Saturday, 28 February 2015

4 in a row?

This season we’ve impressively managed to banish the demons of 3 red teams this season by finally getting Premier League wins at Sunderland, Southampton & Stoke City. Can we now ‘put to bed’ the only remaining away ground we’ve not won at since our current owners have taken over?

Well the cards ARE stacked in our favour…

Fully fit squad v just back from a European trip

That sub-heading pretty much sums up the situation really as we go to Anfield for a 12-noon KO on Sunday in about the best position possible.

  • Everyone fit ‘n’ available
  • A Captain itching, I’m sure, to not-only prove the recent doubters wrong but also to banish his OWN demons of last season’s trip to Liverpool; where his miss-clearance lead to their winner in a 3-2 thriller
  • Yaya Toure rested and returning in a week where he’s also apparently said he wants to finish his career at City and stay here in some capacity afterwards (all this coming a few days after I posted my letter to him – Mmmm.…)
  • Wilfried Bony keen to get on the score sheet
  • A Thursday night, extra time trip to Turkey that ended in an agonising 5-4 penalty shoot-out defeat, followed by a delayed return flight and…
  • ...God I hope they play Mario from the start!

Easy pickings then tomorrow, isn’t it? Yeah right…

But if we ARE the ‘real deal’ in the Premier League at least [if not the Champions League] then this IS a game we should be winning. Anfield is rarely, of course, an easy place to go; they still have a lot of class players that can hurt you and there’s always that 12th man from the stands whenever the Kop really gets going.

But for all the afore mentioned reasons – and, for once, before I do my usual predicted line-up etc. - I’m nailing my flag to a City win, which is a 100% change from my pre-season prediction of a defeat in this fixture.

v Liverpool

Predicted starting 11 & subs…













Joe to carry on in net.

Away from home – and the better of the 2 defenders – Gael to keep his left-back place despite and busy red-carded night on Tuesday. Likewise Pablo, who had a crackin’ game against Newcastle last weekend! Vinny, of course, and I think our manager will see the need to utilise Eliaquim’s pace over Martin’s experience & guile.

On form I’d definitely go for a midfield pairing of James & Yaya but it’s never going to happen is it? Fernandinho, therefore, to partner the Ivorian in the middle.

Tucked in from the line slightly and allowed to roam, I’m sure, are our creative wizards David & Samir.

Sergio slightly deeper in, in a way, an attacking trio with Nasri & Silva and, I think, just behind Wilfried, who I think will get his first Manchester City start.

As for the bench, huh…well, it’s just shows you that when they ARE all fit / available some proper first team names do have to miss out. The biggest casualties, if I’m correct of course, are Sagna, Fernando & Jovetic.

I’ve already given my prediction and I’ve already said they have players that can do some serious damage if allowed to – Coutinho, Gerrard, Sterling and Sturridge all spring to mind but also, as the Manchester Evening News pointed out yesterday, Skrtel; who has a habit of ‘sticking one on us’.

It’ll be a tough one alright but I’m fairly convinced that our superior class throughout and fresher legs will see us through in the end.

Concerns beyond the threat that they pose?

-     Kompany trying too hard and having one of those games / moments where he’s just a little bit TOO ‘pumped up’ and, therefore, not quite focused (my only ever and rare criticism of ‘our skip’)
-     Kolarov getting chosen instead of Clichy to face their pacy, attacking players
-     Mangala having a stinker (and Lord if all those 3 fears come together at once it’ll be a disaster!)
-     Bony trying too hard and becoming too anxious to be effective
-     Dzeko being chosen instead of Bony (or coming on) and having one of his sulking / can’t trap a ball days
-     In a strange way…that James Milner, how ever long he’s on the pitch for, has a ‘proving (another) point’ / come 'n’ get me Liverpool, blinding game…

Looking forward to…

-     Seeing Mangala having the same kind of game he had on his debut at home to Chelsea. That was, without doubt, ‘the’ best debut I’ve ever seen anyone have and I wish for the same every time he starts.

-     Samir, Yaya, David, Sergio & Wilfried ‘clicking’ and absolutely tearing the home side to pieces!

-     All 3 points and piling the pressure on Jose’s men, who take a break from Premier League action as they KO at 4:00pm after us against Spurs in the League Cup final.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

4-4-2 again…

…from our manager against formidable opposition. Will Manuel Pellegrini ever learn?

Pre-match optimism wiped out in seconds

I was sat in the pub before the game when a Leeds United fan pointed my attention towards the television, as the evening’s team line-ups were being scrolled across the bottom. Aguero & Dzeko? And within an instant I was wondering why I was spending £45 to watch my team, most likely, get completely and unnecessarily overrun.

But I was wrong. Not only were we completely overrun; we were utterly outclassed, outplayed, outthought and outpaced by a far, far superior team. Only David Silva and the afore mentioned Sergio Aguero looked anything like being able to compete with the class the Spanish side possessed…and it only served to back up what I’d been saying for some considerable time, which was that we are a good way off joining the REAL top sides in Europe.

F(not-so)FP shackles loosened in the summer, we need to strengthen much better than we did in the summer of 2014.

But it’s not all lost; there were some positives. Still a class or two below our opposition we stepped up a gear in determination, at least, and had an as-semblance of organisation in the second half. And whether or not we were also helped by a team who just couldn’t quite keep up the same level of destruction as in the first 45; we began to press them a little…or at the very least ‘hold our own’. We created chances – Dzeko should have scored – and eventually cracked them with a brilliant Fernandinho / Aguero combo.

With Joe saving a last minute Messi penalty and with Yaya available for the second leg...and IF Manuel Pellegrini goes an attacking 4-5-1 posture then we might, just MIGHT do enough to progress. It’s unlikely that we’ll get the 2-0 or 3-1 win we need at Camp Nou but stranger things in football have happened.

Well done City for another attempt to create a good atmosphere; by not only providing everyone with a flag but also by clearly listening to comments from a City Voice survey just days earlier. In fact, I have to note, on the question, “What songs should we play in the build-up to kick off”, I’m not sure if I was the ONLY one to complete the survey but they played all the ones I suggested! It was like my own, personal Manchester City Jukebox!

And well done Barcelona fans. As they did the last time they visited the Etihad, they supported their team without both an 'air of aggression' that some other European Teams sometimes bring away with them…and for not keeping up a terribly annoying drum-beat chant throughout the whole, flippin’ game! I do quite like the 'rhythmic thing' to be absolutely honest…it just gets a bit irritating for me when all we can often muster is a half-hearted “We’re not really here” or rather feeble “Blue Moon…”, which you can barely hear above the incessant din of a jumping, drum-pounding away section. They gave us a chance on Tuesday night and both set of fans supported their respective teams very well indeed.

And apologies to all within earshot towards the end of the game. As Barcelona started to, in my opinion, unnecessarily resort to a few dirty tricks, alcohol and my frustration boiled over a little; as both my volume and choice of language erupted somewhat for a brief time.

Learn…but forget and move on quickly.

Back to the far more important issue of the Premier League on Sunday – considerable time to recover and be ready to face a still-difficult trip to 6th place Liverpool.

Should he go 4-5-1 there? No I don’t think so actually – there’s a time and a place for that. He most-definitely needs to drop his stubbornness and learn ‘when to’…but it’s not on Sunday.

Personally, and despite Dzeko’s very good performance against Newcastle, I’d unleash Bony (with Aguero) against Brendan Rodgers’ men from the start. Even though it’s VERY early days, these ‘bit part’ games aren’t doing the Ivorian any favours; he needs to start with the pace of the game for once and to get on the score sheet BEFORE this becomes a ‘pressure issue’.

And the likes of Chairman Khaldoon, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain need to look at our game against Barcelona and learn too; learn that if we have another summer of mostly mediocre purchases that don’t improve us very much at all then we will not be fulfilling their dream of turning us into a Champions League challenging force any time soon.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Post Newcastle / Pre-Barcelona

Apologies for the lack of any post-Newcastle game Blog-posting on Sunday; I don’t always do a next-day piece but the fine performance & result certainly warranted one.

Instead, I thought I’d do a fairly brief ‘combo’…

Twisting my melon!

Aleks Kolarov AND Edin Dzeko both having very good games at the same time? I thought someone had put something in my beer!
Despite the Manchester Evening News’ slightly negative comments and rather harsh 6/10 for the left back, I thought he had a really good game – and regular readers will, quite rightly, see that as very high praise indeed!

His attacking play is rarely in question – although for me sometimes exaggerated in it’s effectiveness – and, strangely on this occasion, wasn’t the best part of his game against the Geordies. He got himself in advanced, overlapping positions alright but around 50% (not an official ‘stat’) of his crosses were either wayward or were blocked. But it was his defending that was noticeably much better; probably one of the best I’ve seen from the Serbian.

And it both pleased and frustrated the hell out of me (those words in themselves sum up the fella) that we saw what was, for me, a solid 8.5/10 performance from Mr E. Nigma (Edin Dzeko if you really needed to ask).

Pleasing to see him run and run…and run for the entire time he was on the pitch; pleasing to see him being able to control the ball, pleasing to see him being able to link-up and KEEP up with play and that of his teammates and pleasing to see him score a crackin’ goal! I did more than suggest that this might happen before the game but it still leaves me asking…why the HELL does it take the threat from the incoming & sideline-watching Wilfried Bony to light the Bosnian’s fire?!

Joe pulled off a tremendous save from a cracking shot from Papiss Cisse; Vinny had his best game since his return from injury and even Eliaquim had a solid 7/10’er. Pablo was ‘back’ too! What a performance from the Argentine battleship! In fact if it wasn’t for such fine performance elsewhere on the pitch he could quite easily have taken many people’s MotM.

Fernandinho continued his largely inconsistent form…by producing a fine covering role and working really well with the very impressive Yaya; and both David & Samir were simply magical. Aguero is definitely revving right up now too! I even recall remarking how quite-dazzling Jesus was when he came on for a very lively 31+ minutes.

I’m certainly not getting carried away but you can just tell that confidence and a refreshed look is sweeping through the team at this highly crucial stage of the season. Looks great from our angle; must look quite concerning for the forlorn-looking Mourinho and his nervous-looking team. Good to see Manyoo pegged back last weekend too…

And so on to Barca

Once again regular readers won’t be surprised to see me say that this piece in the Manchester Evening News sums it up quite perfectly for me. I like the Champions League; as a club we NEED the Champions League. I want us to progress past the Spanish giants…but I’m also very realistic and quite grounded about it all too.

Should we do ourselves proud and beat Messi & Co. over 2 legs then…fantastic! But that’s where our run in this competition will probably end, won’t it? We’re good; we’re bloomin’ good…but we’re just not quite with ‘the elite’ just yet.

Providing a strong challenge, as we are doing by progressing beyond the group stages, is a very good thing but we need some domestic consistency and, for me, retaining the title and then pushing on even FURTHER in domestic dominance is where we need to be aiming for.

I don’t want our players pushing themselves SO hard in these battles that the wheels then come off our pursuit of retaining the Premier League.

Sure enough if we are able to do the F(not-so)FP maths correctly in the summer and bring in 3 or 4 crackin’ stars to swell our ranks then I would fully anticipate us to push on even further in the Champions League next season. I’ll then probably even jump on the Champions League ‘expect wagon’ - with those already on board – but not until the 2016/17 season.

Predicted line-up, subs & outcome…












Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Milner, Lampard, Dzeko, Bony.

Hart to start, Clichy to come in [for Kolarov] and, I think, likewise Sagna for Zabaleta. Why? Well both have Champions League experience aplenty but not only did Pablo play a full 90+ minutes just 72 hours earlier; I think that, despite being 2 years older, the French right back has the edge in terms of pace, which will be very important this evening. Clichy is just a better defender than Kolarov.

Kompany, of course, and although I was trying (of course) to gauge our manager’s thinking in possibly deciding to pick the far-more-experienced Demichelis; once again pace won the day in my guess work. Mangala to continue his partnership with ‘our skip’.

Fernando to sit right in front of the back 4 and, hopefully, use those telescopic legs of his to full and good effect; Fernandinho not TOO far ahead of him in more of a duel role of ‘protect & support’.

Then an out & out attacking quartet of creativity, goals and, here’s that word again, pace.

Excellent cover one the bench in all Departments. Most notable is the fit again (apparently) James Milner and the absence of the suspended Yaya Toure.

Result? Huh…what a crackin’ and somewhat frightening line-up they have! Recent market value reports suggest that their 3 main attackers alone in Messi, Neymar and Suarez almost double the value of our entire squad! I thought it was we who was ruining football?

But I’m going for a narrow home victory tonight and although I’d certainly take a quite-possible 2-1’er; 1-0 would be better.

Get your neck & shoulder guards on fellas – guess who coming to dinner…


Thursday, 19 February 2015

‘Toon’ing up for the ‘big push’

Unless there have been some niggles picked up during training in the 10-day break, our ‘Engineer’ has all the tools available at his disposal this Saturday. All personnel fully fit & available and ready to be unleashed on a Newcastle side with (apparently) defensive injury concerns.

Without wishing to tempt fate or “assume” – I’m really looking forward to this one…

Me v Manuel

Although I have recently done so, I very rarely do a ‘who I would pick’ as well as a ‘predicted line-up’ etc. However, with two goalkeepers; 2 left-backs, 2 right-backs, 4 central defenders, a whole array of defensive and attacking midfielders / wingers AND 4 strikers to chose from, which includes the returning Yaya Toure and new-signing Wilfried Bony; wide-eyed and slightly salivating I just couldn’t resist the temptation to put on paper my 11.

Me v Newcastle United…











I’d love to be able to say Mangala in for Demichelis as I want to see the fella ‘in there’ for the long-term partnership with Vinny. But I just don’t trust the guy from what I’ve seen so far.

And neither Mancini nor Pellegrini see Milner as a central midfielder but I think he’d do a cracking job next to Toure.

And although, with 2 days of further training to go, Wilfried has said that he still has some way to go to be 100%; he’s surely not far off and, therefore, I’d stick him right in there alongside Sergio at home.

On the bench…

Right and left-sided defensive cover available and I’ve saved Lampard for his experience in the Champions League on Tuesday night; where a subs-bench-appearance might prove very useful.

Kolarov & Fernando also miss out in my line-up.

v Newcastle United

Predicted starting 11, subs and outcome…











Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Mangala, Fernando, Milner, Lampard, Navas, Bony

Update - 21.02.2015: James Milner out with a knee injury. So not ALL the tools available...

I'm fairly certain that our manager will go 4-4-2 for this one and we agree here on the back 5 (keeper included). I’ve got a feeling he’ll use the more-pacy Mangala against Barcelona.

Almost the same midfield 4 too but, as I say, I just can’t see him giving a starting place to soon-to-be-out-of-contract Milner. Fernandinho to get the nod ahead of both James and Fernando who both make the bench.

Now I’ve got a feeling here that he’ll want to introduce Wilfried a little more gently; both allowing him to observe play for the first 45 or so as well as to give Edin a (one last?) chance to prove himself – a pressurised kick up the backside for the Bosnian with the new signing ready to step in…

And with our manager’s love for Navas, who drops to the bench, there’s no place for either Frank or likely-summer-deportee Stevan.

Result? With all those weapons in our armoury, I’d be truly shocked if we didn’t win this one…and by a comfortable margin.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A letter to Yaya Toure.

Dear Yaya.

I understand that you might be off to Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain or somewhere else in the summer? Of course that’s what the press are saying…

Well I just wanted to write to say that if you do decide to move away then you’ve already won the respect of nearly every Manchester City supporter and although they would be disappointed to see you leave; they would also, I’m quite certain, send you on your way with their blessing and with the admiration you deserve.

Of course we had a few moments towards the end of last season that, for me, got a little ‘skewed’ to say the least; when the focus all seemed to be about your employer not marking your birthday properly, which then, from a fans perspective at least, got overly stoked-up by your agent-friend.

But I’m sure I wasn’t alone in noticing on the pitch that you appeared slightly irritable in the final few weeks of last season; it was clear to me at least that there was something greater on your mind. And I repeat - in that I’m sure I wasn’t alone - in not realising at the time that you even had another brother [other than Kolo] and that Ibrahim was so terribly ill.

When the news broke that you did-indeed have a very sick brother that had sadly passed away while you were out of the country, I can honestly assure you that the Manchester City fans that I spoke to at least not only felt extremely sorry for you and your family but, equally, were very impressed and equally grateful that you were able to perform on the pitch to the standard that you did during that terribly difficult personal time; and, of course, in helping us to win the League Cup and Premier League title as you did.

For that – and for everything you’ve given our football club – we are and will be eternally grateful.

So why am I writing to you (something I very rarely do - the first time that I’ve written to a player / manager in 20+ years in fact)?

Well it’s quite simply this.

Although you are already, as I’ve said, held in high regard by Manchester City fans for the years of service and tremendous times you have given us; contributing so much to our most successful period ever in our history (or certainly in my lifetime at least); if you are to leave for pastures new in the summer then I want to ask you to go out with a BANG!

Sorry to use a ‘cake’ analogy Yaya; but go out now and stick a cherry on the icing of your Manchester City career cake…and stick a couple of sparklers on it too while you’re at it.

Go and help us retain the title; something this football club now needs to do in order to really ‘push on’ to the next level and to make many in the footballing world really sit up and take proper notice, in my opinion.

Go from being ‘really well appreciated’ to the level where Manchester City Football Club will have to seriously consider naming something after you some time in the future.

From 5:30pm on Saturday 21st February to about 4:50pm on Sunday 24th May 2015 go and become a real Manchester City Legend!

Thank you and, in great anticipation…thank you!

Steve (and on behalf of all those Manchester City fans who think likewise).

Posted: 18.02.2015

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Just for a laugh – a brief word about ‘them’…

A lot of fanzines and footy Blogs wherever they may be often spend some time (some more than others) having a poke at their neighbouring team & fans. That’s fine; it’s all good fun but I try to limit mine to a VERY minimum.


Well it’s mostly because I’ve spent the majority of my life having all things ‘M16’ shoved rather robustly in front of my eyes and into my poisoned ears and, therefore, I’m just not interested in whatever they do or say any more…and haven’t done for a long, long time now.

And, I will add, it’s also because I find a large percentage of Manyoo fans a distasteful lot and FAR more embittered than any other set of footy fans I know (and they’ve had the nerve over the years to call us “Bitter Blues”) and, so, I find it very easy not to lower myself to their level.

But I just HAD to…

I’m struggling with something. I’m trying to decide whether Louis van Gaal irritates the hell out of me more than he amuses me.

In the early days, not long after he took over The Talking Skull, he definitely…DEFINITELY irritated me. Forgetting his increasingly-morphing physical features where he’s getting more Butt-head and generally strange-looking by the week; what IS that voice all about?! Yeah…Dutch people sound, well…Dutch. No issue there whatsoever. But to me Louis sounds like a broken robot programmed to do a poor impression of Sean Connery.

For Christ sake man - string a flippin’ sentence together for once without those hugely-annoying, cavernous gaps in-between your words, never mind your painfully long sentences!

I can barely take it any more and like that annoying, cheesy advert that you just can’t stomach any longer…

…I find that I’m literally diving for the volume control or off switch on either the television or radio whenever he catches me unaware.


…his irritating tones are slowly making way for considerable amusement of late. The guy is rapidly turning into a one big joke.

Perhaps there were some previously amusing LVG moments before this one – I did say in the early days I just couldn’t and WOULDN’T listen to the man – but for me it started with the now-rather-famous Queens Park Raisins moment in his post-match interview.

Here, if you’ve been living in a box, inside a cupboard…

Hilarious! Love it. And, in fact, he similarly struggles with the word “Rangers”; this time, rather less publicised, calling them “Queens Park Razors” (on 15 seconds in this video embedded in the BBC’s, post Cambridge United game interview).

Not long after that we had him, presumably, trying to be funny by copying Sir Bacon Face’s “squeaky bum time” line…but rather got it strangely skewed by saying, “…it was always twitching your arse” (on 4:27 in this embedded clip from the Mail Online).

Incidentally, in this same clip, for me this was also the beginning of his ‘high-voice’ / ‘how dare you question me’ tendencies; where he clearly began to get irritated at being questioned by members of the press an’ the like about his formation & personnel choices etc. He doesn’t like to be challenged does Mr van Gaal…

Then he described his very own Marouane Fellaini as a “long player”, which to me sounds like a reference to the old vinyl method of listing to music.

That last interview, as I say, was the start of the ‘increasingly strange one’ becoming far too easily riled; often appearing either very guarded or slightly aggressive in either pre or post-match interviews where his team recently either didn’t win or, perhaps, won but played awful for the most part.

And this, enjoyably, culminated in last weeks melt-down lecture in response to Sam Allardyce’s assertions that Manyoo had turned into a bunch of ‘Long Ball Larrys’. Sam’s actual words following their last-minute-conceding 1-1 home draw was, “We couldn’t cope with 'long-ball United', it was 'thump it forward and see what they could get'. In the end it paid off”.

For the record, it pains me to say, I thought a change of tactics from the Dutch manager was a good thing – isn’t the idea of football to win but, at the VERY least, not to get beat if you can help it? Similarly, and to his credit, ‘Big Sam’ has since come out and said that, indeed, he wasn’t being critical of Louis / Manyoo but was, in fact, simply stating a fact about facing a Manyoo team for the first time in his experience who DID change to long-ball tactics. And it worked; they snatched a point from the jaws of defeat.

However…and what a MASSIVE HOWEVER!

Sam’s comments managed, by some miracle, to get right up Louis nose in the most hilarious fashion. Sit back and with the aid of this copy of his stat sheet...

…enjoy this rant.

The guy is just so easily provoked and although I can’t say I knew much about the fella before he moved to England - other that he’d managed and had been very successful at some top clubs around Europe - I just didn’t have him down as a ‘stress head’ who reacts so badly to scrutiny. Brilliant Mr Allardyce – more of the same please!

And for any other wind-up merchant managers out there – Jose Mourinho springs immediately to mind for some strange reason – then have fun chaps; Louis has exposed himself for what he is of late and so go an’ enjoy yourselves!

The guy has 'got history' though. Have a look at this old footage when a television network DARED to replace him for next week’s show!

Clearly a massive egomaniac!

I’m sure, given more time and whole-load-more cash in the summer, Louis will do some good things at Manyoo and, for those reasons, he’ll become increasingly annoying again as well as (hopefully) continually amusing.

And despite the fact that he’ll probably pee me off in the summer by capturing Mats Hummels along with several other coverted stars; I’m so glad he’s not our manager…and so very glad that he’s theirs.

At the moment he's got their home fans booing against Burnley when resorting, once again, to lumping it up front, has a red at work utterly seething about the style of football in general and on Radio Manchester's 'Red Wednesday' programme that I happened to tune in to early before listening to City v Stoke; you had their fans calling for LVG's head and [regarding his long-ball rant] had one Manyoo fan calling the incident nothing but an embarrassment. You wouldn't think they were just 5-points behind us after a season in the wilderness, would you?

Be grateful for what you have…

Forgetting, for a moment, his little irritations in sticking with 4-4-2 at times where it doesn’t suit and for persisting with certain players that just don’t work…


  • With Nigel Pearson sitting on and then grabbing an opposing player in a bizarre and angry-looking fashion, for which he was allegedly sacked and then reinstated within hours…

…thank God for Mr Cool; our very own charming man.

See what happens when I don’t have a City game to talk about…