Tuesday, 22 March 2016

It makes for miserable reading and…

…mercifully, for once, we have an international break!

It’s all going horribly, HORRIBLY wrong


‘Thank Pellegrini’ – and Willy – we won the League Cup! Okay, we’re also through to the Champions League quarter final; the only English team left in the prestigious competition and for the first time in our history. And, had the FA been a little more understanding and had displayed some common sense we MIGHT still be in the FA Cup too.

But all of that really does ‘paper over the cracks’ of an appalling season in the Premier League when you look at the talent we have at our disposal. Injuries aplenty – more than I’ve EVER known in all my 30+ years of following the Blues - but also some flippin’ baffling decisions at times from our manager; the same manager that, to his credit, has won the Premier League and two League Cup in 2-¾ seasons.

So why can’t I now wait for Manuel Pellegrini’s reign to end and Pep Guardiola’s to start; something I’ve not been ‘bandwagon jumping'-on and, instead, have been actively trying to avoid thinking and certianly talking about?

Well it’s because of that appalling season in the league that I’ve just mentioned, which now looks just as dire on paper as it feels of late when trudging home in the cold after another “nil-pointer”.

Over all it reads…

P30 W15 (that’s just half our flippin’ games!) D6 L (a whopping) 9!  How on earth we’ve managed to be the league’s 3rd highest scorers and joint 5th best defence throughout that I’ve just no idea!

Worst still, since our League Cup win on 28th February our record in all competitions reads…

P5 W1 (against a very poor Aston Villa at home) D2 L2. And aside from that 4-0 win against the league most-very-bottom side, we’ve scored no goals whatsoever in the other 4 games!

Would you like an insult added to that particular injury? Then what the HELL has happened to Kelechi Iheanacho during that barren-scoring run; he who barely seems to make the bench these days whilst, worst still, we have to watch Wilfried Bony ‘in his place’!

Sour from Sunday’s derby result or is there more to it?

Is all of this frustration simply at-being beaten at home by our neighbours from Trafford? No, I actually thought we had the better of the play; more possession, ‘did more with it creatively’ when we had the ball and had more shots on target / more chances to score than them. For the most part, I thought most of our players did okay and that Manyoo looked very ordinary indeed. A quick look at the stats since and from Sunday’s game goes to prove just that; with 55% possession, 26 shots to their 5 and 11 corners to their 5 too.

But it’s where it leaves us after such an appallingly bad run in the league; one that caps off a record where we STILL haven’t won back-to-back games since October 2015!

The last 10 in the league reads…


Just 3 wins in 10 games – two home-game 4-0’ers against Crystal Palace and the afore-mentioned Aston Villa and a 0-1 win at Sunderland. Woeful.

So...where DOES it leaves us? Oh my word! Look at the league table yourself - it leaves us on the brink of slipping to 6th and, should that happened, then looking over our shoulders at the likes of Southampton, Stoke City and Liverpool as far down as 9th!

Exaggerating? Panicking?


I don’t think so; I don’t think so at all.

If you look at our form and that of the likes West Ham United and Southampton, at least, then it’s a very realistic and scary possibility indeed. And THAT, my fellow Blues, is something we dare not contemplate with our new, Spanish manager coming in June. Imagine the setback if Pep joins us and we’re not in the Champions League or, worse still, ANY European Competition?! It would set us back an entire season and with the ex-Barcelona man only on a 3-year deal!

And if you think I'm alone in thinking the unthinkable; such a possibility is this that the BBC have done a litte digging and released a piece just this morning about whether Pep has a clause written into his contract, which states that he doesn't have to join us if we're not in the Champions League next season. He hasn't by the way. Why would he...when it was announced in early February 2016 that he'd be joining us in June I don't think ANYONE thought it a possibility?!

But before already-concerned and / or fed-up Blues stop reading (if they haven’t done so already) I am a ‘glass half full’ man - if not also a realist - and, therefore, I also think it leaves us with a very clear objective…and that’s why I say, for once, that I’m very relieved to have an international break (I usually can't stand these season-interrupting episodes).

Sure we’ll have players away and risking tiredness & injury for their countries…but not many. As has-been reported recently, apparently we are to use this 12-day break to recover some players and, even, play a ‘behind closed doors’ game against our EDS lads; giving most-certainly Samir Nasri a run-out as well as, possibly, Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph. Despite a huge blow on Sunday in-losing Joe Hart for a possible month and likewise Raheem Sterling; having those 3 back will be a massive fillip for the team.

Although it’s more likely that Samir will be a ‘bench man’ at Bournemouth on 2nd April and, when possibly in the mix for a ‘first 11’ call-up for the home game against West Bromwich Albion, Kevin & Fabian might only be fit to take the bench for that same-said game at the Etihad on 9th April; it marks the start of that very clear objective I’ve just alluded to.

After the 12-day gap in domestic play we need to treat the remainder like a mini, 8-game season; 1 more game, I will also add, than some of the teams around us have left to play.

See…I’m not being too gloomy about our current situation.

If we can go into those remaining 8 games (10 games when you chuck in the 2 legs against Paris Saint-Germain) with a fresh psychology of ‘a new season’ AND if we can at least start that mini-season like we started the actual season back in August; then we can turn all of that pessimism and ‘looking over our shoulder’ and start to look upwards and put pressure on Arsenal and, possibly even, Tottenham Hotspur too; whilst holding off the likes of Manyoo and West Ham United.

I'm not for one second saying that we WILL do that but let’s have a look at the remaining league fixtures; I’ll try to do a prediction and I’ll do this on the assumption that…

-       Nicholas Otamendi is back straight after the international break
-       Samir will be ready to return early-to-mid April
-       Fabian mid-April
-       Kevin mid-to-end of April
-       Joe end of April
-       Vincent Kompany end of April
-       Raheem end of April
(And all of those - plus the rest - stay fit until the end of the season)

Bournemouth (A)
Nicholas Otamendi back; Samir Nasri on the bench.
Tricky place to go – can be a very well organised side and, on the break as well as from set pieces, can hurt you too. 12-points clear of the drop-zone at the moment and mostly likely safe this season. But they’ll be very keen to reach that so-called ‘magical 40-points mark’ as soon as possible - shame then, for us, that we’re ‘up next’.
Result? Draw.

West Bromwich Albion (H)
Samir Nasri now available for a starting place; Fabian Delph on the bench.
With returning personnel ‘giving us a boost’ and a ‘must win’ after a disappointing, ‘dropped points’ draw on the South coast just 7-days earlier; despite a trip to Paris just 3 days before this fixture; the [later time] 5:30pm KO on TV should help a little with recovery too.
Result? Win.

Chelsea (A)
Fabian Delph now available for a starting place; Kevin De Bruyne back to his old club and on the bench.
Tough one, very tough one. Unbeaten in the league (at time of writing this) under their new manager; plenty of draws in their ‘last 10’ and some of them at home. Not the side they were last season and although some players will be ‘up for it’ and still-pushing for a Europa spot after an appalling start to the season; with a change of manager coming again in the summer, some “stars” already appear to be looking at the exit door…and ‘the beach’.
Result? Draw.

Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph and Kevin De Bruyne all available to start.
‘Honeymoon period over’ or temporarily fixed by their new manager and now ‘on a roll’ as we come to play them at their place on 19th April? That is very much the question for this one. I think they’ll be more dangerous than they are at the moment (P2 W0 D1 L1 under Rafa) and they might very well score against us. But they still look ropey at the back and we have some ‘big guns’ back now for this clash.
Result? Win.

Stoke City (H)
Both Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany in contention for a return; Vinny likely to be on the bench.
I just don’t like playing these home or away…and, worse still, Mark Hughes seems to know how to hurt us. If…IF we keep the others fit and we have one or both back in Joe & Vinny; with us being at home and desperately needing the points then I’ll be slightly less concerned going into this one.
Result? Win.

Southampton (A)
Raheem available from the bench if needed and baring any other injuries (of course we will have…that’s ‘our season’) we now have everyone fit for the remaining 3, crucial games.
Couple of away draws but going quite well now. Classic time for us to slip-up then; especially against a side who can, sometimes, be very dangerous indeed. They are prone to imploding too though…but they are also chasing a Europa place. All things considered…
Result? Draw.

Arsenal (H)
Wow! What a last home game to have! Of course I have no idea how The Gunners will get on in all of that time (I’m certainly not doing a full analysis of ‘the others’ in the same period) but I’m guessing that they’ll be ‘in the mix’ for something and that this one COULD be a ‘6-pointer’ between the two sides. Tense, crucial game; goals at both ends but, at least, we are at home and we will, hopefully, have all players available against a side who can be very devastating ‘on their day’.
Result? Draw.

Let’s just hope that The Swans can pick up points over the next few weeks and ‘reach the 40’ or more because if ‘points are needed’ at a-then thunderous Liberty Stadium on the last day of the season, then this could scupper our own plans. Having won 3 from their last 4 (at time of writing this) they are on 36 points and, so, should have well reached safety by then. How that-then affects them we won’t know until the time comes; they could, for example, relax and, therefore, play better…or they could start to ‘shut down’ and ‘run the season out’. I repeat, I just hope we still have all of our players available by this stage too…
Result? Win.

Total points tally in the next 8 games?  16 / 24
Total points tally for the season? 67

Where might that leave us?

At best I’d say that we MIGHT just grab 4thand so just how tense will those games against Arsenal & Swansea City be?!

I’d take that right now because…a look at the last few season’s Premier League final tables suggests that 67 points this season – baring in mind a remarkably low-points scoring season for most teams let’s not forget – might only be enough for us to enter the Europa competition in Pep’s first season in charge.

We might even lose at, say, Chelsea on 16th April but, equally, we could even turn a couple of other draws into wins and get closer to 19 from 24 remaining points and, therefore, 70 overall points. That could see us finish 3rd.

In other words – and to finish off – I think 2nd is now completely out of the equation and, equally, the Europa League is definitely a possibility for us.

The scrap starts at 3:00pm (BST) on 2nd April 2016 at Vitality Stadium

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Manchester v Trafford Derby

I actually see this one as less of ‘a derby’, in a way, and more the start of our scrap for a 2nd or 3rd-place finish; 4th as an absolute minimum, of course, and with a chance also to put a nail into Manyoo’s almost completed coffin for the 2015 / 2016 season. 


The fact that the next game is against ‘them’ simply adds a little more spice to the new target / run-in of ours…

v Manyoo


Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

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







Hart, of course.

What a very different back-line forced on us for this clash! Clichy, who continues to perform very well indeed, to keep his place at left-back and on the opposite side, Pablo once again. Forced on us, however, is likely to be the unlikely pairing of Eliaquim & Bacary. And so we move onto the midfield…

Fernando the ‘key player’ and almost 5th defender for this one; protecting that back 4 like crazy! Fernandinho similarly but with some licence to help further forward. Yaya to float around, sometimes menacingly. Raheem and Silva likely to be the wide and creative men; Sergio the lone front man.

In addition to Willy, Aleks and Martin, injuries are likely to see the addition of Tosin from the EDS as extra defensive cover. Jesus, Wilfried and Kelechi make up the attacking options from the bench.

Notable absences:

-       Vincent Kompany (injured)

-       Nicholas Otamendi (some doubt over recovery from injury, as of the statement issued on 18th March)

-       Kevin De Bruyne (on way back from injury - in light training / possibly about to take part in a comeback, friendly match behind closed doors)

-       Fabian Delph (on way back from injury - in light training / possibly about to take part in a comeback, friendly match behind closed doors)

-       Samir Nasri (on way back from injury – taking part in in normal training activities / likely to take part in a comeback, friendly match behind closed doors)

Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up?

It’s about all he can do really and, so, yeah I suppose.

My prediction does also come with a rider in that after publication, Nicholas Otamendi will have been reassessed again and might, then, be deemed fit to start, which will change the line-up picture considerably at the back.

In addition - and on this occasion in ‘this little section’ - I’m gonna throw down and alternative & suggested starting 11; one that Pellegrini is VERY unlikely to go with, one that’s a little bit unorthodox especially in ‘todays game’…but one I might consider for this one - with Vinny and possibly Nicholas missing - if I were Manager.








Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Adarabioyo, Navas, Sterling, Bony, Iheanacho.

As suspect as Eliaquim is and as slow as Martin can be; with Clichy & Zabaleta also doing a ¾-defending role in wing-back positions AND with Fernando as the “6th defender”; is any Manyoo player gonna get through that lot? I doubt it, not very often anyway…and if they do then they’ve still got Joe to contend with.

What?! So defensive?! At home?! In a derby?! Are you mad?!

Well not really – with Clichy & Zabaleta ‘overlapping’ and going forward at times and with a fine quartet of players who, should-then, be in ‘full attack mode’ in the knowledge that all should be taken care of behind them; David, Yaya & Fernandinho behind Sergio not-only provides a compact midfield to counter their likely ‘packed centre’ but is-also a seriously potent threat to their goal.

As I say, never gonna happen under Pellegrini but I just thought I’d indulge myself on this occasion and ‘share’ that one with you.

Result? With Vinny out and Nicholas possibly out too I’d usually be quite concerned about this one; a game, as I’ve said, less about local’ish pride and more about securing one of those vital slots come the end of the season.

But with Manyoo having to-have scrapped like crazy in something called the “Europa League” against a certain Liverpool as late as Thursday night; then we could be facing a team of tired legs and low morale [following their 2-legged defeat and exit from another competition].

I think that’ll be a ‘big teller’ and as long as we add - to our morale-boosting progression through to the quarter finals of the Champions League and 48-hour extra recovering time - a sense of urgency & organisation against Hippo Head’s men, then this should be a reasonably comfortable victory in the end. That’s what I’m going for.