Monday, 28 December 2015

Changes I’m sure - rest, regroup and 'go again'

Boxing Day’s team selection is likely to be changed slightly, where possible, for Tuesday’s trip to table-topping (at time of article release) Leicester City.


Very sensible; most teams will be doing it over the packed, festive period and some fresh legs should do us some good.

Hopefully this is where our quality-in-depth will tell over our team-spirited opponents tomorrow evening (7:45m KO GMT)…

v Leicester City


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








Hart between the sticks of course.

A straight swap at left-back, I think, not just to include [away from home] the slightly more defence-savvy Frenchman; but simply a rest for Aleks / fresher legs in place. I can’t see Pellegrini sticking Martin in the middle of the defence from the start and so it’s ‘go again’ Eliaquim & Nicolas, with us losing our skipper again after just 9, flippin’ minutes on Saturday. At least Nicolas got SOME rest time [when withdrawn for Vinny] and Martin a LITTLE run-out. Although not even on the bench against Sunderland, I have to believe that if fit Pablo will get a long-awaited return / start…and that Bacary will get a much-needed rest.

Moving into midfield and, similarly, there was no Fernando on the bench last Saturday either BUT, we were told, he is fit again too. And, so, I’ve gone for the returning “Octopus” to partner the largely rested [last weekend] Fabian in an energetic & defensive, deep-lying ‘midfield 2’.

A solid base, then, to launch a pacey & dangerous attacking quartet – and for that I’m going for ‘go again’ pair David (who is really starting to regain some traction again after his long lay-off) and livewire Raheem, together with rested pair Jesus & Sergio.

On the bench is Willy as keeper cover, Kolarov the ‘straight swap man’ and Bacary as cover for Pablo, should the Argentine not last the ‘full 90+’ on his return. Martin to provide central defensive insurance. Being a slightly defensive line-up in midfield in some ways; it’s a strong, creative / goal-scoring-capable bench in Yaya, Kevin and Wilfried. I don’t think we’ll see the luxury in this fixture of having two strikers on the bench and so, sadly, there’s no place again for Kelechi Iheanacho on the side…

Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (injured – AGAIN!), Fernandinho (not selected / possibly rested), Samir Nasri (injured) & Kelechi Iheanacho (not selected).

Result? In my mini, 8-game season piece I had this down as a firm draw. However, I’m going for us to string a bit of much-needed form together now with news that Jamie Vardy may miss this one or, at least, not be firing on all cylinders following a ‘bug’; I’m now going for a vital away victory against this season’s surprise package team.

Slight rider – predicted team selection published before any pre-match press conference from our manager.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Encouraging performance at Arsenal, at least…

 …but we’re dropping far too many points.

(This post is being released before any Sunderland, pre-match press conference and so predicted team selection / personnel might ‘be a little off’ on this one)

A few weeks ago I produced a mini, 8-game season piece and did so because I saw, at the time, that we were heading into a period of largely tough, banana-skin fixtures; where a ‘minimum points total’ was required if we were to maintain a serious challenge on the title.

Worryingly, we’re now WAY behind on that tally as I predicted (or hoped at least) up to an’ including our trip to the Emirates; I thought we’d have accumulated 11 from 15 points.

The reality is that we could only muster a woeful 6 from those 15 and, even more concerning, is the fact that we can only truly hold our heads up performance-wise in our last outing…and both Arsenal & Leicester City look devastatingly consistent at the moment.

Let’s be unseasonal, then, and take it out ‘big time’ on poor ol’ Sunderland at home…

v Sunderland

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…








Hart, following another excellent display this time against The Gunners, to start of course.

I don’t think there’s much of an option but to ‘go again’ with Bacary, Nicholas & Eliaquim; but Aleks might have a Boxing Day on the side; allowing Gael the chance to run-off any turkey ‘n’ sprout excesses.

Fabian, withdrawn into the second half on Monday as a precaution (I think), to be our ‘anchor man’ in front of the defence. This, then, should allow for an attacking quartet…and I think that’ll be ‘go again’ Fernandinho & David and largely rested [having come on as substitutes last Monday] Raheem & Jesus.

Sergio to continue his comeback up front and on his own.

Again, with us having most of our attacking players back from injury, it’s a strong bench. But starting from the back, Willy is the ‘keeper cover’; Aleks & Martin the defensive insurance. Then from there on, a bench packed with Yaya, Kevin, Kelechi (who I think needs to be starting now in a 4-4-1-1 with Aguero) and Wilfried is pretty formidable.

Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (injured), Pablo Zabaleta (injured / close to return), Fernando (injured) & Samir Nasri (injured).

Result? Huh…well, there’s a question these days. We are so flippin’ inconsistent at the moment that any lapse in concentration / performance and even the likes of struggling Sunderland can punish you. It’s all about the ‘IFs’.

Looking ahead slightly; ‘IF’ we play with the same intensity, at least, at the King Power Stadium (up next – yikes!) as we did in London yesterday then we CAN come out of that unscathed…and by "unscathed" I’m talking a draw at least. Same again in another very tough away game at Vicarage Road in the very next game; ‘IF’ we play with ‘drive, determination & energy’ then that too doesn’t have to be a daunting trip with the quality we have at our disposal…although I hope like crazy that we have Vinny back before those two trips.

And so…‘IF’ we repeat our performance at least (minus the Mangala self-destruct pass) then we should blow Sunderland apart!


I’m going for us-doing just that – it’s a home win and a very much-needed 3 points to City.

Have a great Christmas everyone – thanks, as always, for taking the time to visit!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Away the lads!

Our trip to Arsenal on Monday night (8:00pm KO GMT) marks the start of 5 away games in the next 6 in all competitions; Sunderland on Boxing Day being the only home game, which is up next.

That’s a concern in many ways with no wins in our last 4 Premier Leagues outings; that last one being a last-gasp winner from Kelechi Iheanacho at Selhurst Park…on 12th September!

A good time to change that league away form, at least, in this 5-from-6-game run then…

v Arsenal

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



____De Bruyne_______________________Silva_____





Hart to start.

Being away from home I was thinking, at first, that our manager might want to choose [also] ex-Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy. However, I’ve got a sneaky feeling our manager will want a kind of ‘contain & counter’ in many ways at the Emirates and will, therefore-instead, go for the more attack-minded Aleks Kolarov. Pressing them that way might keep their right-sided attacker a little quieter (whoever is fit for them to fill that role) but it does leave me a little nervous defensive-wise on that flank. Mangala & Otamendi pretty-much pick themselves (they need to have a good performance for both the team and themselves) as does Sanga; being the only first-team right-back fit at the moment.

Ahead of the defence, I think, will be a pair of midfielders whose main task will be to babysit that defence a little; with perhaps Fernandinho being given licence to help further forward whenever occasions allow. Fabian will be the main ‘sweeper-upper’.

Ahead of that is a little uncertain for me to predict; thankfully, I’m pleased to say, due to the personnel available in our more attacking areas.

But I’m going for the craft of Kevin & David either side of the power & penetration of Yaya…IF Pellegrini doesn’t play him too deep.

Too early for Sergio to start in what is sure to be a frantic, opening 30 minutes to this ‘top of the table’ clash? I’d say so – Wilfried to start I think.

Strong bench! Willy the keeper cover; Gael ‘the change’ at left-back and Martin as central defensive insurance. Then WHAT and attacking quartet we have at our disposal…and this is what I think part of the plan will be. As players begin to fade on both sides – if our manager goes with this starting 11 & subs – then he can swap ‘craft’ for ‘outright pace and direct finishing ability’.

Sounds like a winning plan to me…

Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (injured), Pablo Zabaleta (injured), Fernando (injured) and Samir Nasri (injured).

Looks a little shorter now, doesn’t it?

Samir, of course, is out until March / April 2016; Fernando is a little uncertain, Vinny’s injury appears to be taking longer to clear up than expected and might need a couple more weeks but Pablo should be back in training, at least, next week.

Result? Well in my mini, 8-game prediction recently (something we’re behind schedule on now points-wise) I had this one down as a draw.

It’s heartening to see so many players back-available, particularly in our more-attacking department. And although it might be a bit too early for a Sergio start; if those others can ‘click’ then we have enough in our locker to thrust past The Gunners, especially as they have their own horror show of an injury list in Cazorla, Sanchez (very doubtful), Arteta (doubtful), Wilshere, Rosicky & Welbeck.

But all things being equal, that being…

-       Away at the Emirates
-       Arsenal’s 10-game, Prem-League run reading: W W W W W D L D W W
-       Our away, Premier League form
-       Our ‘up & down’ form and performances in general
-       Key returning / available players
-       Arsenal’s key-player injury list
-       A rare, 9-day rest (8 for Arsenal)

…then I’m sticking with both my pre-season prediction and that of the more-recent, 8-game forecast. It’s a draw.

I’d love the win, of course, but I’ll take that…