Sunday, 30 August 2015

The word is…“Nice”.

4 wins, 10 goals scored and 0 conceded – Nice.


It’s nice to go into the international break with a pure 100% record; nice to see both Chelsea & Liverpool slip-up at home yesterday (c’mon Swansea today!) and nice also to see Chelsea on just 4 points after 4 games!


Nice to see that Pellegrini, more than he used to at least, is not-only showing flexibility in his formations but also that he’s beginning to spot in-game areas for improvement / change…and is changing them before time runs out!


Nice to see Fernandinho showing some consistency – long may that continue...and nice also to see Sterling slotting into our system with ease; pulling defences all over the place, getting assists and now a home-goal to his name; all in just 4 games.


Nice to see the new 3rd tier of the South Stand helping to create a better atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium; encouraging the other stands to join in with verve also.

My player ratings v Watford

Hart                 -           6
Little to do but what he had to he did well.

Kolarov          -           7
Continues to be a very steady & good performer – what a changed player!

Mangala         -           7
Had to maintain a disciplined back-line against a buzzing Hornets team who could have had a sting in their tail (stop groaning…) if allowed to…and did so very well.

Kompany        -           7
See Mangala comment – ditto…

Sagna             -           8.5
An impressive start to the season so far was capped off with his best performance so far! Grew into the game even more-so in the second half and made some very important tackles & headers. If it wasn’t for the next fella in the list then he was gonna be my MotM.

Another thunderous striker from Fernandinho!

Fernandinho  -           9
A liability against WBA with silly, clumsy challenges; a very good performance against Chelsea capped off with a fine goal, a solid 7/10’er away at Everton with only one (again) silly tackle just outside our box that we just about got away with...and then an excellent display against a packed and energetic Watford midfield; with ANOTHER powerfully-driven goal. Keep it up Dinho!

Toure             -           7
Yaya often struggles when the ‘oppo’ 'crams the midfield' so very tightly. So the fact that he still managed a very creditable 7/10 is all credit to him. Shame his free kick radar was off but another good display from a player who is showing far better form than-that of last season.

Sterling          -           8.5
Played on the left and then in the middle just behind Aguero – the young England international is every bit the nuisance I remember him being when he played against us for Liverpool. Joint-second best player on the day for me and…James who?

Silva               -           8
8/10 is probably below David’s high, HIGH standards…and the fact that he managed that still-high score against such an energetic & determined Watford midfield & defence is all credit to him! Another fantastic display from the little magician; who manages to find tight pockets of room - as well as his colleagues - with apparent ease.

Navas             -           6
For all his efforts – and you can’t fault that again yesterday – it just wasn’t working for the Spanish flyer. Has had a terrific start to the season but, despite that fact, some alarm bells must be sounding now; in-having an unproductive day around the same time that Kevin De Bruyne is having his medical and is likely to sign. Taken off at half time for Nasri...and the switch ‘across the 3’ paid instant dividends!

Aguero          -           6.5
Tried and tried (like Navas) but got little joy. However, although strikers love to, of course, get on the scoresheet; the Argentine will recognise that while he is getting close attention it’s allowing more room for the many other goal threats we possess throughout the team. Work-rate outside the box was always!

Nasri               -           7
Continues to come off the bench and get straight into the game. Not sure how much longer the potentially-tetchy Frenchman will be happy with a ‘super sub’ role but it is working for the team at the moment…and that’s what counts, yes? Got more minutes yesterday than in the previous 3 games and got another 7/10 from me.

Delph              -           6.5
Good to see him getting a run-out and he looked like he’d been playing in the team for a long time. Set up in a busying defensive role, mainly on the right-hand-side when coming on for Silva, but popped-up-in and took the ball to all areas of the field.

Iheanacho      -           5.5
On for 3 minutes and for enthusiasm he gets 10/10! However, for the application of that enthusiasm he gets…well, let’s just say less-so. Two very silly “interactions” with opposition players in his 180-second first-team debut - I can’t use the word “challenge” to describe the second one; where his arms were all over the shoulders, neck & head of the Watford man. Can’t wait to see that enthusiasm and pace applied in front of the opposition’s net...

What else we learnt…

  • Not helped by an ill-timed, slightly ‘off day’ yesterday; Navas, as I say, might soon be joining Nasri on the bench if De Bruyne does arrive by Tuesday. Surely the Belgium playmaker will be an eventual regular ‘starter’…and I just can’t see for one second Sterling or, of course, Silva being the ones to step aside…apart from times where they can be and need a rest.

  • Let me in! Although it’s a long, long season with many games over 4 competitions; the currently-injured players must be looking at the performances of their fit teammates and thinking, how the hell am I gonna shift ‘em?! Competition for places has always been a great motivator for players to ‘up their game’ - as one example of that; I’m sure the arrival of Raheem has been an influence in Jesus’ much improved performances in both pre-season and the opening 3 Premier Leagues games. Will Zaba dislodge Sagna for Premier League games or are we going to see the Argentine step in as rest-relief for the French right-back in the League & F.A. Cups etc? Before last season that would have seem unthinkable! What future does Fernando have? The unlucky [with injury] signing from Porto is out again and now seems to have new(er) signing Fabian Delph and an ‘on fire’ Fernandinho ahead of him for the one defensive role available. And new signing Nicolas Otamendistill awaiting work permit clearance – joins a team with 4 clean sheets and a very settled-looking back line. So what, then, has been Aleks Kolarov’s motivation? The last 6 games of last season he was Mr 7/10 and he’s hit that benchmark as a minimum personal standard so far this season. We’ve not been in for a new left-back in the summer – so what’s goin’ on? Well whatever it is, the injured Gael Clichy certainly has his work cut out to dislodge the reborn Serb defender.

  • Even with (again!) an injured Wilfried Bony out – another ‘Mr Unlucky’ [with injuries] – and with only 2 other, recognised out & out strikers available; we have the adaptable players & systems to cope ‘up front’.


I'm off on holiday abroad on Tuesday for a week and although I’ll be taking my new laptop with me; I can’t IMAGINE releasing a piece whilst I’m away…but we’ll see.

I’m sure I’ll be making some notes – and will be sat in a bar somewhere I’m sure as the 6:00pm (BST) clock ‘gongs’ to sound the end of the summer transfer window – and will release some season predictions before long.

Thanks as always for taking the time to read!

Friday, 28 August 2015

At Everton it was a ‘professional job done’ – now for a slightly ‘unknown quantity’.

A few weeks ago I explained that I would not be doing any kind of season predictions until the summer transfer window closes - that, for me, only make perfect sense; seeing how strong or, otherwise weak, squads then look.


And so with that, you’ll just have to believe me when I say that not only did I have Watford earmarked as a bit of a mystery team but also...I can reveal that I’m gonna place them as-finishing a very creditable ‘mid-table’ or there abouts.

What ARE they about?

Well having FIVE managers in little over 12 months and shipping in at least 12 new players heading into a new, higher-level of football doesn’t, on the face of it, sound like good preparation at all. Far from it in fact – it sounds like utter madness!

HEAVILY influence by their Italian businessman Gino Pozzo; a lot of their head coaches and playing staff hail from that region. I don’t know much about Watford in detail if I’m being honest but what I have picked up in ‘bits ‘n’ pieces’ is that throughout all of their managerial changes, Watford are a team who like to play with a certain flare and like to ‘go at’ teams.

In the Championship they had, what was generally considered to be, the best 4 strikers in the division (not sure if they’ve all survived the ascent into the Premier League) and I’m sure the foreign invasion of signings since their promotion are of decent quality.

When I look at their squad list, however, I do wonder how the HELL they’re getting away with the home-grown quota rule! Perhaps some Watford (or other) fan could explain it to me (although it has very recently been suggested to me that promoted teams get a year's grace?)


Czech Republic
Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland
Nathan Aké (on loan from Chelsea)


Czech Republic
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland

Watford squad source: Wikipedia

And in their CURRENT manager (although by the time I click ‘publish’ on this article that situation may well have changed again) they have someone who looks like he’s been ‘around quality’ most of his playing and, in some respects, managerial career.

And in Quique Sanchez Flores Watford also have a manager who looks quite like Hugh Laurie! Well in this picture he does at least…

As if to underline my (again you’ll have to believe me) pre-season feeling that Watford will make good on their return to England’s top division - a start of 3 games, 0 defeats, 2 clean sheets against Southampton (H) & West Bromwich Albion (H) and conceding just 2 goals against Everton (A); then they appear to be handling the ‘top flight’ pretty well for starters at least…and it looks like they can defend a bit too!

Okay…taking the ‘positive spin’ off their mini-Premier League record a little – they haven’t won a game yet and have failed to score at home twice…and they did lose to Preston North End away 1-0 in the League Cup on Tuesday night (another ‘nil’ in the ‘goals for’ column).

But I share Jesus Navassentiment when I say that we need to be wary of not thinking we can simply ‘rock up’ to the Etihad and roll these over on Saturday. The same determined performances that we’ve seen so far from our electrifying Blues will be needed again to get past these unscathed on Saturday afternoon (a rare 3:00pm KO BST).

v Watford

Still can't find a decent aerial shot with the newly extended South Stand...
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

4-5-1 come 4-3-3:







A ‘Copy & Paste’ starting 11 again but on the bench, a few surprises forced on Manuel Pellegrini through injury, which I’ll come on to.

As for the new additions there is, of course, some considerable room for error in my prediction. But with the only available substitute striker being Kelechi Iheanacho, I’ve gone for the inclusion of new signing winger / forward Patrick Roberts to 'get the nod'.

It’s a bit more difficult to guess what EDS defensive cover our manager might give a 'bench spot' to and I’ve only really gone for right-back Pablo Maffeo because ‘The Engineer’ mentioned his name in his pre-match ‘presser’. Also, should anything happen to Aleks Kolarov then I suppose the young Pablo can take the right-back slot whilst, perhaps, the more experienced Bacary Sagna swaps sides to cover.

Other possibilities in terms of young defensive cover could come in the form of pre-season debutants James Horsfield (Defender / Midfielder – Right / Centre) or Cameron Humphreys (Defender – Right / Centre).

Notable absences: Gael Clichy (injured again, this time out for 6 to 7 weeks with an ankle problem), Pablo Zabaleta (injury – another 3 to 4 week with knee ligament trouble), Nicolas Otemendi (work permit issues), Fernando (recovering from a muscular injury – length unknown), Wilfried Bony (injured with a cut to his leg received in training – should be fit for the resumption after the international break).

Result? Our manager, in his pre-match press conference, also continues the theme of not dropping our guard at home to newly-promoted Watford. Although he OFTEN uses the words “…same concentrate” & “…same intensity” he is, of course, correct to do once again.

This relative ‘unknown quantity’ could throw us a ‘curve ball’ and provide an in-game shock or two…but Pellegrini & Co. will have studied more footage of The Hornets than I have, which is zero by the way.

And it’s comforting also that we should be starting with the same 11 who have played so very, very well in the opening 3 games. No complacency whatsoever of course…but this should, eventually, be a comfortable home win.