Sunday, 15 March 2015

The ‘Engineer’ or a right tool?

Dzeko chosen (and endured) once again and a manager, once again, far, FAR too slow to change things yesterday.

If it wasn’t already lost before our trip to relegation-threatened Burnley then our manager lost us the league yesterday. My patience is warring thin with the Chilean boss…


Apart from my sub-heading comments I’ll start fairly positively about yesterday. Burnley were clearly up for the fight and went ‘at us’ early on but I thought we coped quite well. In fact, I repeatedly commented at the time, I thought it was the most composed and organised I’ve seen our defence all season. But the defence wasn’t the problem yesterday.

And, in fact, I actually thought a player who isn’t good enough for us - I’ve absolutely decided now – had a good game; for the first 60 minutes at least I thought Fernandinho ran & ran, covered and picking up balls left, right ‘n’ centre yesterday and sprayed them around to good effect. Shame Yaya Toure wasn’t in a running mood or we might have been in danger of getting something out of the game!

I don’t know what game Stuart Brennan was watching but to give the Brazilian 5/10 and the best player in a (terrible blue kit) just 6 is quite baffling.

But that’s enough of the positives…no seriously, that IS all the positives I can find.

Getting past the obvious, which is that Pellegrini CLEARLY and criminally had Barcelona in mind; what is it with the man that he just cannot move from 4-4-2…and that one of those 2 has to be Mr E. Nigma? Nasri on the bench, Lampard being given no more than 11 minutes of ‘the 90’ and Milner nowhere to be seen!

And so flippin’ slow to react…AGAIN!

Even by his-own, low standards Dzeko had a shocker yesterday and yet he STILL managed to stay on the pitch all but 27 minutes of the game! He had ‘that look’ about him again yesterday whereby he just wasn’t up for it at all. He was weak on the ball found himself on the left wing too many times for whatever reason and I can’t even use the word “shot” to describe that weak-ankled, slap-effort on goal before eventually being hauled off for Bony.

Yaya wasn’t up for it either as I say; largely roaming around to little effect and providing no more that little sideways and backwards passes. Where were his monstrous, charging runs into the box?!

Having said that, why on earth at 0-1 and needing the win so very badly did our manager then replace him? Sure enough his replacement (Frank Lampard) is decent at free kicks too but even when he’s not firing Yaya is at least a goal threat.

Replacing Silva with 16+ minutes to go too! Really? And who does he bring on for him? A player in Stevan Jovetic rusty through a lack of games and who cannot possibly have any motivation whatsoever; as he’s all-but-packed his bags for Italy (or elsewhere).

Our manager’s tactics and substitutions just left me cold & baffled as I sat dejected and shaking my head yesterday evening. The players’ attitude and lack of urgency is frustrating as well as quite worrying…and our manger’s actions too have lost us the league this season.

I’m not even commenting on the penalty that wasn’t given – it’d be taking away from the real reasons we lost the game…

No I’m not giving Burnley any credit for yesterday; no I’m not heaping praise on Chelsea for winning the league this season. We have self-destructed this season; going out as we did of both the League & F.A. Cups with a whimper and showing such tactical naivety in both the Premier League and Champions League that I just cannot defend the huge amount of journalistic and TV pundit criticism of our manager.

Still grounded

I’ve not gone all ‘Billy Big Time’ as a Manchester City season ticket (card) holder of 29 years; I still recall very clearly the bad and the REALLY bad times as I've been swept along with thousands of other Blues from those largely-darker days and into the heady heights of where we are now.

And I still recall the very wise and sensible words of Ferran Soriano who said that although they expect 5 trophies in 5 seasons; that-may-well have to include a 'barren year', as we continue to ‘build the project’ long term.

But in its own way, and as I say, the situation we find ourselves in this season is now slightly embarrassing and so flippin’ frustrating, in that it was within us to do much, much better than we have done.

F(no-so)FP taken into account - understandably having shackled Mr Pellegrini this season – it’s been a largely poor showing from the Chilean and his faltering purchases. For the first time, in fact, I find that I’m starting to agree with the increasing number of voices who think our ‘charming man’ won’t be with us next season. A la Mancini; 2 seasons…the second one being largely soulless.

Looking to next season already – how sad…

So ‘let down’ has this season been for all the reasons given; it’s even prompted me to do an ‘end of season’ player analysis in flippin’ March! The colour code goes like this…

Green  -           Good enough, in my opinion, and should remain next season.

Grey    -           Varying factors could see the player stay or go.

Red     -           Absolutely, for whatever reason, needs to leave in the summer in my opinion.

Joe Hart: Easily good enough to remain our ‘number 1’ despite some voices of doubt and the occasional ‘wobble’.

Willy Caballero: It’s hard to judge a player who you’ve hardly seen and I’m sure he’s questioning his decision to join us. If the manager, who has been his boss at two clubs now, DOES leave in the summer then this might be another reason in the Brazilian’s mind to request a move also. Whoever comes in to compete with Joe, however, surely knows that they’re in for one hell of a fight to dislodge him.

Dedryck Boyata: Like Caballero, arguable not enough game time to judge him properly. Unfortunately for the 24-year old Belgium defender I’ve seen enough of him in seasons-gone-by. Just nowhere near good enough.

Gael Clichy: On his day the French left-back is good enough at the top level. Sadly he’s often blighted with one of the most frustrating traits in football – inconsistency.

Martin Demichelis: On the one hand, thank God for Martin! If it wasn’t for his steady form, for the most part, the disaster that’s been the summer acquisition of Eliaquim Mangala could have proved even more calamitous.

However, if, as I flamin-well hope, we sign another class central defender in the summer; then Martin will become a regular ‘bench man’ at the very most; possibly only getting the odd early-round League or F.A. Cup start. And I’m sure he’ll be reasonably happy with that; I’m sure it was a pleasant surprise for the Argentinean to be offered a new contract that takes him to June 2016.

However, if a new manager is indeed on the cards in the summer then he may well be deemed surplus to requirements. At least with him being ‘in contract’ we’ll be able to command a small fee for him…

Aleksandar Kolarov: Our Edin Dzeko at the back. So poor at defending 9 times out of 10 and barely makes up for it in his slightly better wing / attack play. Provides decent crosses at times and is probably our 3rd best free-kick taker [behind Frank & Yaya]. Amazed he’s lasted this long - goodbye…

Vincent Kompany: Slated by many for a poor season so far. What a joke! Demichelis and a slightly-below-par-himself Zabaleta aside; for me ‘our skip’ has clearly been surrounded by – and has attempted to compensate for - largely incompetent defending colleagues…and has been offered little protection either from a largely ineffective defensive midfield.

And, for me, people seem to forget the high-standard-bar he has set himself over the years of terrific service so far. Good enough to stay? I’m not even going to answer my own question…

Eliaquim Mangala: Knife edge – this guy is either going to become, given time and a fresh-season-start, a monster of a defender at Manchester City for years to come…or we write-off one of the most expensive flops in our history and try to get back whatever we can for him ASAP. I just can’t call it…

Karim Rekik: Like Caballero, I just haven’t seen enough of him to judge or comment other than saying…I just don’t know if he has a future at our club.

Bacary Sagna: It says a lot about his future with Manchester City that, in a season where by his own very high standards Pablo Zabaleta hasn’t had a very good one; the French right-back has hardly played! I like him…but, once again, a lot might depend on whether we’ll have a new manager next season.

If Pellegrini stays then I think they’ll be a knock on his door from this fella requesting a move. Similar to the Hart situation, it would take one HELL of a good right-back to dislodge Zaba…

Pablo Zabaleta: I’ve never liked how a World Cup year seems to effect some players whose national side run to the final stages of the competition. I think that’s what’s happened to ‘our man Zab’ this season.

But even so, he’s having a…‘fairly good season’. And although he’s now slipped to 2nd-place in Gary Neville’s rating of best-current Premier League right-backs to Branislav Ivanovic; Zaba is already in my top-10 list of best ever Manchester City players. The guys ‘a ledge’ and will continue to be so for a few more seasons yet I’m sure.

Fernandinho: I still, 21 months on, struggle to get past how we thought laying out a shattering £34M to £35.2M (depending on your transfer fee source) was value for money. Sometimes I have to say that we ARE responsible for our own downfall in upsetting UEFA and suffering FFP sanctions.

‘World Cup fatigue’ taken into account, he’s an average Premier League player at best. No disrespect intended; he’d suit a Newcastle United, Southampton or Swansea City-type team. He’s just not good enough for what we need in the middle of the park and I really hope we off-load him for something like £20M. If it meant using the cash wisely to get a real ‘powerhouse leader’ in the middle then I’d take £15M…

Fernando: This guy is SO borderline red that I hesitated for some considerable time before deciding. The only – and I MEAN only – reason he falls into the ‘grey category’ is that this his first season and may, therefore, improve next season.

Brought in for his long-legged tackling ability and to be our ‘protector’, particularly in Champions League games and allowing our more-attacking players to ‘do their thing’; the tempo of most games seems to largely pass him by. Like his ex-Porto colleague that eventually joined him, he’s been largely disappointing to say the very least.

Frank Lampard: So vital early on, hardly used since and on his way to NYCFC in the summer. It was looking like a very shrewd move by Manchester City but like our season, it’s all fizzled out somewhat. Thanks for the early-season memories Super Frank.

Marcos Lopes: Likely to sign a contract extension and depending on the managerial situation, will either spend another season on loan or will save us some money and ‘make it’ in the first team.

James Milner: Ironically the scene as shifted somewhat in the last few hours in that SHOULD we dispense with the boss in the coming months; James just might hang around to have a chat with the ‘new man’ before deciding his future. Hope he stays.

Samir Nasri: For Samir Nasri read Gael Clichy. Absolutely bright as a button on occasions and when ‘on fire’ takes that confidence from game to game. Then…splodge (good word), he flops for a few games before picking himself up again.

Full of talent and, at times, determination but has a complex character that seems to effect his game at times. Pellegrini’s father-like style has definitely got more out of him than Mancini ever did. However, even if Pellegrini gets a ‘stay of execution’ I just wonder that if we ARE to spend squillions on a midfield-rebuild in the summer then, other than Yaya, will Samir also be sacrificed in order to fund incoming players.

Jesus Navas: Another one that almost fell into the red batch of players. BAGS of pace and reasonable talent but frustratingly doesn’t seem to use it to best effect. Again…if we lose our Chilean manager in the summer then a new man might get better out of him. Hope so in a way…but equally I won’t be crying in my beer if he goes.

David Silva: Firmly entrenched in my top-10 best ever Manchester City players. Where would we be without him a lot of the time? And imagine what he’d be like with even better players around him! ‘nough said…

Scott Sinclair: On loan at Aston Villa and doing quite well at the moment. Good luck and goodbye…

Yaya Toure: Was ALWAYS going to be ‘grey’. Isn’t he almost every summer? At times unplayable and last season, despite personal problems and ‘a dip’, was bloody brilliant for the most part. Not-so-good to say the least this season and yesterday, at Burnley, summed up the other side of the man.

I just can’t call it with any degree of certainty but my instinct is telling me that, whether he wants to leave or not, it’ll be City who’ll be ‘moving him on’ in order to fund an incoming midfielder of similar style to replace him.

Bruno Zuculini: The Argentinean, Under-20 box-to-box midfielder is either going to be a future diamond for Manchester City…or one of those obscure signings where it has fans saying in a few years, ’Oh yeah, whatever happened to him?’

Probably a season or two too soon for him to be ‘the one’ to save us a great wodge of cash on a midfielder and I can only hope that, at 22 in April, he does make it with us. Again, though, a new manager might want to clear the decks…

Sergio Aguero: Another ‘top 10’er’ for me. What a player! Unless it suits us in order to bring in another stellar name then he’s going nowhere!

Wilfried Bony: Strong, dangerous player who I’m sure will have a good time as a Manchester City player. Doubt even a new manager would move him on so soon after signing in January unless we have one HELL of a summer re-build under a new boss.

Edin Dzeko: The stats say, played 125 / scored 50…and I’m sure he’s got a few assists to his name too. Looks good on paper doesn’t it? And the only defence I will offer him is that he’s a player who, I’m sure, would thrive in a team where they play with 2 flying wingers who can cross. End of.

When you think that those 50 goals include the odd hat-tricks and braces then there are HUGE gaps in the man’s ability to stick the ball in the net. Far too easily knocked off the ball for a ‘big man’, little in the way of pace, can barely trap / control a ball and has an APPALLING attitude a lot of the time. Needs to go - I think his time has finally come…and God I hope so!

John Guidetti: Again I honestly haven’t seen enough of the chap to formulate a proper opinion of him as a footballer and striker. However, and quite sadly, I have HEARD enough of him as both a player and a character. He worries me a little - there’s a bit of the ‘Billy Big Biscuits’ about him.

It doesn’t even look like Celtic WANT him any more regardless of the Swede’s desire (or otherwise) to commit his future to the Scottish side, I think he’ll probably find himself back at Feyenoord or another team in the Eredivisie league on a permanent basis.

Stevan Jovetic: Similar to Jesus Navas; all the apparent ability but with very little in the way of ‘end product’. I will give him the benefit of the doubt in that he has been blighted with injuries and that inconsistent team selections are hardly the basis for producing good performances.

However, he HAS been given opportunities and has rarely taken them. Had a terrific ‘pre’ and early-season and City fans were ‘rubbing their hands’. However, I don’t think there’s anything more certain in-that we’ll be using our hands only for Jovetic, now, to simply wave him goodbye in the summer. Will probably do a good job for Inter Milan or someone similar…

Jose Angel Pozo: Most likely a ‘stayer’ but likely to be shipped out on loan next season to test him at a higher level than the EDS. Has just turned 18 today (happy birthday fella!) and one that many are tipping for a future at the club.

Manuel Pellegrini: Won the Premier League and League Cup in his first season. And WHAT a season – some of the very best football and goal-scoring I’ve ever seen at Manchester City. And then, through no fault of his own, was hindered so very much by F(not-so)FP sanctions. Oozes class and never gets drawn into press ‘trickery’ and rarely with other manager’s mind games (Mourinho a small exception to that). A ‘father figure’ to the players and a calming influence all round.

However, extremely naïve and stubborn in his use of 4-4-2 at times and very slow to change / react in games. Shows a worrying lack of ideas at Champions League level and, despite saying that he treats all competitions the same, often weakens the team far too much for domestic cups and ‘so-called’ easier Premier League fixtures. Also persists all-too-often with sub-standard players.

I just can’t call it but what I WILL say is that a lot will depend on what Bayern Munich & Pep Guardiola do. He is DEFINITELY our log-term target…and it’s all about the timing.

1. If it looks like Pep is going to stay for a few more seasons then I recon we’ll ditch the Chilean in the summer and go for either a Rafa Benitez, Carlo Ancelotti or Diego Simeone-type manager (although I see the latter as a more longer-term contact scenario as the previous two guys) and then wait our turn / opportunity to nab the much-sought-after Guardiola.

2. If it looks like Pep is only going to give Bayern another season and then reassess his situation / future; then I think this scenario will see our manager be granted another season with us; seeing his contract out to the very end.

3. If there are any noises that the German side’s manager wants a change this summer then we’ll ‘bin’ Pellegrini without a seconds thought if there’s a chance Pep fancies a reunion with Ferran Soriano & Txiki Begiristain.

It’s all very finely balanced…

Immediate concerns

As I sometimes do when watching an away game on TV at home, I listened to the post-match phone-in on Radio Manchester. Most notably was one Manchester City fan who, somewhat disturbingly, said that he has a strong feeling that the players are now showing the very same ‘lack of fight’ as when things ‘weren’t happy in the camp’ under Roberto Mancini.

I have to say that I sort of agree with him; something doesn’t feel quite right and others too have started to note certain players’ demeanour.

On a personal note, I gave up smoking 5-years ago this July and although I haven’t exactly started again - and you can’t class the two in the same league as each other – having already drank a good amount of beer by then; I trudged in contemplative mood to the local shop last night and purchased a cigar. I then sat in the dark and under the cold, starry sky in my garden with my brown-leafed friend and 2 glasses of red wine, wondering quite where it all went wrong.

Barcelona on Wednesday night…but the fight for 2nd place (or could that even be 3rd place now?) starts for us at 12:45pm (GMT) on Saturday 21st March 2015 at home to West Bromwich Albion.


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