the Etihad are now live pictures of the game you are watching – not on one but TWO MASSIVE SCREENS at one end of the ground! Not sure I’ll ever get used to that either; it’s not like they’re gonna show instant replays of iffy moments and decisions is it?

Then there was the home kit. I’ve said it all before and so won’t drone on about it again. It’s just not right though; it’s just not Manchester City.

And finally…

Just let one Manyoo fan in the next few years accuse my football club of buying success and ruining football…
Vanja Milinkovic - £1.5M
Marcos Rojo - £16M

Luke Shaw & Ander Herrera - £54M
Angel Di Maria...
...£59.7M plus 'add ons'!

And MK Dons...


Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Due to family-emergency-commitments it's unlikely that there'll be a post-Newcastle United Blog-posting (time is ticking along / not much point) and it's highly likely that there'll be no pre-Liverpool game posting either.

Sorry to regular readers and all for this interruption of service. Will be back as soon as possible.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The ‘opener’

First of all folks, sorry for the delay in getting out a pre-Newcastle United game 'Blog posting'. Hospital visits and employer issues have somewhat got in the way over the last few days to say the least.

With all of that set aside for the moment, it’s time to get my head around City and footy in general.

Other issues and snippets

Before all things City & Newcastle, there have been a few things I’ve wanted to comment on.

Firstly is the impressive way City are going about their business with regards to securing the players at our club on long-term contracts. What a MASSIVE message that sends out of our intension of building a strong nucleolus; the bedrock of very successful teams down the years. And what a HUGE 'hands off' to vulture-circling clubs...

The slightly improving Kolarov was first to sign a 3-year deal closely followed by Nasri’s 5-year offer and signature. Then came Silva,  Aguero & our Captain and soon to follow their lead is Hart and Dzeko. And although I think he still wants to, understandably see how his playing time situation lies in January, I think there’s definitely an offer on the table for much-needed, in my opinion, (HAHM-ez) Milner.

What’s even more impressive from City is that I understand each and every new contract comes with a much-reduced weekly wage; adding, instead, huge incentive / winning bonuses. These bonus payments are, apparently, excluded from the calculations of F(not so)FP as they are not guaranteed payments (I wonder how long it’ll be before the cheating ******** change that rule?)

All EXCELLENT news though.

More good news – although that might sound cruel – was the sale of Javi Garcia for £12M to Zenit St. Petersburg. The worst of our midfields has gone and together with the sale of Jack Rodwell puts us WELL under the FFP spending limit. With another sale or three – possibly in the form of Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair and John Guidetti – we could even afford ourselves some elbow room in the transfer market before the end of August! There’s even rumour of an Isco loan - watch this space…

Slightly surprising was the news that Karim Rekik has gone back to PSV for another season on loan. Again this might sound slightly cruel but surprising, because, we’re left with Dedryck Boyata instead of the slightly-better Karim. Boyata’s ability and all-too-often mistake-filled game concerns me a lot.

But good luck to Karim and I hope he continues his improvement out there.

In even MORE ‘stuck with Boyata news’ WAS the news that Jason Denayer has moved to Celtic for the season and the Belgian central defender opened the scoring on his debut after just 4 minutes. On hearing reports of his ability – and despite having Vinny, Martin, Eliaquim & Matija – I honestly thought Jason might get retained and used on occasions this season.

But I’m convinced a season away – even if it’s only in Scotland’s Premier League (and yes I did mean that to sound slightly disrespectful) – will do him the world of good.

I hope Bruno Zuculini isn’t prone to feeling dizzy. First of all he was all set – and it had apparently been agreed a while ago – that he was to join Valencia on loan for the season, then he was off to Sunderland, then he was staying here for the season…and now he MIGHT be off to Deportivo de La Caruna. Wherever you end up Bruno, good luck mate.

Definitely not enjoying the milder climes of Spain will be Greg Leigh. The EDS left-back has joined Crewe Alexandra on loan until 5th January 2015. Best wishes to him also.

And the Mangala / London thing explained, apparently…

A little late in commenting on this one…but even as a seasoned football observer I was shocked that we had our first managerial casualty on the opening day of the Football League season in the sacking of Huddersfield Town’s Mark Robins.

However, it has since been quoted that it wasn’t a decision based on the one, 4-0 opening home game defeat but rather the appalling level of football and results in the previous 20 leagues games last season. And, to be honest, I shed not one tear for the ex-Manyoo player who once very bitterly and quite openly mocked us (for a reason I recall irritated me at the time but can’t quite recall now).

But, more recently, Tony Pulis beat Mark to the quickest departure when resigning from his post as Crystal Palace Manager just a few days before the start of the season for a disagreement with their owner of spending (or lack there of).

What a sham! Who next (or have I already missed one?)

Speaking of a sham – recently I stated how irritating Manyoo fans around me have already become and one of those irritations were that they were getting way too overly excited about very average players having a half-decent pre-season in the US.

Well I don’t want to say "I told you so" but…

Oh...SO many captions I could add to this!

Van Gall quote from yesterday’s post-match interview: I know in what positions we need better players…” At least he has a better clue than the so-called followers of the club - and that’s why he’s the Manager I suppose.

Right…onto the business of the day!


Now since starting Blue Chews-daze on 23.04.2013 there have been some difficult starting 11s to predict. Even if I do say so myself, however, I’ve done pretty well for the most part.

However, this one must rank as the most difficult of a competitive game so far and so I make no apologies for getting closer to 60% than 100%.

First of all I’m going to compound the issue by suggesting that he break a habit of a (City) lifetime and not start, at least, with 4-4-2. I doubt it very much but if he did; here’s what I think he might do…and why.

4-3-3 / 4-3-2-1 / 4-1-4-1 (read it as you will):











Why? Well ignoring the back 4 and goalie I just think he’ll be tempted, and I would agree, to try to include Nasri, Silva and pre-season-impressive Navas and with Yaya surely a starting cert also – and with us needing a defensive midfielder thrown in – that would leave room for just one striker (and that’s the mobile and fluid Jovetic over Dzeko for me).

Also, I’m not 100% certain – but I think that it MIGHT be the case – that Aguero will be available on the bench and if not; we don’t have any real striker options from the bench to ‘change the style’ if we needed to.

I also think that, even at home, Nasty Pardew will go for a packed, counter-attacking midfield a-la Arsenal during the Community Shield.

Anyhoo…that’s a real long, LONG shot that is and so slapping myself across the face as I've just have done; here’s what I think Pellegrini will pick for this afternoon’s North East clash.











Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Boyata, Milner, Lampard, Navas, Aguero

Hart over Caballero – I’ve not got much doubt at all about that one.

This is something I’ll be saying most of the season – and getting wrong from time to time I’m sure – but I THINK he’ll go for the more defensive Clichy over Kolarov.
With the older, World-Cup-legs of Demichelis not being quite ready and Mangala not being chosen also; Nastasic is about the most likely player to partner Kompany, who I think will be ready enough to play in this one and will get chosen.
Gone, I think, will be the ‘Clichy covering at right back’ for this one and that Zaba will ‘resume’ ahead of Sagna’s return to fitness (but I could be wrong on all sorts of fronts here).

Fernando to ‘hold’ and, VERY unfortunately for him, I think Navas will miss out on being part of an attacking midfield trio; as it goes to Nasri, Silva & Toure instead.

Jovetic & Dzeko to ‘lead’.

'Sub goalie' picks itself, Kolarov to provide ‘extra push’ if needed and, sadly, Boyata as a the central defensive option from the bench.
Milner is at LEAST a ‘bench man’ and I think he might be joined by 'our Frank'; who for me is a naturally fit player and has been training for weeks now.
Navas of course and I THINK we’ll have the Argentinean pocket battleship available for ‘the last 20’ if required.


It’s a toughy that’s for sure but I’m going for an away win; joining Swansea near the top of the table at the end of the day...