Sunday, 13 August 2017

Whilst all challengers were leaking…



…like a big leaky thing in the market town of Leek on Friday & Saturday; we produced a solid, organised and professional display to ease past new-comers Brighton.


What a start to the Prem!


I personally think the last 2 seasons at least have been very unpredictable both scoreline and club-finishing-position-wise but…what the hell was going on at the weekend (Friday included)?!

We started with a 7-goal thriller as Arsenal shipped in 3 goals at home only to finally overcome Leicester City 4-3 and in a game with almost as many goals; the next match saw Watford share a 3-3 draw with visitors Liverpool!

Not enough excitement for you? Try Chelsea being 0-3 down at home to Burnley; seeing 2 of their players sent off before pulling it back to an eventual 2-3 defeat – just your 5 goals there…

Huddersfield Town, back in the ‘top flight’ for the first time in 45 years, slammed 3 past hosts Crystal Palace and kept a clean sheet to go top of the table as things stand right now!

Huh…shame on Southampton & Swansea City, then, for producing a 0-0 draw and on Everton & West Bromwich Albion also; who could “only” manage 1-0 home wins against Stoke City & AFC Bournemouth respectively…

So where do we stand in that mixed bag of ‘week 1’?


I think that puts us somewhere ‘in between’ in our opening match – we didn’t exactly light up the stage and as time ticked along without breaching the home side’s many defensive walls, there was a level of anxiety from the watching City fans in the pub I was in that appeared to be shared on Pep’s face, as the camera increasingly focused on the Spaniard in the second half.

We were efficient & well organised; pushing the home side further and further back into their own half, where they appeared to start in a 5-3-2 and later switched to a 6-3-1 as we increased the almost endless pressure.

But we did it in a plodding, slow-passing way for large parts and we also looked a little lopsided. No slight meant on new signing Danilo - who had a very good pre-season on both flanks of the defence - but he struggled in an attacking sense yesterday, I thought. No issues in-him defending and he is far less one-footed than the recently-departed Aleks Kolarov. But he clearly isn’t comfortable ‘whipping them in’ with his left foot; as he constantly had to 'check' his run to turn and tap the ball inside with his right peg yesterday. That slowed any attack we tried to muster down that side of the pitch.

Fernandinho did okay in a protecting, breaking-up role but he’s no Yaya with regards to killer passes on the ‘front foot’. I think we missed the Ivorian in that respect on Saturday evening and, together with the other aspects of our game that I’ve mentioned, we almost paid the price early in the second half; as The Seagulls came close on two occasions to-taking the lead.

Kyle Walker - a crackin' competative debut
But the other flank was a completely different story. Kyle Walker had a terrific, MotM performance game both defending and in attack and once Kevin De Bruyne decided to join the party, the pair caused havoc! If only Kevin could do that for 70% of games and not just 30 or 40% of the time…

Gabriel Jesus - effort aplenty
We still seem to struggle to stick the ball in the net – a real issue from last season despite the creation we had in 2016 / 17 and still have in the side – but it’s not through want of trying.

And, as I alluded to in my first blog-posting of the season on Friday, it does concern me a little that we’re leaving on the bench the likes of Leroy Sane & Bernardo Silva (and Yaya) in favour of 3 central defenders and 2 defender wing-backs when, as happened yesterday, we often struggled to crack the oppo’s defence for 70 minutes of the contest. I’m confident, however, that things will look different once fitness & sharpness properly ‘kicks in’ and when we get flying left-wing-back Benjamin Mendy over his niggle and in the side.

And, I think and would hope, we’ll be quicker to make subs at home in certain games to a 4-4-2 / 4-5-1 when required also.

Cracked 'em! Aguero gives City the lead after a terrifc move.
 
As for yesterday at the Amex Stadium, we ‘got there in the end’ and I bet the likes of Chelsea & Liverpool would snap our hand off to swap 3 points and a clean sheet with us!

3 points, clean sheet, no injuries, job done. And didn’t we look good in maroon? We finally look like ‘City away’.

Next?

Estadi Montilivi

City are off to Spain for 4 days now for some (VERY) warm weather training and a recently-arranged friendly against Girona. With the Everton home game being pushed to a Monday night (8:00pm BST) it’s given City time to fly off and play against one of our ‘sister clubs’.

I’m off on holiday myself tomorrow for 5 days but should be back in time to pop a pre-Everton blog-posting on.

Thanks, as always, for reading and I’ll see you soon.

Friday, 11 August 2017

An early, potential banana skin?




Okay, if we had drawn Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton or Tottenham Hotspur away in our opening fixture we might be forgiven for taking in a short, sharp intake-breath of air at the prospect of a ‘tuffy’ first game in. 

 

However, when the fixtures came out and I saw newly-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion (A), I did raise a cautious eyebrow.


Footy’s back!


Those who know me will tell you that I like a break from football in order to recharge the batteries ready for the start of the best sporting season on the planet. I particularly look forward to the every-other-year of no European Finals or World Cup too in order to really take a rest from what is, let’s face it, a long, 9-month season played out mostly through the colder, darker, UK months.

As stated in my last blog posting, I haven’t produced ongoing postings regarding on the ‘crazy time’ that is the summer transfer window – an example of that being the non-signing of Dani Alves; who I had down as a 9/10 chance of signing, only for him to get on a different plane and sign for Paris Saint-Germain instead.

So, in summary, what’s happened over the summer so far?

Out so far:

Angus Gunn                            -           Loaned to Norwich City for the rest of the season (ROS).
Joe Hart                                  -           Loaned to West Ham United for the ROS for a fee of around £2M but with City paying around half his wages…about £2M.
Willy Caballero                        -           Released.
Aleks Kolarov                          -           Sold to Roma for £5.25M.
Bacary Sagna                         -           Released.
Gael Clichy                             -           Released.
Pablo Maffeo                          -           Loaned to Girona for ROS.
Pablo Mari                              -           Loaned to NAC Breda for ROS.
Pablo Zabaleta                        -           Released.
Jose Angel Tasende               -           Loaned to NAC Breda for ROS.
Aaron Mooy                            -           Sold to Huddersfield Town for an initial fee of £8M.
Aleix Garcia                            -           Loaned to Girona for ROS.
Bersant Celina                        -           Loaned to Ipswich Town for ROS.
Bruno Zuculini                         -           Released.
Manu Garcia Alonso               -           Loaned to NAC Breda for ROS.
Olivier Ntcham                        -           Sold to Celtic for an initial fee of £4.25M
Fernando                                 -           Sold to Galatasaray for an initial fee of £4.74M.
Paolo Fernandes                    -           Loaned to NAC Breda for ROS.
Jesus Navas                           -           Released.
Marlos Moreno                        -           Loaned to Girona for ROS.
Nolito                                       -           Sold to Sevilla for an initial fee of £7.9M
Enes Unal                               -           Sold to Villarreal for £11.9M (includes a first choice, buy-back clause)
Kelechi Iheanacho                  -           Sold to Leicester City for £25M (includes a £50M, first choice, buy-back clause)
Ruben Sobrino                        -           Sold to Deportivo Alaves for £1.7M
Thierry Ambrose                     -           Loaned to NAC Breda for ROS.


I feel like I should get NAC Breda & Girona scarves!

Total incoming money from sales so far: An initial £68.74M

Needed (in my opinion):

A goalkeeper
A left-back
A secondary left-back
A right-back
A secondary right-back
A Central defender
Possibly a holding, defensive midfield addition
A striker

In so far:

Ederson Moraes (GK)            -           Bought from Benfica for £35M
Benjamin Mendy (D – L)         -           Bought from Monaco for £49.1M
Danilo (D – L / R)                    -           Bought from Real Madrid for £26.5M
Kyle Walker (D – R)                -           Bought from Spurs for initial fee of £45M
Bernardo Silva (M/W – L/R/C) -         Bought from Monaco for £43.5M
Douglas Luiz (M – C)              -           Bought from Vasco de Gama for £10.3M (loaned to Girona for ROS)

Total expenditure on players so far: £209.4M

Silliest rumour-link I’ve seen this summer?

Neymar to City for £190M.
A. City / Pep wouldn’t DARE use most of his / their rumoured £300M ‘war chest’ on just one player.
B. As wonderfully skilful, creative and goal-threatening as he his; at £190M…no chance.
C. Most importantly, just not needed! On that side of the attack we have Leroy Sane & Gabriel Jesus (and Benjamin Mendy in many ways) - two (three) very young, very exciting and very talented footballers; along with others in the squad that can do a very good back-up job on that side if required.

v Brighton & Hove Albion


Amex Stadium


Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

3-5-1-1:

____________________Aguero____________________




_____________________Jesus____________________




__________D. Silva_____________De Bruyne_______


Danilo_______________Toure_______________Walker



________Otamendi___Kompany___Stones__________




____________________Ederson___________________


I have to admit that I’ve been taken completely by surprise by Pep’s decision to go with 3 centre-backs in pre-season; a formation I had heard many weeks ago that Chelsea and one or two others might ‘go with’ this season. Some Blues I have spoken to are of the opinion that this could change to a ‘back 4’ formation for certain games…

So…new keeper, Ederson, in between the posts for our opener.

In front of him we should see the trio of Nicholas, Vinny, & John.

Slightly ahead of those should be new signings Danilo & Walker in very attacking wing-back roles and in between those I think we’ll see, more often than not, Yaya ‘keeping guard’; having clearly been given a deep-laying, roaming / passing job.

An ‘attacking quartet’, then, with central midfielders David & Kevin and Gabriel & Sergio topping it all off.

Claudio as back-up keeper (gonna stop using the 'alternative names' from last season for now – new season / clean slate ‘n’ all that); Fernandinho as cover for Yaya and, if required, one or more of the defensive positions. It’s then a very young & attacking list of ‘back-up’ players in Phil, Brahim, Leroy, new-signing Bernardo and Raheem.

Notable absences: Benjamin Mendy (injured) & Ilkay Gundogan (On way back from injury - a couple of weeks away from a return).

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



I’m warming to it, having watched the whole of the West Ham game and highlights of the other 3 games in the USA. We work it very well to our advantage.

But, for now and to answer my own questions, I’m gonna say no; with the amount of attacking midfield & wing talent we have I think it’s a bit of a waste to have more than there should be sat on the bench. I’d go something like…

Fluid 4-4-1-1:

____________________Aguero____________________




_____________________Jesus____________________




Sane_________D. Silva_______De Bruyne____B. Silva



Danilo___________________________________Walker

______________Stones_______Kompany___________





____________________Ederson___________________

But Pep knows best of course and I’m sure it’ll be a system that’ll work very well - and that I’ll get used to – especially when we get Mendy in the team.

Result? I think we’ll face a very excited & loud home crowd and a team full of built-up adrenaline. Back in the top division for the first time since 1983; at home, chosen as a televised game and against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City - how could anyone connected with Brighton & Hove Albion NOT be up for this one?!

They’ll have a go at us and I think the first 20 minutes or so will be played at a frenetic pace! They might even take a shock lead.

But regardless of whether the game will burst into life at 5:30pm (BST) or is, less likely, played cautiously by both sides; we have such amazing quality and control of our own energies & ‘pace of games’ that over the whole 90+ minutes, I think we’ll have way too much for the home side. This is a City win for me and it could, eventually, be by quite a number of goals…

Last season’s, corresponding prediction and result…
Prediction: N/A
Result: N/A


Footy’s back!