Saturday, 31 January 2015

Play 4-4-2 Mr Pellegrini…

…and we’ll lose this one.

Hot topic.

It’s been debated on & off during his time as manager of Manchester City and increasingly so in recent months. Is Manuel Pellegrini too rigid / not flexible enough or, whisper it out of his hearing range, not quite ‘The Engineer’ he’s built up to be?

Often accused of not even having a ‘plan B’ during games (although I disagree with that first and rather harsh assessment) never mind a ‘plan C’; one specific debate & criticism of our manager is whether he is SO fond of the 4-4-2 system [with 2 strikers] that he’ll play that system regardless of who the opposition is / what system they might deploy or whatever the circumstance might be with regards to available personnel.

Well if he plays 4-4-2 this evening at Stamford Bridge (5:30pm KO GMT) he’ll be walking right into another load of condemnation…and rightly so in my mind.

This game SCREAMS 4-5-1!

Why? Well with a slightly envious eye I’ve bleated on enough over the last couple of seasons about the attacking midfield wealth of Chelsea - it might not be the ONLY reason but I’m sure it goes some way in explaining that beyond Diego Costa and others before him, there isn’t too much emphasis at the London club on-having the kind of riches other top Premier League clubs have in terms of secondary / back-up strikers.

And although that comment might sound a little disrespectful to Didier Drogba and Loic Remy; the fact is that Chelsea do rely heavily on their goals coming from their many attacking midfield threats. And that’s my point.

With Mr Angry-Stampy-Man being suspended for this and two more games (have I missed something – why did he not get an extra game ban for a frivolous appeal?) there’s even MORE of a reason for Jose Mourinho to go with 5 midfielders…and mostly attack-minded ones I’m sure. The canny little bugger might even chose to go 4-6-0 for this one, although even their midfield department might be a little too stretched to go the ‘Pep Guardiola way’ as Cesc Fabregas is also set to miss this game (through injury).

Incidentally – and as if to prove my point about us-ALSO needing to add numbers to our attacking / creative, midfield / winger department – Chelsea are about to swell their ranks even FURTHER with the imminent signing of Fiorentina’s right-winger Juan Cuadrado for a reported £23.3M.

So surely…SURELY Manuel you need to be a little wise yourself here and although you have 3 strikers available to you; please leave 2 of them on the bench to start with on this occasion.

Before I predict...

I rarely do a, ‘What I’d go with’, before my Pellegrini predicted line-up etc. but seeing as this is the main topic of this piece, I thought I’d avail myself of that opportunity.

4-5-1 (of course):











Regular readers might go…WHAT?! at seeing Aleks Kolarov in my starting 11…and there might be a few raised eyebrows too at the fact that I’ve only got one defender on the bench – a mostly-recognised right-back – leaving our most expensive defender out altogether. I’ll explain…

Firstly, although he blows Martin Demichelis out of the water for pace - and that pace against their attacking midfielders is most-certainly needed on Saturday - can we really pin all our hopes on Eliaquim Mangala having his first exceptional game since we last played Chelsea on 21st September 2014? Huh…I would say not. Besides, which, we have the pace back there in ‘our Vinny’ and I think we’ll need the wily-ol’ head of Martin next to our Captain for this ‘top clash’.

In not even putting Mangala on the bench; it’s simply because he’s not the kind of defender you want to bring on to ‘sure things up’ / calm thing down if a change is needed - he never leaves me feeling particularly calm anyway…

In Sagna we have someone who can play in the centre if needed; and the rest can be shuffled around too if required. No…I’ve gone for a subs bench largely based on ‘game changers’, which I think’ll be a great option to have this evening.

Why Aleks then? Well I’ve also dropped Navas to the bench and not just because I, amongst many, don’t think he’s been playing particularly well of late. But with Kolarov & Milner ahead of Clichy and Zabaleta it just gives us that little bit of extra protection without completely compromising our attacking threat – Aleks to whip those balls in like Navas should; James on his favoured right foot likewise. And with ‘the Ferns’ in there scrambling it up and Silva ahead of them / a bit behind Aguero, I’d like to think that’s a pretty formidable 11 to face Chelsea away.

But that’s me, this is what I think our ‘Engineer’ will go with…

v Chelsea (predicted line-up, subs and outcome)

4-5-1 (phew…):










Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Demichelis, Lampard, Nasri, Jovetic, Dzeko

Hart to return after a short spell on the side – determined and ready to prove a point to those who have been recently ‘pointing their fingers’.

Clichy & Zaba the more solid left & right-backs and Vinny ‘in there’ of course. But if he’s gotten over his reported minor shoulder injury - and although it’s not a trait that I think exists in our manager - I think Pellegrini will be just a little bit nervous to be without the pace of our French central defender for this one. Martin on the Bench to come on and definitely calm things down if / when needed…

4 from the 5 midfielders we agree on but with James on the left and Jesus on the right. I just can’t see him leaving his favourite little Spanish winger out of the starting 11, particularly if he does-indeed sacrifice a striker.

Aguero ‘up top’ on his own – hopefully not feeling too isolated and receiving plenty of support / supply as & when possible.

Willy as back-up to Joe and it’s Bacary who loses out in my predicted squad to face the current league leaders. I’m sure Manuel will want the crossing / free-kick option of Aleks and, of course, Martin there for insurance purposes. Frank to hopefully ‘do it again’ if needed; Samir the very surprising return package possibly making the bench (WAY ahead of the initial injury assessment and having trained with the squad for the last 2 to 3 days) and two very different striker options sitting there too.

Result? Points shared. Whether that’ll be 0-0 or whether there’s goals in this one I’m not quite sure.

With 15 games to go after this one; just 5 points behind, no League Cup or F.A. Cup to think about and with the returning Nasri, Yaya & Bony and with Aguero getting his match fitness back game by game; I’ll take a draw today to the point where it might-well feel like a victory in some ways.

Movements in brief

  • Scunthorpe United have signed George Evans on loan for the rest of the season. The struggling League 1 outfit take the services of one of our most highly rated EDS players and both clubs, I’m sure, will be looking to reap the benefits of moving the central defender come defensive midfielder to Yorkshire.

  • Scott Sinclair has finally moved on, with Aston Villa securing his services on loan for the rest of the season. The deal looked dead the other week and a confusing newspaper report in the last couple of days stated that it was a loan-deal for now with it likely being turned into a permanent deal in the summer; where City were hoping to receive a small fraction, at least, of the £7M spent on his purchase from Swansea City in August 2012. Confusing because he’s out of contact on 31.05.2015. Perhaps it’s part of the agreement that Villa can loan him for now instead of an out-right purchase; a compulsory clause as is often ‘tagged on’ to loan deals these days…

  • The goals have dried up for John Guidetti in recent weeks and he appears also to be playing his cards close to his chest and holding out somewhat with regards to any permanent move away from Manchester City. I think Celtic would like to sign him – although his wage demands as well as any transfer fee might be a stumbling block for the Scottish side – and now, apparently, Marseille are glancing in his direction.

  • The Pepe rumours are back! Apparently Real Madrid are putting their future defensive plans together already and they don’t included the hot-headed one. Worth a punt? Well I did post my opinions on forum the other day, which read…

No doubting his pedigree but at 32 on 26th February it would be another reason for many to snipe at our average-aging squad and to wonder why, as [another City fan] suggests, we don't have a good enough centre back emerging from the EDS right now (although that time will come and I take no notice of those who are too impatient to wait a little longer for youth product results).

For me it's all about his mentality and better informed than me will know whether or not Pepe has lost his 'nutter' tendencies in recent years. If he HAS - and despite his high wage demands, I'm sure - I'd go for someone of his experience; the more know-how we have around Mangala [to learn from] the better and, equally, we need experience to cover for the often injured - and lacking true form - Vinny.

Could be a good move IF his 'red mist' days are behind him...

  • Mancini wants Yaya at Inter Milan. I’m sure he does and, I’m sure, if he doesn’t go there in the summer then he’ll be at PSG or somewhere similar. But that’ll be in the summer and not on 3rd February 2015.

  • Devante Cole has joined MK Dons on loan for the rest of the season. The EDS striker - and son of Andrew Cole - moves after a loan spell at Barnsley, where he netted 5 goals in 19 appearances for The Tykes.

  • Having recently signed a 2-½ year contact with the club, attacking midfielder Sinan Bytyqi then joined SC Cambuur on loan for the rest of the season.

I’ve got a small feeling that we’ll pick up someone before the transfer deadline at 11:00pm (GMT) on Monday 2nd February 2015 but I’m less convinced now that it’ll be an Isco or a Marco Reus-type acquisition.

Pepe is a possibility I suppose; I’m sure Pellegrini would welcome him - and would be something of a calming influence ON him - but I doubt the board would sanction a move for a player of his age and with his wage demands after splashing out £32M+ on a central defender just 5 months ago.

Perhaps there’s an 'last contract', £5M to £10M, 2 to 3-year deal player out there that’s slipped under many radars to give our squad a boost heading into the last 3rd of the season (or perhaps Sami Khedira for the same price?). Having said that, I can’t now see Jovetic moving-on in the next few days and with the returning African Nations players landing soon enough; my instinct is going with the Club being happy with what they have for now / the rest of the season.

Mad Monday is nearly upon us though!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Worrying trend continues…

As I’ve advanced in age & experience following Manchester City I don’t take defeats quite so hard as I used to. Gone are the days where I could barely speak to someone for hours following a game that I felt we should have won; gone are the days where it sometimes took until Tuesday morning to get over a Saturday afternoon defeat.

But that one 'stung' yesterday – we continue to look jaded and in many ways completely devoid of creative ideas and for me it’s a concerning, on-going development.

Quick reality check

AS that long-time Manchester City supporter I am still somewhat of the mindset that, what's happening to our football club is an amazing thing! Sure we’re disappointingly out of both the League & F.A. Cups at quite an early stage this season; competitions, which, I firmly believe we should strive to win; our ‘bread & butter’ tournaments to help swell our trophy cabinets as other big clubs have tried to win in the past and still strive to today.

I have to remind myself that I am watching a Manchester City team packed full of exciting stars and that we lie 2nd in the Premier League at just over the half-way stage of the season; we’re in the last 16 of the Champions League and, quite importantly, we are the current champions of England…and have been so twice in three seasons!


…the immediate reality is this. From 4 possible competitions we’re already, in January, out of 2 of ‘em and if we’re being really honest with ourselves, any victories in the Champions League from now on will be a bonus – we’re not going to win that competition. And so what we have left is the league…and we’re 5 points behind, once again, and have to go away to the current leaders next.

Add to that a team that – and I’ve said this before – look jaded and lost for ideas; and all of a sudden that small alarm bell that was sounding at the back of MY head, at least, a few weeks ago is getting a little louder.

Let’s look at the past few results:

  • The first warning sign came in the form of Burnley at home. 2-0 up but not playing brilliantly; perhaps if we hadn’t have conceded and had-won this game what was to follow might not have happened; equally, however, a win may have just been papering over some early Christmas-time cracks. The Lancashire outfit not only fired themselves back to finish 2-2 but they were VERY good for their away draw at the champions of England; in the second half they both out thought and outfought us.

  • Sunderland at home next on 1st January 2015 – a 3-2 victory that felt like anything but. Sunderland could - and perhaps should - feel quite aggrieved not to have got something out of that game; like Burnley they looked more ‘up for it’ and it was scrappy &  and poor from us at best…and only a winning strike on 73 minutes from a 36-year old, ex-England man salvaged all 3 points.
A festive, fixture-packed blip? That’s what I was hoping it was at the time but, no…
  • ANOTHER home game; no travelling and no excuses. Championship side Sheffield Wednesday next in the F.A. Cup and ANOTHER lacklustre performance from City. At this stage it was starting to look like they’d been enjoying the festivities too much; either that or some kind of lethargic bug was sweeping the club. It was truly AWFUL…and only a late, LATE brace from a 29-year old England man saw us claw our way gingerly into the next round.

  • Everton away next; a ground and a team that doesn’t always suit us. But they had their injuries and were struggling for form themselves; sitting fairly close to the ‘drop zone’ at the half way mark. Some City fans would have, perhaps, taken “a good away draw” before the game and as it turned out, a draw was a fair result…even though that came with a scare or two. But Everton weren’t great on the day and so despite feeling fairly pleased with an away point; it was yet ANOTHER underperforming City side who should really have put the Toffees to the sword.


  • Then it gets even worse. You’d expect us to have the majority of the possession at home to a Championship side and although the stats say that we did, it sure didn’t feel like it. I didn’t go yesterday but instead I listened to the whole of the 1st half on the radio and managed to watch most of the second half live (and, of course, have read the reports since). Boro were more organised, looked fitter and, most concerning of all, far more ‘up for it’ than we were.

This is game number 6 of this worry run now; 6 games, 5 of which were at home, 2 of the games against Championship teams, 3 from near the bottom of the Premier League, 2 defeats, 2 draws and NO clean sheets; conceding 10 goals in those half-dozen games…more than half of what yesterday’s opponents have conceded in their league in 27 games!

I got a text after the game from a friend and VERY long-time, VERY dedicated City supporter. It read something like, “Not good enough today but still looking forward to Chelsea & Barca”. I replied, agreeing with his sentiment about us not being good enough but, I exclaimed, WASN’T looking forward to those two fixtures for all of the reasons above.

I later added in a post on-line…

Like his ex-Porto teammate who didn't play today of course, there's still no improvement from Fernando.

I don't do 'knee jerk' reactions and there's little we can do about it in the remaining days of the current transfer window; but already recent purchases don't look NEARLY good enough for what we're trying to achieve as a progressing football club. In the 'just not good enough' category I'm afraid I need to add [to Fernando] Boyata, Kolarov, Mangala (so far), Fernandinho, Navas, Dzeko & Jovetic.

That's one HELL of a summer re-build!

And in the cold light of Sunday morning I still feel the same – with the exception of Mangala who I still HOPE will come good; I just don’t think any of those players are of the calibre we should expect at our so-called progressing and ambitious football club.

I continued…

I can't take ANY positives from today - it would have been better for us had Chelsea scraped through to round 5; pulling more on their resources with more games etc. But we can't even hold on the that for comfort [thanks to Bradford City]!

Unless we get everyone back together ASAP and we 'click', we'll have a fight on our hands just to finish 2nd and, if we do, perhaps we should be grateful that we managed to finish League runners up this season.

Once the African Cup of Nations is over – although Yaya at least is getting some pretty poor reports – and in addition to Wilfried Bony we get Samir Nasri back, Aguero firing once again and the back 4 can start looking like a defensive unit for once; I really do think that we’ll dust ourselves down in February (I say February because I fear for us on this form at Stamford Bridge on 31st January) and go on a really good, momentum-building run right to the finishing line.

Ferran Soriano said in 2013 that he expects us to win 5 trophies in 5 years and that he doesn’t mind if that means occasionally having a barren season. I get that; I fully agreed with that statement at the time and still do.

It’s just that…seeing us flounder as we are at the moment feels even more frustrating than years gone by; when we had mostly mediocre players at best. Seeing the sort of quality we now possess somehow makes poor performances and ‘periods of poor form’ like this much harder to take. Perhaps as a supporter of 30+ years that’s just something new I’m just going to have to adjust to...

I hope Ferran & Co. are true to his word in their backing of Pellegrini, however, because if we DON’T improve a lot very soon; if we continue these lacklustre, ‘out of sorts’ displays much longer we WILL be lucky to finish a trophyless 2nd place in the Premier League.
P.S. Should we have come back from Abu Dhabi as late as we did? No, absolutely not!

P.P.S. C'mon Cameroon on Wednesday!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

It’s been a weird week…

Defeat to Arsenal last weekend leaving me (and other Blues I’m sure) feeling a little flat; the team away in Abu Dhabi for some apparent winter, warm-weather training / friendly match (who were met with cloud, hail and high winds as they disembarked) and an F.A. Cup game that I’m not even going to.

Yep…those are my excuses for posting a late, late and fairly brief Blog entry.

v Middlesbrough

Straight to the day’s predicted line-up, subs and outcome…











With him being given the game in Abu Dhabi; with him keeping a clean sheet and pulling off at least one very fine save…and with Joe not having his best spell of the season in recent weeks; I think an F.A. Cup home game will see Willy being trusted between the sticks for this one. Don’t suggest this within earshot of Joe - and I very much doubt it - BUT…if Willy has a blinder against Boro then I suppose there’s a small chance the Argentinean stopper could claim a starting place away at Chelsea next week.

At home, F.A. Cup, against a team from a division below us; I think Kolarov will get the nod today. And here’s that word again – I think our manager will HOPE he can trust Mangala to have a good game alongside our captain today. From reports I’ve heard the French powerhouse had another shocker in the friendly against Hamburg; making at least 3 very nervous and clumsy challenges, one of which resulted in a yellow card. What is wrong with the guy? I hope he has a good game but I fear for the lad that it won’t matter; I think it’ll be Martin & Vinny for the Chelsea game regardless. I think Sagna will be called on for this one, as Pellegrini will try to protect Clichy & Zabaleta for the up & coming tsunami at Stamford Bridge.

We’re at home and, therefore, need to be on the front foot for the most part for this one. It’s for that reason that I don’t think we’ll have an out & out defensive midfielder in the starting 11. Fernando to sit on the bench; the slightly more attack minded Fernandinho to start. Ahead of him in the middle is, of course, Silva and with no Nasri & Toure the midfield pretty much picks itself with Milner and Navas on the flanks.

At home and with all 3 strikers finally fit & available, it’s two ‘up top’ for this clash. Aguero is a must; he has to regain his match fitness and he’ll want to get that feeling of hitting the back of the net before the Chelsea clash. And I think our manager will want to mix it up against Boro with a bit of a little ‘n’ large act and, so, Dzeko to get the nod ahead of Jovetic.

Joining the Montenegrin on the bench – and working backwards – should be EDS left-winger / attacking midfielder Brandon Barker. The lad has been highlighted in recent weeks for his fine performances and goals in the EDS and after a slightly nervy start in Abu Dhabi, he did himself proud by all accounts. And with no Samir & Yaya - and with Frank taking a knock and, therefore, probably being wrapped in cotton wool for next weekend’s ‘top of the table’ fixture – Brandon will be hoping for his first team, competitive match debut.

“Security” is the name of the game with the rest of the bench in case we need to shut things down – and, for me and in Kolarov & Mangala’s case, CALM things down – with Fernando, 3 defenders and Joe on the side-line.

Update (2:25pm):

Well my predicted team was a load of ol' tosh, with only 7 from 11 correct.

4-1-3-1-1 (probably); possibly 4-2-3-1 with Milner & Fernando in a 'central 2' behind 3 attacking midfielders (Jovetic one of them) BEHIND Aguero:







Subs: Hart, Clichy, Sagna, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Lampard, Dzeko.

Hopefully my predicted result won't be quite so 'off' as my predicted starting 11 and subs...

Although still concerned about Kolarov as ALWAYS as a defender - and rarely do I feel very confident with Boyata 'in their' either (although he's not had any worse displays that Mangala this season) that's a slightly stronger side than the one I thought he'd go with; with Zabaleta and Jovetic starting instead of Sagna & Dzeko, which is no 'slight' on Sagna there at all.

Result? Well these are flying in the Championship at the moment, with only 1 league defeat in the last 10 games and that being against (also) high-flying Ipswich Town.

They don’t concede many at all either…and that’s an understatement! In 27 league outings this season they have only conceded a very impressive 18 - I’m sure a lot of that is down to the fact that they have Aitor Karanka as head coach; a Spanish defender who has played at the very highest level and, who, was Assistant Manager at Real Madrid for 3 years before moving to the North East. Boro also have an ex-Blue in their ranks in the form of youth-team-player and midfielder Adam Clayton and we all know what that often means…

So what am I trying to say? Well putting it bluntly, even at home this’ll be a real toughy. I say that not just in continued praise of a clearly well-organised North East team, I say that not JUST because we are (still) without the craft of Samir & Yaya but, and I’ve said this quite recently, I just think we look a little ‘off the pace’ at the moment; a little jaded and in need of reinforcements / ALL our top players available and firing.

And I think it’ll come – I’ve got a good feeling that from February onwards we’ll mostly go on an impressive and momentum-building sprint towards the finishing line. As for today, if we had no Aguero to, hopefully, cut through the Smoggies I would be saying a draw; and a unwanted return trip to the Riverside Stadium. However, at home and with patience & hard graft I think we’ll come out on top. It’ll be close but I think we’ll be in the hat for the 5th round draw without the North East team sharing our ball number.

Thanks for your patience [for the late Blog posting] and thanks, as always, for taking the time to read.

Monday, 19 January 2015


…you have to leave the ground and say that the opposition was the better side; sometimes we just weren’t good enough. Both applied equally well on Sunday after the Arsenal defeat.

I’ve said it before…

and I’ve said it recently; it might sound ‘crazy talk’ to some but I still firmly believe that we don’t have the quality in depth of attacking / creative midfielders at the club to FULLY compete as consistently as a trophy-chasing team should. Lose two of those types of players – Samir Nasri & Yaya Toure on this occasion – and we simply don’t have enough to ‘step in / step up’ to fill the gaping holes.

Hart – Oddly not TOO much to do despite Arsenal having the lion’s share of attacking possession. 6/10

Clichy – One of the better players in a blue shirt. 7/10

Demichelis – Decent enough and solid all things considered. 7/10

Kompany – Good returning performance from our skip. 7/10

Zabaleta – MotM for me. 8/10

Fernando – I made a point of watching this fella for large parts and, in the first half, witnessed him put in several successful tackles. He dispossessed several Arsenal attacking players; his decent timing of tackles and those long legs of his do come in useful.

However, “faded” wouldn’t be doing justice to what happened to the Brazilian in the second half – he was woeful to say the least. He looked lost and whenever he did manage to get hold of the ball his passing was pitiful. I look at Fernando as our main defensive midfielder; I look at what we’re trying to achieve and where we’re trying to head as a football club and I can only come to one conclusion, which is that his guy is just not good enough for us; this was a £12M mistake…or at least is proving to be at the moment.

I hope he proves me wrong and I gladly wait for him to do so but, sadly already, I can see him leaving in the summer if a better option becomes available (Sami Khedira anyone?) 3.5/10

Fernandinho – I find THIS Brazilian a little more useful…but only just. He shows flashes of quality but not enough for me especially as, looking back before the F(not-so)FP imposed sanctions, we coughed up £28M for him! Decent display yesterday…but he’s no Yaya or Samir. 6/10

Milner – On a day when we needed more craft it just wasn’t for him. A rare, lowly 4.5/10

Silva – Tried and tried to be our main creative player but struggled alone for the most part. 6.5/10

Navas – I’m losing patience. HOW MANY TIMES has it been said that this wee, fleet-footed chap appears to have the ability to tear teams apart but apart from his pace…he just can’t flippin’ cross or shoot?! Huhhhh…another very frustrating and very average 5/10 from the Spanish winger.

Aguero – Like Silva, tried and tried… 6/10


Jovetic – Similar to Navas; has all the apparent ability but with often little to show in terms of results. 5.5/10

Lampard – Quality shone through immediately and appeared to be changing the game. For the 30 minutes he was on the pitch he gets a 7/10 from me.

Dzeko – First pass to his feet was, in fairness, a little on the strong side BUT...what a shock; he failed to control the ball (again)! Did nothing after that of any note. 4/10


If I have done my maths right then we do have some spending power in the remaining transfer window. I have already gone through who we might target but I will add the following / change my mind slightly.

  1. If Juventus (or whoever) really DO want Stevan Jovetic then, providing we can bring in an attacking / creative midfield / winger option in the winter window with the additional cash from the sale of the Montenegrin, then I’d go for it. If not, I think Stevan has to move on in the summer…
  2. If there’s someone who wants him AND we can bring in another striking option (Alexandre Lacazette?) then I’d also consider off-loading Edin Dzeko before the summer as well, which would leave us with Aguero, Bony & ‘A.N. Other’. If not, Edin surely has to go in the summer too…
  3. He’s travelled with the first team squad to a strangely-timed trip to Abu Dhabi and has been getting rave reviews in the EDS. It’s a HUGE step up of course; but if Brandon Barker can make that leap in quality then we might be wise to include the home grown player in our squad. We need a creative, goal-threat down the left and Manchester-born lad might be able to fill a hole left by the injured Nasri, who might be out for up to 4 weeks. Other EDS players who have travelled include attacking, central midfielder Bersant Celina, defensive midfielder George Evans, and Striker Thierry Ambrose.
I hope the warm, summer weather does them good ahead of our home, F.A. Cup game against Middlesbrough.

‘Catch up’...again

I take considerable heart from the fact that we’ve done it time and time again; not least in our last two Premier League winning seasons, as well as pulling back an 8-point gap already this season. And I do, of course, bear in mind that Aguero will (probably) get better again with time following his time-out on the treatment table and that we have Bony & Toure to come back; as well as the recently injured Nasri.

But Chelsea are a different animal this season; a machine with an attacking engine room that appears to be relentless…and that leaves my spider sense tingling. That’s why – not wishing to look like I'm panicking at all nor appear greedy – we need to add that additional attacking / creative ‘spark’ to push us right up against Jose’s men. Push ‘em hard and I’m convinced they’ll be the ones to crack first; let ‘em get an 8-point gap once again and I think we’ll struggle to catch them for a second, successive time this season.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Missed the last goal-fest – another one in the offing?

14th December 2013 and I was in the air on my way to my first ever winter-sun holiday. Complete media blackout and, therefore, no clue as to how the lads were progressing back home and AT home against Arsenal.

Touch down, 45 minutes of confusion about the transfer to the hotel; a 40 minute drive, very quick check-in & unpack and straight to a nearby bar to hear Richard Keys on Al Jazeera announce, during the interval (or end) of the Chelsea game, that there had been a glut of goals at the Etihad. I gulped – and gulped some cold lager – until I EVENTUALLY heard the terrific news.

V Arsenal

Straight to a predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

4-1-4-1 / 4-2-3-1:











Despite a few questionable decisions and goals conceded of late in what looks to be a little wobble from England’s number 1; Joe to start in net.

At home, Pellegrini has suggested in the past that the more-attacking (well he can’t very-well much defend and so that’s the only other quality he sometimes brings to the team) Aleks Kolarov is better suited. With the need to defend a dangerous attacking midfield and, in particular, Alexis Sanchez…it’s Gael Clichy for me.

Martin Demichelis – the better of the two central defenders at Everton last weekend and in general this season – might have cause to feel a little aggrieved to see Eliaquim Mangala get a start ahead of him tomorrow. However, similar to the Clichy decision, we need some pace in there to suppress the Arsenal attack as much as possible.

Vincent Kompany should be fit to start, it has been suggested by our manager in the pre-match ‘presser’, and what a fillip that will be for us! Hope so…

Zaba, surely, on the right for this one in what SHOULD be a terrific defence.

Fernando to ‘protect’ and a good game from ‘The Octopus’ could be key in allowing the rest to do damage to Wenger’s men.

The other ‘Fern’, therefore, is probably being given the most complex role of the day – help [Fernando] defend a little but attack whenever you can. That’s what I think at least…

With Samir out for 3 to 4 weeks with a calf injury it SHOULD be the boundless energy of James down the left – can we afford to leave Milner out with Nasri sidelined whilst we’re trying desperately to get him to ‘pen’ a new deal?

Pace on the right in Navas and if he can improve his crossing & finishing – a line that is being used a little too much for my liking and for a player of his obvious ability - this SHOULD give the visitors a headache.

Although at home and preferring 4-4-2 and two strikers most of the time regardless; I’m sticking my neck out and trusting my gut feeling in that he’ll pick David to support, hopefully, treadmill-pounding Sergio up front.

A strong bench both defence and attack-wise and although my prediction sees just one midfielder to choose from…WHAT a midfield game-changer it is!

Result? I don’t do predicted scores as a rule but, for some strange reason, I have been doing just that at work this week; and so it would be wrong of me not to follow that up in my pre-match Blog posting. Like last season’s (missed) game there are, potentially, goals aplenty once again; it’s a home win and if not 4-2 then I think it’ll be at least a 3-1’er.

Plenty to say…

Well everyone’s entitled to their opinion of course and with us now dining at the top table of English football I suppose we City fans have to get used to some top sniping too.

This week has hardly been the ‘tin hat on’ time of the not-so-good old days where we pressed the self-destruct button time and time and time again as we suffered one Club-implosion after another.

However, the signing of Wilfried Bony and, therefore, us-DARING to spend some more of our very own money has turned a number of heads and got some lips flapping; some of those lips belonging to owners who forgot to engage what is contained WITHIN those turning heads in my opinion.

First out of the blocks was a fairly measured, as usual, Gary Neville who said, I worry (orrr…bless) about the purchase of Wilfried Bony, who is a very fine centre-forward but is not certain to add the kind of intricacy and ferocious intensity they found in the Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez partnership”.

Well, firstly Gary, from what I’ve seen of the Ivorian he has very quick feet and quick-thinking ability indeed for a striker more known to be a powerhouse. But, besides, I think ‘our Gazza’ is missing the point here. Partnerships up front are indeed very important, of course, and I suppose only time will tell if Gary’s “concerns” are justified. But what our manager has done here is replaced ‘The Beast’ with another powerful and strong-running forward and one who, crucially, scores goals at a fair old rate of knots (1 in 2 at the very least wherever he goes and in whatever competition).

In Aguero, Bony, Dzeko & Jovetic we have 4 strikers who bring a very potent ‘mixed bag’ of tricks – they’re not all alike and as much as I too [like Gary] loved the Aguero / Tevez partnership, however many goals and game-wins they did or didn’t rack up together; I think that combination of differing assets is a very good thing to have in your starting 11 and squad.

But then it all got a bit silly…

Ex-Blue - and somewhat a once-hero of mine - Mick Channon waded in and, well…simply embarrassed himself by sounding WAY too ‘old school’ and out of touch in his thinking about the modern game.

To back him up oh-so-very-slightly and briefly I will say, is the modern game perfect? Is it ‘eckers like. Are players transfer fees and wages enough to make the common man & women retch at the mere thought of the astronomical figures that we’re talking about? Of course they are; no-one kicking a bag of wind (to quote Jimmy Wagg) around a patch of grass for often 90 minutes or less at a time is worth anything LIKE the numbers we’re talking about.

Mick said, when asked about his old club’s purchase of the striker from Swansea City

“Football is getting a bit sad. He is not a bad player, Bony, but for God’s sake, £30m or whatever it was?

“They are like spoilt kids – they have got to have all the candies in the shop. They want all the players.

“The FA have got to say ‘Come on’. Once you have got your team together, I think it is ridiculous that these big clubs can go and spend, and bring Messi in and win the championship – big deal.

“Someone has got to stand up and say something about it one day. If you are a signed player, that is your team for a couple of years or until your contract runs out.”

£30M or whatever it was. It was £25M eventually going to £28M Mick. Petty of me to point that out? No…not unless 2 to £5M is nothing to the now-renowned horse trainer.

Spoilt kids wanting all the candies in the shop? Really? When most top football pundits quite-righty recognise that to compete at the VERY top level in 4 competitions, as we are trying to do, often amounting to 60-odd games a season you need 4 strikers; and in purchasing Bony we’ve simply gone from 3 to…4. all the candies? Has he seen Chelsea’s midfield weapons store?

The F.A. has to step in? Really? What, like…we’ve not already been slapped with enough sanctions by a footballing body; a football club who is POURING money into youth development and the re-development of the local area but, regardless, get’s beaten with a stick for their efforts while other debt-riddled clubs get away with spending and spending and spending without punishments? Really Mick?

…bring Messi in? Have we? No…not yet anyway. And if we do sign the Barcelona striker one day I’ll be INSISTING that the once windmill-arm-wheeling one gets interviewed for his opinions once again. Imagine it – his head is likely to explode!

And as for his comments on a player not moving because he’s in contract and should stay until the very end and THEN be allowed to move, well…if Mick’s out-dated thinking needed to be underlined then it was at that point of the conversation. Deary me…

And then, of course…TA-DAAA! Ladies & gentleman…Jose Mourinho! Yaaaaay! Oh where would we be without him. Still here.

In questioning how we’ve managed to fund the purchase of Bony the easily an’ often irritated one spewed out,
“If they have the money, can spend the money, if they have no problems with the FFP, well done.

But in continuing he added,
“It looks like the rules are different for them in some aspects, but not in this.

And when asked what he meant by that he simply replied,
“You know…”

Now for THOSE last comments I think he should be punished; I think City, in fact, have the right to ask him to explain what he meant by his words and if he doesn’t offer up a good enough explanation then we should take legal action.
Of course, when asked [by a journo] if our recent purchase was, get this, “Ethical”, Arsene Wenger added his French Euro’s worth by saying,

I hope so. They must have the availability and the Financial Fair Play allows them to do it. I don’t know. It was a surprise, yes”.

He went on to say that it’s not down to him to control it nor his job to judge. But assuming, for a moment, that he did want to take an interest into whether we’ve broken any rules; just what is it with these people [Jose included]?! Is it just me? As recently posted…don’t you just need half a brain and a calculator to see that we ARE spending within our means and under the restrictions set out by UEFA under the F(not-so)FP imposed sanctions? Hello?

The only thing in mid-week that I read which muddied the waters and sounded a little cloak ‘n’ dagger to me – albeit, crucially, approved by UEFA – was the news that we have somehow and for some REASON spread the fee over the length of Bony’s contract; essentially meaning it is stretched over the accounts for the next five years. Hey? What? Why?

Other than in his column that he writes for the Independent, at least we haven’t heard any senseless rambles from the newly found voice of Paul Scholes. Slightly irritating isn’t it; of the afore mentioned opinions that we’ve heard regarding the Bony deal the more considered and sensible ones came from ex-Manyoo players?

And what does Manager of the Month Manuel Pellegrini say when asked to comment on Jose & Co.'s opinions on our spending? He wouldn't be drawn on it of course and remains a class act.

And it’s already begun…

As predicted under the second sub-heading in my last piece - Yaya leaves the country, Yaya gets interviewed by some foreign paper / magazine / TV channel; Yaya is none-committal about his Manchester City future / gets misquoted, no doubt, and speculation begins about his imminent summer departure. Huhhhh…