Friday, 20 March 2015

Thank God that’s over!

As a long-time Manchester City supporter hoping to, one day, see my team be consistently one of the best on the planet it hurts to create that headline.


But we binned all domestic chances of silverware this season and…for what? What was going to happen to us even if we’d have somehow pulled off a miracle 2-legged win over Barcelona; were we then going to beat Bayern Munich or Real Madrid etc. in the next round and THEN whoever in the final?


Huh…Barcelona toyed with us for large parts - they’re on a different plane of existence to us.

Running before we can walk

Some might point to how much money we’ve spent over the last few seasons and argue that we SHOULD be doing better in Europe…and that we should be able to, at the same time, ‘hold our own’ domestically. And in a way they’d be right and, for me, that says that some of the purchases haven’t been as good as their fees would suggest (that’s being kind).

But stripping it back to its basics we’ve only REALLY started to join ‘the big table’ post-Mark Hughes and with the appointment of Roberto Mancini. Put another way, that’s less than 4 years and two managers later. Two managers both with their very own ideas of how to play promoting no consistency whatsoever…and there’s a good chance that we could be ‘changing the guard’ once again this summer!

The owners are eager, somewhat understandably considering the money they’re ploughing into the club, for European success. I get that. But I am relentless in my belief that we need to be domestically strong - and CONSISTENTLY so – in order to build up a winning side / mentality to take THEN take into Europe.

Winning breeds confident winners and this apparent ‘feast or famine’ season pattern over the last 4 years – albeit great for the fans in the ‘feast seasons’ - is no good for the team / club long term. By fading out with a whimper in both the League & FA Cups and faltering so badly in the Premier League we’ve taken a couple of steps backwards in 2014/2015. Considering the owners see ‘progression’ as one of the main aims then that alone doesn’t bode well for Manuel Pellegrini

More damage done in the short term?

I suggested this pre-Barcelona - I’m concerned for our players’ reaction pre-WBA. Fair enough I thought the lads may have travelled back late Wednesday night or Thursday morning and the management team have, quite sensibly it sounds, decided to remain in Spain and train at Espanyol.

And I hope that they can take heart (no pun intended) from some sterling defending from the defence in the second half…and especially from a 10/10 performance from Joe Hart.

But we had to put 100% into that game just to come away from it with a 0-1’er and we now face a side in, West Bromwich Albion, managed by one Tony Pulis; a man renowned for making work-rate one of his top traits, a man who will likely set up in a counter-attacking 4-5-1 formation…a man who managed Stoke City and in doing so frustrated the hell out of us for so very long. It's says a lot that they have the best defensive record outside of the top-8...

In our scrap, now, for 2nd place or worse, I really do fear for us on Saturday.

v ‘The Baggies’

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome in this early KO (12:45pm GMT)…










Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Mangala, Lampard, Fernandinho Nasri, Toure, Jovetic, Dzeko

Update (8:38am on 21.03.2015): No Milner or Toure due to 'niggles' (and Kolarov wouldn't have been available anyway for the same reason). Nasri, therefore, to step up to the starting 11 and Fernandinho & Jovetic to come in from the cold to join the bench.
Hart to, hopefully not be required to be so brilliant again, but to be just that IF required.

Suspended / dropped midweek; Clichy & Zabaleta in. Kompany, of course, and although he was, for me at least, a slightly surprise inclusion in Spain in midweek and his aging legs might be feeling a little sore for this early KO; I just get the feeling that Martin will get chosen ahead of our £35M+ French acquisition from Porto.

He’s not featured for a short while and so I think Fernando might get that defensive midfield role against the Midlands side. With Nasri’s exploding head (what IS wrong with him?), I think Milner will get the nod in a ‘tucked in’, attacking midfield 3. Silva in the middle – and therefore possibly no starting place for jaded-looking Toure – and the pace of Navas at home on the right, albeit slightly more ‘inside’ than he likes to be.

Two ‘up top’; Aguero slightly deeper but interchanging with, surely, Bony.

Bench packed with midfield talent, left’ish and right-sided defensive cover, a keeper and a striker of sorts.

Key missing personnel for this one: Aleks Kolarov (now injured), Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic.

Result? I hope I’m wrong. I hope my ‘spider sense’ lets me down badly. I hope it’s not the ‘can’t break them down’ / Champions League hangover home draw that I think it will be.

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