Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Another Blog announcement...

Although I've had better news recently with regards to family health issues, I've ran out of time to get a Blog-posting out for tonight's visit to West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup.

 

I'm hoping to find time to 'get one out' before the home game against Crystal Palace on Saturday; a game I'm hoping to go to as well.

 

Sorry again for a break in service.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Blog announcement.



Due to ongoing family illness issues and a busy time of it over the coming days otherwise, they’ll be no pre-Watford Blog-posting.

 

Needless to say, that was a very good away win against Feyenoord in the Champions League last night; sounded like a very good performance indeed from some of our lads (didn’t get to watch OR listen to it!) and I’m predicting a City win at the weekend.

 

Sorry for the break in service once again.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sometimes I hate being right but…

…equally, I LOVE being very wrong! 

 

And you can’t get much-more-mistaken than predicting a 2-2 or more home draw, which turns out to be a 5-0 thrashing of our visitors, Liverpool.

 

(This is a belated Liverpool match-day-out report that I intended to release last Sunday...)


A good day to ease some personal stresses…


Without going into detail, it’s been one hell of a fortnight with family-illness issues. To be honest, it’s been a fairly harrowing 6 months with regards to the same issues and it’s not over yet, as another Hospital visit beckons later today (Sunday). But that ‘nice day’, on Saturday, helped my mood somewhat.

A little hungover from a few-too-many liquid pain killers the afternoon / evening before - and after my first week back at work for over a month as well as those issues I’ve mentioned - left me feeling a little groggy and slow-to-get-going for the early KO last weekend.

Shaved, showered, dressed, dog walked and a quick ‘hair of’ went some way to sorting myself out…and I was glad that my antihistamine had also started to work just as the taxi came to take my wife & I to the Etihad. I don’t know why, but this year my hay fever has been worse in August & September than it has been / usually is in May to July! Saturday morning, it was so bad for about 1-½ hours I was convinced that it was a cold-virus instead, at one stage!

Nice taxi driver and he predicted a 2-1 win to City, with Aguero scoring the first goal and the winner coming from a Liverpool own goal. ”Should stick a bet on that”, I suggested.



It was 11:30am as we manoeurved onto Ashton New Road and almost in unison, all 3 of us began to verbalised how funny - and ridiculous - it seemed to see so many footy fans stood outside a chippy at that time of the morning; scoffing trays of chips and other chip-shop delights. Then again, I admitted to the taxi driver that I had just ‘sunk a beer’ and later reminded my wife that we’d both eaten the previous night’s take-away for Sunday “breakfast” on many occasions…

Image taken from the Internet from a different game
It was dry and fairly sunny when we arrived 55 minutes before kick-off at the turnstile and there were about 10 fans ahead of us at our designated gate. This was City’s second home game of the season and, with the club’s messages from before the first game still ringing in my ears about the need to-now get to turnstiles earlier due to an even more robust security screening; we complied yet again and got there with almost an hour to spare before the start of the game.

Clearly many other fans had done the same, as the concourse was fairly full and there were no seats to be had near the bars & food outlets with 50 minutes remaining before the ref blew to kick-start the match. It’s not usually quite so full, especially for an early KO game…

So, we grabbed a couple of beers and wandered a short way back down the ramp for ‘something to watch’, which turned out to be-mostly the ever-increasing queues & chaos.

For those reading this who go to the ‘odd game’ but haven’t yet been to a home match this season, then ‘take heed’!

With 35 minutes remaining, the same turnstile that we are now told to go through had about 120 fans queuing in 3 lanes and it wasn’t moving very quickly at all; with still-full body screening and detailed ‘bag checks’ taking place.

As the saying goes...
Then…with 20 minutes to go? WOW! I thought it was bad enough at the opening home game against Everton but there must have been 800 or more fans for this gate alone; in a queue that snaked PAST an equally-large queue from another turnstile towards the other end of the ground!

I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for them (mostly I did) or ‘tut at them’ for not heeding the clubs’ warning. Then again, if they all had-done-so, we would have been two of the mugs somewhere in the middle of ‘the masses’!

But from our vantage point, I did comment to both my wife and a couple of blokes that we’d got chatting to about the carnage below us, that there were still hundreds of fans still-crossing Ashton New Road and heading out of Mary D’s!

“At least it’s dry for the poor sods”, I said sympathetically. Oh dear…within 2 minutes or less of me saying so, it absolutely chucked it down for about 10 minutes!

Seriously, as we begin to move away from, huh…“Summer” and move closer to Autumn and then Winter; if you’re heading to the Etihad for a Premier League or Champions League game then seriously…GET THERE WITH AN HOUR TO SPARE IF YOU CAN!

The game


Fairly even-Steven for the first 20 minutes, I thought. Liverpool were ripping us to pieces down their right / our left and Sadio Mane’ was also causing us huge problems down the middle. We were having our own decent attacks but we just looked a little more on the ‘back foot’ and struggling to cope, a little, with the ferocity of The Reds’ attacks.

Needing the use of the ground’s toilet facilities with 13 minutes remaining of the first half, I managed to ‘hold on’ for a further 3 or 4. But with 9 or 10 minutes to go, I decided that by the time I’d been to the loo, the queue at the bar would probably be fairly large by then. It wasn’t…and by the time I’d reached the bar, I could hear the fracas from the stand in relation with the Mane’ / Ederson clash.

OUCH!

A big roar of approval went up as the Liverpool man was shown a ‘straight red’ and reports came down from fans as to what had happened. It didn’t sound good for our keeper.

So, of course, “9 or 10 minutes to go” then turned into 20 minutes – or so it felt – as the Brazilian stopper received treatment and was stretchered off; with Claudio Bravo taking his place. That, a disallowed goal AND a Gabriel Jesus headed-goal all-then-followed, as I sat there 'guarding the beers'. At least, by this time, they’d turned the concourse TV on to live coverage of the match and I got to see both the ‘goal that wasn’t’ and our second goal fly in before half time…

We were in total command, as you might expect even against a decent Liverpool side, in the second half and as we grew in confidence with more & more dangerous attacks on their goal; their heads were starting to drop too.

Leroy Sane & Benjamin Mendy quite-rightly celebrate their efforts
As I’d predicted and said early in the first half to the fella that sits next to me every home game, Benjamin Mendy really started to ‘push on’ and aid our attacks down the left flank as the game progressed. He and the wonderfully-talented Leroy Sane were a joy to watch, as they tore our opponents to shreds in a similar – but more devastating – fashion as Liverpool had done to us 50-or-so-minutes earlier.

Special mention also to Kevin De Bruyne who was my MotM – his work rate, dispossessing of Liverpool players and creativity was awesome to watch! Gabriel & Sergio were brilliant too, as was Kyle Walker at right wing-back.

Action Man - Kevin De Bruyne.

The defence, apart from a few wobbles early, on composed themselves also. Stones, Danilo - and Fernandinho in a deep midfield role - performed very well for the most part and once they’d settled down. I thought Nicholas Otamendi had a torrid time of it though, if I’m being honest.

We most definitely got a decent keeper in Ederson Moraes and ‘get well soon’ fella to him; following his ‘foot to face’ incident. Could have been far worse, by all accounts, but still…OUCH!

So…full of the joys of victory, we stayed for a while to give the lads a big ‘clap & cheer off’ before deciding to pop over to Mary D’s to allow the football traffic to die down - we didn’t fancy the 35-minute walk today and the sky was, once again, 'looking threatening'…

The place was hammered and everyone was in fine spirits, as various “Manchester” & “City-related” songs belted out of the speakers…with a Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline”, chucked into the mix at one stage. It began to throw it down again.

After 10 minutes or so of heavy rain, it stopped and we made our way to the bus stop. Huhhhh…2 or 3 trams went past us as we, ‘stuck, steadfast to our ‘bus plan’’. Frustrating. After a long 25 or more minutes, we finally hopped on a bus and then walked the 10 minutes home from the other end.

A few more beers and an Indian take-away capped off a really good day; one where I was so very glad, as I say, that I’d got my prediction very wrong indeed!

Next league prediction I’m hoping will come true, which is an away win at Watford; a team I’ve not only already stated I think will have a decent season but who have also got off to a good start already.

Next up? Feyenoord away tomorrow night in the Champions League. I MIGHT not have enough time to preview that one but we’ll see…

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to visit / read.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Team Spirit with a twist of melon

As I included in my recent, season prediction piece; one of the things that impresses me about this current team / squad of ours is the sheer determination and team spirit shown already this season - I’d even go as far as to say, in fact, that this attitude has already gone a long way in gaining us a few points! 

 

But in our last outing at AFC Bournemouth, Pep really did mess with my head! I mean…it’s quite difficult guessing the Spaniard’s team selection at the best of times but now that he’s tinkering with a new, 5-3-2-type formation it’s even worse!


Twisting my melon…


So, while Benjamin Mendy was recovering from a thigh injury as the season got under way, Guardiola decided, regardless, to go with his pre-season-practiced 3-5-2 (3-5-1-1) formation and pitch Danilo in the left wing-back role. Anyone who witnessed our new signing in action in pre-season might recall that he looked very good indeed in the RIGHT wing-back position but was not only far less effective going forward on the left but practically stopped any attacking momentum on that flank.

Whenever the Brazilian was withdrawn, on came the attacking talent of Leroy Sane…a clearly skilful and threatening winger asked to perform a 50/50 defensive/attacking role on the left-hand-side. Once again, anyone who saw the young German international in action against West Ham in pre-season will tell you that it didn’t work then…and it hasn’t worked since.

Now I have questioned - both with friends & fellow Blues as well as on this Blog - the use of the 3-5-2 (3-5-1-1) system; not because I don’t like it but rather, in our case, I think it just leaves far too many talented, attacking / creative players out of the starting 11; as they sit there wasted on the bench (and by wasted I DON’T mean drunk...).

But as news filtered through before our game against The Cherries that our new, flying left wing-back, Benjamin Mendy, was fully recovered, ready to go and may even START in the early KO game; I was rubbing my hands in anticipation of seeing him in the 3-5-2 (3-5-1-1) formation (with Danilo in his more favoured right-hand-sided role with Kyle Walker suspended).

So…what does Pep do? Well he STARTS Mendy on the left and Danilo on the right…but drops a central defender (John Stones) and goes 4-4-1-1; meaning that it largely shackles both our new signings to more defensive duties; limiting the times they can overlap their more-advanced wing-colleagues. Result? We looked all OVER the place at times at the back; panicking on occasions in our 3rd game of the season like we were for large parts of last season.

What was he doing / thinking? I just don’t get it – Mendy all ‘ready to go’ and then our manager switches systems and it almost blows up in our face!

Anyway, as you now know, things worked out for us in the end…the VERY end! 97th minute, in fact, when Raheem Sterling got his second of the season and pulled a winner out of what was heading for a draw (although our hosts also had a couple of good opportunities to grab ‘all 3’ late on too before we got our second).

I struggle to work the fella out at times, I really do. That’s fine, of course...just as long as it’s the opposition manager who get confused and not our own players.

But, as I say, as long as our lads also have that drive & determination that we’ve seen so far this season to ‘fight to the end’ and for every ball; then that’s often half the battle won.

More of that tomorrow against Liverpool please…

v Liverpool


Etihad Stadium

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome
(Number correct from starting line-up in the last game: 9/11).

4-4-1-1 / 4-5-1:

____________________Aguero____________________






____________________Jesus_____________________


Sane_______D. Silva_________De Bruyne____B. Silva





Mendy________Stones______Otamendi______Walker





____________________Emerson___________________



Sorry, no time to comment on today’s predicted squad of 18…

Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (Injured) & Raheem Sterling (suspended for this game).

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


Yeah…if the back-line can stay disciplined against a good attacking force this afternoon then there should be no need to go with a defensive midfielder to help / protect the [predicted] back-4; allowing us to field that very attacking, creative 4 or 5 behind Sergio...although that comes with considerable risk.

Result? All week I just can’t see past a score draw, with both teams getting at least 2.

Last season’s, corresponding pre-match prediction and result…
Prediction: Draw
Result: Draw