Wednesday, 22 July 2015

v Roma: What we learnt.

That was probably one of the best pre-season warm-up games I’ve ever seen (or can recall). Despite the inevitable and most understandable high-number of substitutions by both sides; both Roma and City were ‘well up for it’ in going for the win.

Many positives

Getting straight to it then, what I learnt was…
  • The kids are alright! From that performance Kelechi Iheanacho is every bit the striker I thought he was [whenever I’ve had the privilege to watch him] and had hoped he was. Determined, intelligent running, a really good finisher and mature beyond his age. He’s one of our 4 (3?) first team strikers this season. I thought both Bruno Zuculini and Manu Garcia grew into the game and improved a lot before being substituted; perhaps Garcia looked the slightly more accomplished of the two. Jason Denayer looked every bit the player I had heard of; very confident and cool with the ball and certainly liked to break forward, as well as defending with fervour. Marcos Lopes was a menace the whole time and was very strong on the ball. Any more performances like that and he should be a ‘bench man’ more often and at the very least this season. Brandon Barker was another one who grew very quickly into the game when he came on after the break. And grew he did; with some fantastic link-up play and skilful footwork. Another confident lad. And having never seen much of him I was delighted with the performance of “right-back” James Horsfield who had a terrific game both in defence and attack-support down that flank. More often a central midfielder for the EDS; he proved just how versatile he is. Similarly a late showing for midfielder George Evans who came on as centre half for Vincent Kompany. Alongside Denayer – and in a very young defence by this stage – George & Jason performed superbly well under the cosh from a pressing Roma side. Enes Unal didn’t see too much of the ball but that was down to a then-pressing Roma side who were looking for – and got – a late equaliser. Seemed to play deeper that Iheanacho [who pressed Roma’s back line the whole time] but, as I say, was perhaps forced to do so a little.
  • Willy Caballero didn’t convince me too much. I’ve stayed away from being critical of the Argentinean since his arrival last summer because I’ve seen so very little of him; and can’t understand [for the same reason] how anyone can be. However, he looked a little flat-footed and slow to react at times yesterday. Might be just pre-season rustiness…
  • Bacary Sagna did quite well before the interval; particularly with some telling attacking-support play as we were on the 'front foot' for large parts of the first half.
  • Raheem Sterling had a very good debut and surprised me personally with left-sided forward role, which gives us more options that I was already counting. Good finish for his goal and was very lively in his link-up play with his new colleagues – looked like he’d played with them for a year or more!
  • My player of last season, David Silva, was sublime! He looks raring to go already and with the addition of more flare players in Sterling (and perhaps more to come?) he should shine even brighter this season…if that’s at all possible!
  • The lads from Porto didn’t exactly have poor games yesterday but neither did they do much to convince me otherwise that they’ve settled in yet with their City teammates. There were still some ‘flappy moments’ in defence when Eliaquim Mangala was alongside ‘our Vinny’ and perhaps it’s me-personally missing Fernando for doing a quiet & effective job sitting deeper in midfield; while the players ahead of him with a more-attacking agenda are getting the limelight & plaudits. I’m hoping that’s what it was yesterday and if so I hold my hands up...
  • We still need a left-back! Gael Clichy was okay again but – and it starts [from me] already – we looked flaky & exposed again when Mr Kolarov replaced him…and then, of course, there was his penalty shot that he blasted WAY over the bar!
  • Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas each had particularly lively 45 minutes and both Samir and Yaya Toure looked to have a happy demeanour (worth mentioning of course).
  • The corners and crossing in general seemed to have improved.
  • As suspected, it looks like Manuel Pellegrini might be considering this fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 for the coming season. That’s fine - it’ll need a lot of fitness [to track back / counter attack] and will require one of our defensive midfielders to be right ‘on blob’ for most of the season. Will that player be Fabian Delph?
  • Edin Dzeko & Stevan Jovetic look to be on their way out.
  • Joe Hart for penalty taking! What a shot into the ‘top left’! Not to mention his great mind games and performance in between the sticks (go find a video on the WEB if you’ve haven’t seen it…)
  • We’re going to be in for, as fully expected of course, a season of ‘boos’ from mindless morons. We can expect it from Liverpool & Villa fans with regards to Sterling & Delph respectively but what the ffffff…lip was that all about in Australia at the beginning of the game and whenever Raheem got hold of (or stood on) the ball?!
T’was a good game; good end result but, much more importantly, a very good performance in general from the lads (and a fitness workout of course).

One more signing? Two? Three? FOUR?!

Okay…even though we might be off-loading both Edin & Stevan very soon (plus one midfielder?) I can’t see us bringing in another four or even three players in-addition to Delph, Partick Roberts & Sterling. But here are my brief thoughts on the final 6 weeks of the summer transfer window with regards to our very own Manchester City.
1. I’ll say again…we need a flippin’ left-back! I can only HOPE that we’re in the market for one (and Kolarov’s performance yesterday might have just highlighted this to the Management team) because I would hate for all our hard work in-building a more attacking midfield threat to be undone by glaring gaps and silly mistakes on that side of our defence. We have to remember too that other Premier League teams at least are strengthening THEIR sides and may well have some new attacking right-sided options to test our left-flank even more this season…
2. One more, additional attacking / creative midfielder / (left) winger to ‘complete us’ across the middle please. I think we can forget the Paul Pogba thing for this season at least (and probably for the next 5 or 6 seasons) but the Kevin de Bruyne thing just won’t go away will it? In fact this morning - and despite more “He’s going nowhere” talk from Wolfsburg – rumours have intensified that we are closer to agreeing a move for the ex-Chelsea & Belgium midfielder / winger.
3. Or are we in for Isco as WELL as Kevin? Well we were always in for Sterling, de Bruyne AND Pogba if we are to believe reports. As well as increased speculation about de Bruyne; reports this morning suggest also that we are stepping up for - and are closer to getting - a deal for Real Madrid’s, David Silva-like, Spanish playmaker.
4. Are we going to go into the season with Aguero, Bony, Iheanacho & Unal as our four strikers (although I can see Unal going out on loan)? If so then fine; I can see us relying more on our attacking midfielders / wingers backing-up a loan striker most of the time this season anyway. But with Enes likely to be given a season somewhere to mature further and with, in fairness, Kelechi being untested at Premier League level; if there were to be another addition then don’t be TOO shocked if we were to go in for WBA’s Saido Berahino (or A.N. Other).
So that’s it really. Mourinho has apparently already started whinging about our spending (I can’t be a**ed looking for the report / video - I’ve just been told) and I have, unfortunately, already half-caught footage of ‘the broken robot’ (van Gall if you needed to ask) attempting to talk to the press about their further spending on additions to Manyoo’s squad.
It’s the sort of thing you have to put up with in the ‘beautiful game’ that I am now [less than 3 weeks away!] starting to get the excited butterflies for once again…
Hyperlinks won't be completed on this [now-old] piece...

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Will Delph’s arrival see…

…a City exit for either of the ‘Ferns’?

Regular readers know my opinion of our Brazilian midfielder with the slightly longer name than his midfield colleague and countryman; and in a blog-posting on 25th May 2015 I gave my opinion on the two ‘Ferns’, which was one of-being largely underwhelmed so far.

If either ARE to go, which one?

Well putting my personal disenchantment with Fernandinho in particular aside – trying to look at both players objectively – Fernandinho is the older of the two by two years and a couple of months. Also in the negative column for the ex-Shakhtar Donetsk player is that he’s been with us now since July 1st 2013 and has just less than 2 years remaining on his current deal.

In contrast, Fernando joined us just last July and has another 4 years remaining on his contract and may also, crucially, be given the benefit of the doubt; following a below-par season from ‘The Octopus’ that was [also crucially] interrupted by injury…as well as a ‘settling in period’ allowance factor.

In addition to those arguments that appear to be weighing heavily in favour of the ex-Porto player already; you have to ask whether the following list of players would be enough to carry us through a long campaign without one of them?

Main list:

Fabian Delph                                       -           Defensive / Central midfielder

Samir Nasri                                         -           Mid / Winger – Left / Right / Centre

David Silva                                          -           Mid / Winger – Left / Right / Centre

Yaya Toure                                         -           Central / Attacking midfielder

(Kevin De Bruyne or Paul Pogba?)     -          Central / Left-sided midfielder(s)

Fernando                                             -           Defensive midfielder

Fernandinho                                        -           Defensive / Central midfielder

Well I would say that if we were indeed to bring in De Bruyne, Pogba or A.N. Other midfielder in the coming weeks - and by 6pm (BST) on 1st September 2015 - then we’d definitely have scope to ship one of those Brazilians out; particularly when you also chuck into the mix Jesus Navas (Right winger), Raheem Sterling (Right winger / Forward) and quite possibly Marcos Lopes (Midfielder / Winger – Left / Right / Centre), along with young hopefuls Bruno Zuculini (Central Midfielder), Brandon Barker (Winger / Forward – Left) and Manu Garcia (Central / Attacking midfielder).

I say all of that also on the understanding that Samir’s end-of-season ‘weirdness’ is now behind him and that he’ll be seeing out another year, at least, of his ‘remaining 4’.

My gut feeling is, however, that if at all possible - even with F(not-so)FP and the home-grown / English quota rules forever looming large overheadManuel Pellegrini would like to keep all of the main list players, at least, available in his squad for both domestic and European ventures.

However, if one of them is indeed to fall victim of one of those 'pesky rules' then I believe Fernandinho’s time at Manchester City may well be coming to a close. I’d wish him well [if]…but I wouldn’t be crying in my beer for the £28M+ man.


Raheem Sterling

One of the reasons I’ve not posted a blog-entry for a whole 18 days is the sheer number of opinionated merry-go-round comments and utter rage surrounding both Raheem Sterling & Fabian Delph. The last thing anyone needed while it was in ‘full flow’, I thought, was another article ‘out there’.

I did almost, however, produce a ‘Fabian has signed’ article when I heard that he was having his (first) medical but didn’t even get chance to ‘put pen to paper’ before it was seemingly all “off” as quick as it was “on”!

I don’t think it’s over by any stretch - and will certainly loom large again when we play Aston Villa & Liverpool at least 4 times between them next season (and you can bet we’ll draw one of them at least once in a ‘cup comp’) – but the storm is now passing and the dust is STARTING, at least, to settle.

And so…

  • Is Raheem too expensive? Yes…by about £15M I’d say.
  • Did the player conduct himself in a bad manner? Well…assuming he was genuinely ill when he couldn’t join his Liverpool colleagues abroad on the same day then I can’t see what he’s done or said wrong. He’s joined a better team with better players with a better chance of winning trophies in the coming years with just 2 years remaining on his current deal; and having given Liverpool 3 years, 95 appearances, 18 goals and several assists.
  • Did Raheem’s agent conduct himself in a bad manner? Well I haven’t heard anything particularly nasty but, I suppose, it could have been handled a lot quicker and perhaps, therefore, slightly less publicly? But if either of them are at fault then Liverpool are equally to blame. Brendon Rodgers has, however, had nothing but nice things to say about Raheem since the move and so I don’t think there’s anything else to get in a sweat over.
  • Have City done anything wrong in the Raheem deal? Apart from being ‘held to’ and paying the ‘English mark-up ransom’, then no.
  • Did Fabian Delph conduct himself in a bad manner? I’d have to say yes. I personally can’t wait for an explanation (if it ever comes) of the apparent double turn-around and I have to believe (I didn’t read myself) also all those who read his comments following his first ‘about turn’; that he wanted to remain loyal to Aston Villa…before then-signing for City just 5 days later! Weird…
  • Have Aston Villa conducted themselves in the right manner? Well if I was an Aston Villa fan I’d be FURIOUS at the ridiculous low release-clause-figure inserted (by someone) into Fabian’s new, 4-½ year contract just last January! Other than that, no; they’ve honoured that crazy release clause.
  • Have City done anything wrong in the Fabian deal? No.

Fabian Delph
Apart for the understandably livid Aston Villa fans it makes me wonder, then, just why I’ve been listening to and reading ‘blue murder’ from fans, radio presenters and so-called pundits over the last few weeks…not to mention the vile, so-called Liverpool “fans” who allegedly dispensed on-line abuse & threats to Raheem and his family.

Will both players improve us? Yes, I’d say so. Will both players, like James Milner, improve year on year on year with Manchester City? Yes, I’d say so.

Is Raheem Sterling a bargain? In the short term, no. In the long term, however, I’m confident we’ll look back in 3-years time and say what a terrific asset he’s turn out to be and, therefore, yes.

Is Fabian Delph a bargain? Oh yes…oh VERY yes (well-done Txiki & Co!)

Continuing the "English theme" - Patrick Roberts
 I wonder if they'll be similar, media 'nuclear fall out' following our recent signing of Patrick Roberts from Fulham? The young, strong-left-footed right winger's fee is "undisclosed" but articles last week suggested that any fee would, in time, likely rise to around £10M for the very promising English 18-year old.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tin hats on! Has the ‘City bashing’ begun already?

It’s not just us; fans of a lot of clubs go through it.


Stoke City fans often accuse a lot of being ‘Stokeist’, even when they sometimes change their “typical” style of play; Manyoo fans have often churned out “ABU” (Anyone But United) and Chelsea fans find themselves having their club described as having ‘no class’.


If they win 1-0, Arsenal fans get accused of watching a boring team and, in a positive light, fans of North East clubs get labelled as being part of the ‘hotbed of English football’, which has always been an utter joke!


Our turn (again)?

UEFA strike again! Reports this morning suggest that the relaxing of the F(not-so)FP rules – where clubs can now-again spend beyond FFP limits as long as UEFA can see that the club has a viable business plan – will NOT apply to those club who were punished last season!
In other words – and as the Manchester Evening News points out – FFP has been relaxed to allow clubs to do exactly what Manchester City F.C. have done (and were punished for)!
Now I try not to swear in my blog postings and so I’ll just say…
Are we City fans right to suspect that UEFA have a not-so hidden agenda to keep ‘upstarts’ like little ol’ City ‘pegged back’ and slow (or attempt to completely scupper) their progression to join ‘the big boys’ at the big table; whilst at the same time clearly and SO very obviously allowing past elite teams who have slipped-up in recent years to catch up again?
Well I would love to hear the argument of anyone who thinks we are unjustified in our belief of that very theory…and I hope like hell Jean-Louis Dupont manages to expose the organisation for exactly what they are.
I hope the courts decide that the well-intended FFP rules have been wrongly used and, therefore, is / has been completely illegal. I hope they get heavily fined for it and that ‘due compensation’ to those clubs wrongly punished are considerable also.

And the others…

I’ve been following City for 30+ years now. Although the story goes about our ‘Invisible Man’ song that Glauber Berti, who made just one, 85-minute substitution appearance after being on the bench for almost half the 2008 / 09 season was, indeed…’The Invisible Man’ himself (and that one fan dressed in bandages and dark glasses at an away game some time later); others then-used the song to lament the fact that we were very often overlooked by being shoved into small corners of newspapers whilst often being the victim of being ‘last on MotD’…and even then only in very brief highlights (I’m sure that’s why I recall us-singing this years before good ol’ Glauber arrived…and disappeared).
I can recall many of those seemingly-ignorant & cruel occasions but one in particular where we’d beaten Huddersfield Town, albeit in the second tier of English football, 10-1…only to have the report of that match shoved a few pages in from the ‘back page’ by one Sunday publication at least. Who was on the back that day? Manyoo of course…and I don’t think they even won that Saturday!
Were we overly sensitive or even paranoid back then? Are we now?
No I don’t think so…and although it might be abating slightly I do believe also that in the media there has been an elitist ‘London bias’ in the perhaps-now distant past. And, more recently of course, I have to add an absolute torrent of Liverpool-‘lovies’ on TV an’ the like.
In fact it’s slightly sad to say that I think the most even-minded / unbiased pundit on TV is Gary Neville (although I do find ex-Liverpool midfielder and [later] Manager Graeme Souness likewise).
But what I have noticed in those 30+ years is that these ‘City bashing sessions’, when they come around, rarely come in singular incidents; nor from just one source. There’s often a lot of ‘band-wagon jumping’ and further ‘dirt digging’ by several other parties who are often, seemingly, out to not only have a pop at City for what we’ve done but to sour anything we’re trying to achieve.
  • We build our Academy and almost within a few months I’ve heard press-pundits crying, ‘Where are all these so-called home-grown kids?!’
  • Similarly my mate quite recently reported that there were a bunch of Crewe Alexandra fans watching their reserves play our EDS lads; and who were reading the Manchester City team-sheet line-up and scoffing at the foreign-sounding names whilst asking, "Where are the local lads". Thankfully my mate was on hand to point out to them that the majority of the lads they were skitting about WERE 'Manchester born'...
  • Our new owners steadily build our fan base and raise the profile of our club worldwide in general; we then build a new stand (not even finished yet) and expand the seating otherwise around the Etihad for the long term and there are cries from embitteRED fans and elsewhere that, “We’ll never fill it”!
Now also…
  • Wolfsburg are doing their very best to scupper our plans to sign Kevin De Bruyne by offering him an even BETTER deal than he’s on…even though he only signed a new, 5-year contract with the German Bundesliga side last year.
  • Even though they can’t purchase anyone this year due to a transfer embargo; Barcelona appear to be doing their upmost to sort of gazump our pursuit of Paul Pogba.
  • Liverpool are playing ‘hard ball’ with their CRAZY £50M valuation-demand for Raheem Sterling and…
  • …going back to UEFA, it could be a whole 3 weeks - just 3 weeks before the start of the flippin’ season - that currently-imposed sanctions, let alone the recent revelation that we are to be excluded from the relaxing of last season’s F(not-so)FP restrictions, before we find out for sure if constraints on wages & spending are indeed to be lifted! What’s that all about?!
Okay…I get the Wolfsburg / Barca / Scouse thing; they’re only looking after their own interests. I have no real issues with that…beyond it being a little irritating of course.
But when it (and they) fly at you all at once as this latest, momentum-gathering ‘bashing crowd’ seems to be doing; the old City ‘spider sense’ does start to tingle a little.
Well I intend to take a leaf out of our ‘Charming Man’s’ book and remain calm about it all.
Apart from the odd ‘dig’ that comes our way in respect of and similar to what Chelsea / Chelsea fans have to tolerate; I think we are generally seen as a club with class who does things in the right manner both on & off the pitch for the most part.
In Ferran Soriano, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Manuel Pellegrini & Txiki Begiristain I trust; and I believe that we’ll ride, with style, the waves in the murky UEFA waters and that we’ll achieve most of our transfer targets…and, if not, we’ll have a pretty decent Plan ‘B’ & ‘C’ ready to spring into action. 'Early business' is 'good business' but if needs be, in the transfer market, ‘we’ll fight to the end’
On TalkSport the other day someone in the studio suggested that 'we City fans' were starting to panic [about the summer transfer window]. Us? Having been through most of the divisions in the last 18 years like a dose of (whatever)?