Thursday, 28 January 2016
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
It’ll be cold, wet ‘n’ windy tomorrow evening and so let’s hope for a packed house and a blisteringly-hot reception for The Toffees from the home crowd.
90+ minutes away from Wembley – let’s hope the players are up for this one too and can ‘turn on the style’ we all know they are capable of…
Straight to it with a predicted line-up, subs and the all-important outcome…
Having already stated before the last leg that he would do this; Willy to replace Joe in net for the League Cup.
Gael & Martin forced to ‘go again’, unless our manager chooses an EDS player or two...or Bacary [to go again also] to perhaps 'fill in' in the centre of defence. Nicholas to continue to be our main hope in the heart of our back-4 and Pablo likely to start this one on the right.
Having played most of the game just 4-days earlier, I suppose our manager may choose not to start Fabian. But I’m going for the England man to be our main (only?) defensive midfielder to start, at least. Ahead of him in this ‘must score game’ is likely to be 4, largely attack-minded midfielders / wingers in the form of Raheem, Yaya (hopefully more advanced tomorrow night that he was at the weekend), Fernandinho (for much-missed, extra impetus) and David.
Sergio on his own again ‘up top’, albeit with more attacking support behind him [than against West Ham].
Joe having a rare ‘bench spot’ [can’t imagine it being Richard Wright for this one], Bacary & our EDS’s Tosin likely to be the two defensive back-ups. Fernando is a probable bench starter (he might start); Jesus, Kevin & Kelechi the pace, creativity & goal-threat insurance (but don’t leave it too late Manuel if needed!)
Notable absences: Aleksandar Kolarov (injured), Vincent Kompany (injured), Eliaquim Mangala (injured), Samir Nasri (injured) and Wilfried Bony (injured).
Result? For a couple of days - following last Saturdays scraped, 2-2 draw - I could not drag myself out of a feeling of a draw on the night and, therefore, elimination at the very last hurdle of this competition. Now call it pre-match excitement, call it blind, City optimism or call it just plain foolishness…but I’m going for our players to ‘step up’ for this one.
With the crowd behind them – and I think they’ll ‘step up’ too – I can see this being a home win…and possibly a scoreline that won’t require extra time.
Sunday, 24 January 2016
He is prone to it more than I personally would like, is our ‘Engineer’ Manuel Pellegrini – did he not want to at least TRY to win it yesterday?!
(Plus ‘Delayed reaction’ 1 & 2 after the post-West Ham ramblings…)
Now…in my pre-match blog-posting ahead of our tea-time KO in London, this was my ‘predicted line-up’…where I got 3 wrong:
My pre-match formation is never, I’ll underline, MY choice 11 – I rarely indulge myself with one of those.
Now IF I had chosen to pick my starting 11 before yesterday’s game against West Ham United then this would have been it:
Now of course nearly all keen footy fans are ‘managers in waiting’ from the stands and from their armchairs – they all think, I’m sure, that ‘they know better’. The worrying thing is, for me at least – and this is despite, of course, not seeing the players working in training day in & day out – is that a lot of the time fans DO make more sense and can quite-often be proven right.
What’s even more concerning for me also is that this is happening with more regularity this season when it comes to City and Manuel Pellegrini’s team selections…
This is what our manager went with at Upton Park yesterday…
So what the difference?
Well for a start I think you should choose one of your most competent & consistent defenders this season to fill a hole – a BIG hole – that is the centre of our defence; for that you choose Bacary Sagna way ahead of the old legs of Martin Demichelis against a team renown, this season at least, for pacey counter attacks. And another reason you might consider that smart move? That-then allows for another outstanding, right-sided player to come in at right-back.
All of a sudden a right-sided pairing of Bacary & Pablo – along with Nicholas & Gael – looks something LIKE a defence with the personnel we have available at the moment.
Not quite sure about that?
Then not to worry – away at West Ham surely…SURELY Mr Pellegrini you go with Fabian & Fernando to help create a mobile & solid core; not only to help protect that back 4 but to then-also create a springboard for a powerful attack; aided by overlapping runs from the flanking defenders with the protection of the England & Brazilian midfielders.
Springboard to what?
A flippin’ springboard that allows hyper-criticised Yaya Toure to be where he should be; in an advanced midfield position worrying the **** out of the opposition!
Where else did Pellegrini’s team selection nearly cost us yesterday in terms of no points in a full-blooded scrap for this season’s Premier League title? Simple…by choosing travel sick Kevin De Bruyne over a player who, also, thrives on a starting place [rather than being an impact-sub player] in Raheem Sterling.
What on EARTH was he doing picking Kevin De Bruyne for this one over the England attacker, especially with a very important home game coming up in the League Cup against Everton [where Kevin often looks a little more comfortable / lively]?
And further concerns for me over our £55M Belgium midfielder is that not only has he faded and faded and faded ever since he exploded onto the scene in a Manchester City shirt; not only – and I’ve used similar phrases before – does he look like a lost, lonely child when we play away from the Etihad; but he-also can’t seem to ‘do a David Silva’.
What am I on about?
Well we have so much wealth in talent & options across the middle that, inevitably, some of our creative midfielders are gonna find themselves closer to the touchline in certain formations & personnel choices than they would perhaps like. David Silva, in fact and for me at least, is far less effective overall when shoved over to the left or right.
But when he IS asked to our Spanish magician has both to know-how and ability to know when & where to drift in and ‘GET INVOLVED’! Kevin? Not a clue from what I’ve seen so far.
The fair-haired, creative record breaker from Wolfsburg gets asked, on many-an-occasion, to fulfil this wider role and he does that, at least, to good effect – sadly what I mean by that is that he hugs the touchline like a frightened 8-year old hugging his favourite teddy bear!
Now a Kevin De Bruyne ‘tucked in’ more in the middle and instantly - and I mean INSTANTLY – he looks like a much, much better player.
Do you remember the game against Crystal Palace recently and, in particular, our 4th goal? Do you recall Kevin’s overall contribution at home during that 90+ minutes and in the snow showers that came drifting in as the game progressed? If not, I’ll remind you…by simply saying that it was another, largely ‘go missing’ performance from the Belgium (more worrying at home too) as he was, once again, asked to play out wide.
Once again our manager - despite us leading 3-0 against The Eagles on this occasion - ‘shuffled it up a bit’ towards the end (I will give him credit for how he does do that to largely good effect; even though he often does it far too late) and Kevin found himself more central. Result? He instantly got more involved; saw more of the ball, looked livelier, far happier AND, in fact, played a good part in our last goal of the afternoon!
So...then we have yesterday evening’s game and as soon as our manager finally ‘made some changes’ then, once AGAIN, Kevin began to work his-own, particular magic.
Do you see a pattern Mr Pellegrini (yeah…like he’s gonna read this)?
And along with-us ‘pushing up’ in general against a then-retreating Hammers side (something I recall with alarming-similarity away to Watford recently too); Yaya moving away from his “defensive duties” (I’ll use that term very lightly indeed) and the likes of the ever-impressive & dangerous Kelechi Iheanacho giving our never-stops-running Sergio a little assistance (and we wonder why he breaks down so often; having to work so very hard more often than not on his own); it all looked so very, very different…and FAR BETTER!
I say again…did our manager not WANT to win yesterday?! Thank God for Joe Hart, Fabian Delph and Sergio Aguero at least…
It’s a far different game coming up in mid-week of course - at home against different opposition and in a different competition & circumstances.
But if our manager continues to put ‘square pegs in round holes’ – like he does far too often with Yaya & Kevin – and continues NOT to select, in his starting 11, personnel perfect for certain occasions - such as Fernando, Raheem & Kelechi – then we can kiss a trip to Wembley in February goodbye.
Even more worrying, for me, is that I’ve got a faint recollection that a certain Jose Mourinho was quoted as saying [soon after we signed him] that Kevin De Bruyne was a bit of a sulker and lacked ‘fighting spirit’…and that Kevin himself was also quoted as saying that he thought he was being played out of position at Chelsea - more on the left-flank than in the middle. Oh dear…
The other day I did a piece on our EDS / Academy. I ended that by saying I was, that very afternoon, going to watch ‘em play against Reading in the Youth Premier League. So I thought I’d do a bit of feedback.
I won’t give you a blow-by-blow report on the game itself, which ebbed & flowed and got better as time ticked on but I will, instead and in light of that same article, give a summary of who I thought stood out for City.
I’ll start by saying I didn’t think anyone had a particularly bad game at all…and I will also add that Reading were a lively and hard-working side; if not a little lacking in ‘teeth’ up front.
Tosin Adarabioyo – a player I’ve always been impressed with every time I’ve seen him – did not disappoint at centre back. Tall but mobile; very cool, intelligent and with a decent pass on him. Had another good game.
Ashley Smith-Brown, playing at left-back, was slow to start and didn’t look too comfortable in the first half. However, whatever was said and / or done at the interval worked; as he defended better, got forward more in support of the left-winger and even nudged into central midfield in a supporting role in some attacks; where he finished very well indeed from just outside the area on 65 minutes to make it 1-1; after Reading had taken the lead just 4 minutes earlier.
Aleix Garcia – a livewire in the centre of midfield, particularly in the second half – was a strong contender for MotM. A skilful player who scored a CRACKING volley from 25-yards or so, as the ball sat-up nicely for him to make it 2-1 just 3 minutes later.
The game - bathed in crystal-blue-sky sunshine for the most part and, which, was already better in the second half than it was in the first - was definitely bursting into life!
Sinan Bytyqi was a constant menace to Reading after the break – another skilful midfielder / winger who really stood-out for me.
Rodney Kongolo (registered on MCFC's WEB site in our Under 18's team rather than the EDS) was probably the biggest stand-out player for BOTH halves. The number 8 [on the day] busied himself for most of the game in breaking-up play and helping to sweep up any miss-passes and lose balls. Although clearly defence-minded; he’s a real box-to-box’er…
Bersant Celina was another player who grew into the game and for the last ‘30 or so’ was a REAL thorn in Reading’s side. Another attacking midfielder too.
Although I expected it from a player who has been flirting with the first team; I have to add that Brandon Barker showed just how intelligent, skilful and dangerous he is on the left-wing.
Can’t really call a MotM to be honest – all of those were in contention for me. Pushed…I’d give it to Aleix Garcia.
Not sure what happened to Cameron Humphries; perhaps he joined Angelino (who made the bench at Upton Park) with the first-team squad as they travelled to face West Ham. Those two are central & left-sided defenders respectively and, apart from Tosin, it was so-very obvious to me that, against Reading on Friday at least, we were far stronger going forward in the attacking midfield sense.
Hopefully some of these will progress into the first team of course – I would need to watch them more than I do now to assess what I think their chances are (along with how much emphasis our potential next manager places on youth development & opportunities).
“£4M for a 26-year old, English striker; one who knows how to ‘bang ‘em in’, one who is, in general, a flippin’ nuisance to the opposition…and one who ran us ragged when we played them at Loftus Road on 8th November 2014”.
Not exactly word for word…but that was pretty much the text I sent to a fellow Blue BEFORE Charlie Austin banged-in the winner a Cold Trafford yesterday (he-hee) adding…
…WHY did we not put a bid in!