Gutted and a little stunned after the heavy defeat at Everton; this was soon followed by a slightly more rational and long-term view of our situation, as I fired off a few post-match texts to fellow Blues.
Work & ‘life’ soon followed (got in the way) and, so, here’s some thoughts following our 4-0 loss at not-so-Goodison Park…
Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the opposition and in this case, we were given a lesson in (a) just how to defend, (b) what a good keeper performance looks like (in case you’ve already forgotten what it was like to have game-saver / changer Joe Hart in a City shirt) and (c) how to finish clinically up front.
We had most of the possession and, thankfully, our midfield / wing department can still largely hold their heads up with some merit both last Sunday and ‘in general’ this season – once again we dominated the ball and created plenty of chances but, once again, for what? If we can’t finish (again) and have a wet-paper-tissue defence just what is the point?!
- 71% possession away from home looks impressive but, not for the first time, we have absolutely NOTHING to show for it.
- And part of the reason for that is this next, familiar figure, which is that only around 1/3 of our attempts at goal were heading towards the net [on target] with just 5 from 13 efforts. Everton? 5 shots, 4 on target and 4 goals scored – another damning figure against us and our defensive team.
I’ve said this before…
More and more am I frustrated and completely bewildered as to why we didn’t buy a quality left-back in the summer. A big head-scratcher for me and many Blues I’m sure. It’s something like 5-½ years since we last signed a left-back and when you consider just how obvious it’s been to so many as a problem area for us spread over 3 different managers; just what the HELL is going on with that?!
We strengthened the central defence area (some cynics would argue not) with the acquisition of John Stones…but should closer scrutiny have been applied before the summer transfer window closed when looking at Vincent Kompany’s TERRIBLE injury record and Nicholas Otamendi’s ‘hit & miss’ performances?
We jettisoned Eliaquim Mangala; Pep doesn’t appear to want to use Tosin Adarabioyo or Cameron Humphreys and we’ve seen the use of left & right-backs as central defenders…and so I would say this is indeed an area of the team that has been neglected & underestimated as needing a big ‘repair job’ in the summer of 2016.
And then we have the continued, baffling situation of the striking unit of our team. This isn’t a new issue either; in my opinion – despite having the highly coveted and often-deadly Sergio Aguero – we have been lacking real quality back-up for the Argentine and quality in numbers for a few seasons now.
Decisions to let all of the very best EDS forwards / strikers go out on loan just exacerbates a situation where we have even ‘slotted in’ the likes of Nolito & Kevin De Bruyne as ‘emergency strikers’ this season. We’re supposed to be a ‘top team’ – ‘top teams’ often run with / rotate FOUR quality strikers for God’s sake!
Of course, the imminent arrival of Gabriel Jesus will – or should - relieve some of the pressure on a clearly unhappy-looking Aguero, give us a boost ‘up front’ and paper over some of the neglected cracks…but it’s all a little ‘after the horse has bolted’ for me.
I’ve just mentioned it – Sergio looks sad. Pick your own theory…
- Apparently he has never been a very good ‘training pitch’ type of player - more of a natural footballer who just wants to turn up and ‘do it on the pitch’ – and, therefore, this could well be a ‘clash point’ with a manager who likes his players to train very hard and to practice to perfection various systems / methods.
- Just a personality clash in general? We’ve heard rumours that the ‘big personalities’ of the dressing room under the last 2 managers were quickly slapped down by Pep; those include departed Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany.
- Fed up of doing all the front work on his own? Something I’ve already covered in this piece…
- Just time for a move / going stale? Could be.
Whatever it is, I hope he can get through it. I hope he stays for many seasons to come…but am concerned that with just 2-½ years remaining on his contract - and new contract negotiations that seemed to stall and then fade away completely around the time Pep became Manager – he could be gone in the summer.
Speaking of unhappy, it was a concern to see Pep slumped in his chair for most of the Everton game; arms folded and looking completely fed up and largely disinterested.
That actually irritated me a little too at the time.
It’s all been said before and I get the feeling that even those City fans who weren’t big Joe Hart fans (I will never understand that myself) can surely see that his replacement has been a disaster.
I’ll just add (or repeat if I’ve said this before and forgotten) that no-one will ever convince me that a vastly experienced, 29-year old keeper could not have been taught to use his feet better and even if it was only to 75% of Pep’s standard / liking of his keeper’s footwork ability; at least that would have been improved and we’d have retained a goalie who had a decent chance of stopping at least 3 out of every 5 shots!
I’ll make this bold statement too – Joe Hart was my player of the season last season (many seem to have forgotten just how many game-changing and magnificent saves he made in 2015 / 2016) and had we’d retained England’s Number 1, we’d have had at least 9 extra points this season I’m sure of it.
Learning season – I’ll end on a positive note...
Some have already labelled our new manager as “stubborn” and, yes, there are some small signs of that from the Spaniard. I ‘get’ that he’s steadfast in wanting to show that ‘his style’ and beliefs about football can fit into any league and, perhaps when he acquires more of ‘his players’ it will work in time.
But perhaps, also, he needs to realise that until he has the personnel he wants it is he who needs to adapt his systems a little and for the time being.
But in fairness, he has been humble too by admitting several times in his short tenure - and from very early on at MCFC - that he needs to ‘learn this league’ and country’s footballing ways. Thankfully we have owners who, I’m sure, understood this when they appointed him and didn’t expect INSTANT glory…or so I’d like to think (and hope).
I do honestly believe that with a season of Premier League experience under his belt; a clear-out of many who will be surplus to requirements, I’m sure, and many replacements for those departing players in the summer; we’ll see a far better defence, a far more potent attack force and more consistency in results at the very least.
This season, in terms of challenging for the league title at least, has probably slipped away already and although we still cling to both the F.A. Cup and Champions League [having only exited one competition let us not forget]; I already expect, rather than hope in desperation, that next season will be much, MUCH better for us Blues.