Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Don’t turn up too early…

…you might be asked to play! 


That’s an old phrase I’ve heard said to fans many-a-time when playing personnel become a bit ‘thin on the ground’.

Am I allowed to say it?


First to arrive? Your kit & boots are under your seat...

Few people like it when people say, “I told you so” and I’m not exactly saying that…but I did, at least, express fears only last Sunday about John Stones breaking down.

Even with a club as rich as ours and with arguable the best manager in the world – these are the times that test all resources.

So, with the likes of Pep Guardiola and his very experienced staff left to properly sort it out; what can a mere fan like me do to contribute? Well, instead of the usual pre-match blog-posting ahead of tonight’s Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk, I’ll just run through the options and likely solution our manager may have at his disposal / eventually choose.






A simple 'inputting of' Eric for John; causing as little disruption as possible and showing faith in Nicolas, Oleksandr and Kyle to sort ‘emselves out. Pep has already said that he will not doubt his players and, so, I can see him sticking to that principle. Having said that, it’s not always easy to guess what the Spanish boss is going to do next…






I have to agree, to some degree, with those who say that Pep doesn’t often show a lot of faith in the youth unless he feels he can, “get away with it”. Eric has some first team experience but only in the domestic cups and, even then, often in the earlier rounds, from memory at least. So, option ‘number 2’ is simply asking Kyle to 'step inside' and give Joao his shot at what he came here in the summer to do. As for Kyle, he has played more centrally at times where we’ve changed the tactics ‘in game’ but it’s usually on the right-side of 'a 3'.





So…here it is, with Kyle on the right of a ‘back 3’. Ahead of this, then, is open to more debate as, should Pep go with ‘option 3’, it could mean that we’d have 3 centre-backs, 2 attacking wing-backs (pushed further up) and a defensive midfielder all on the pitch at the same time; reducing our outright attacking numbers by one in some kind of…3-6-1 formation; with a narrow attacking midfield 3 behind 1 striker and the wing-backs providing the width.

There are more options of course, such as…

-       A defensive partnership of Otamendi and Fernandinho, although to me that leaves some question marks about pace at the heart of our defence.

-       When fit again, playing Mendy instead of Zinchenko or, indeed, keeping Walker on the right and using Cancelo on the left-side of the defence.

-       He could even pitch Rodri in as a central defender with (whoever) and then there’s the young Taylor Harwood-Bellis, who looked good in pre-season.

So, yes…on the side of those who are not supposedly panicking there ARE, indeed, options aplenty and I’m betting Pep was half-working on these in his brilliant head before we-even lost Laporte.

But let’s have it right, we’re not a Championship side nor a mid-table Premier League side hoping to grab as many points as possible each season and hoping, also, for a “good cup run”. We’re at the TOP now; have to compete at our very best all of the time as teams in our own country line up to ‘have a good crack at us’ and attempt to ‘shoot us down’. And then, in Europe, we have to ‘go again’ against some of the very best!

THAT’S why losing Kompany, Laporte and Stones within just a few weeks of each other should be seen as a big concern and although we do have those options that I’ve listed above - and perhaps more - they are all ‘sticking plaster’ solutions and anyone who thinks otherwise should, in my opinion, NOT be expecting us to-even attempt to bring in another specialist, central defender in January.

I hope those highly paid and experienced players I’ve mentioned can ‘step up’ and adapt as Pep will, no doubt, be asking them to-now-do because if they don’t, it’s gonna be an interesting 4 months ahead [to January] to say the very least!

I do, of course, have faith in Pep and most of the players and I’m sure we’ll find a good solution or two. It’s just a case of finding that solution and settling things down before too much damage is done…

Sunday, 15 September 2019

What on Earth was that?!

There are ‘bad days at the office’…and then there are days where, in hindsight, you should never have left your bedroom; let alone your house.

Where to start!

Well, first of all, I said in Friday’s piece that I thought it could be a really good game and that it could be a win by a big score. Well…for Norwich and the neutrals it was a good game; had 5 goals in it, no less, and was a “big score” for the home side.

Before I even get started on the defence; not for the first time in this short season so far, I thought we started the game with some AWFUL passing! It reminded me of Bournemouth away a few weeks ago. However, unlike our trip to The Cherries where we finally found our rhythm, it didn’t improve yesterday and I’m talking about most of our players, Ederson & Rodri aside at least.

We just didn’t look like the Manchester City we’ve come to watch in awe in the last few seasons…and we DON’T look like Manchester City in that flippin’ awful mishmash, pathetic excuse of a kit that is supposed to represent my football club, but I won’t get into making kits the excuse for yesterday’s farce of a display...

Original invisible man?
Kyle Walker continues to try and you can’t fault his desire. In fact, he often looks so ‘on the edge’ I’m often concerned that he’s about to get booked or worse; either for a bad challenge or for going way over the top when remonstrating with officials. I saw all of that yesterday but no more than a 5/10 performance-wise from the left-out [from international duty last week] England man.

On the opposite flank, Zinchenko appeared to have taken huge steps backwards to the days where he’d only first been thrust-in as emergency cover into the left-wing back slot, struggling to defend at times; with a terrible passing radar going forward and attempting to foul far too often, which I’ve noticed has crept into his game in general of late. He gets less that Walker for ‘marks out of 10’ from me in yesterday’s game.

John Stones looks like a player who has hardly played; has spent more time in the treatment room than on the grass during his time at Manchester City and was lacking any conviction. Oh…hang on! That’s EXACTLY what the case is with the former England centre back.

And then we have Nicolas Otamendi – a player who was rumoured to be ‘heading out of the door’ last summer but who, presumably, was asked to "stick around" just in case we didn’t find a central defender to replace Vincent Kompany, which we didn’t. Can you recall a worse performance from a City player since Pep took charge? I’m struggling…

I’m still head-scratching how we managed to let their man in for the first goal when we had at least 6 players ‘zonal marking’ who, for some reason, didn’t react until the ball was flying past Ederson! The second goal our defensive line was all over the shop and we just got torn to pieces from around the half-way line. And as for what the HELL Stones & Otamendi were thinking – particularly the latter – for Norwich’s 3rd! I’m just lost for words.

Then there’s Pep himself…

He has said, of his exclusion of Kevin De Bruyne and inclusion of Ilkay Gundogan - a player who was sent home in midweek due to illness - that Kevin has played so much football this season already and with another game coming up on Wednesday; he didn’t want to start him for that reason. He also said that Gundogan is such an important player and that he has great confidence and personality, whatever that’s supposed to mean. That reeks of, ‘one eye on the Champions League’ game in midweek!

Personally – and this not in hindsight – I would have started with the player who has been in EXCELLENT form; tried to put Norwich out of sight in the first 45 to 55 minutes and then consider making the changes.

And as far as substitutions went yesterday, at 3-1 down and needing to salvage something, I couldn’t believe he didn’t take a defender off and go something like 3-6-1. I know we eventually pulled it back to 3-2 with just a couple of minutes left of 'the 90' - and I know David Silva wasn’t having the best of games – but neither were most of our other players! David was certainly having a better game than Otamendi or Zinchenko and poses far more of a threat to 'the oppo'! Huffff…

Any credit to our hosts?

Absolutely. At times there were playing quick, neat, passes in littles 'teams of 3' to get past us and when they did, they attacked with real conviction. One player in particular was running the show and it’s only this morning that I’ve learnt his name, which is Emiliano Buendia. The best team definitely won.

But I felt that our wobbly start gave the home side the confidence to do so; a home side that was missing 8…that’s EIGHT first-team players through injury! So devastated was their squad that, if you didn’t hear, they had 2 goalkeepers on the bench just to fill their quota of 7!

Apparently, Delia Smith had offered to take up a seat with the subs if they’d needed her to

I swear Norwich could smell, over the aroma of the pies on sale, that we were ‘out of sorts’ after 10 minutes or so…and I’m not talking about Gundogan’s recent ‘dicky tummy’ whilst away with the German national side.

Back to the…“defence”.

An ‘off day’…or what a lot of us have been fearing for weeks now, especially since the loss of Aymeric Laporte? I’m going with the fearful lot. That was proper Keystone Cops stuff yesterday evening!

And with John Stones injury record as it is, I already find myself peering through my fingers each day to see if he may have broken down again.

I’m not going to repeat all what I have said before about my concerns in this area of the pitch and nor will I comb through the possible fixes and connotations we could throw at the mess until either Laporte is recovered and / or we somehow manage to shoehorn in a new, central defender in January. Instead, I’ll just leave you to read that part in my recently-posted season’s predictions piece, if you want to.

But it is a mess…and one that leaves not only Liverpool 5 points clear after just 5 games but also gives a massive boost to the teams we’re yet to face this season; who will look at our soft underbelly and will be sharpening their knives accordingly.

Yes, I believe Pep will have his coaches and playing staff analysing yesterday’s farce long into the week and, yes, I bet we’ll tighten things up, somehow, as time goes by.

But unless we ALSO find our attacking, passing radar and shooting boots once again – and soon! – any defensive frailties will only serve to damage our campaign more and more as time ticks on.

Over to you Mr Guardiola…