Sunday, 15 July 2018

Post World Cup / early City thoughts…


It’s been a while (1 month and 16 days in fact) since I’ve ‘put pen to paper’ but, then again, not only has there been very little City news to talk about but we’ve been entertained by a very good World Cup, in my opinion, and…why would I want to camp in a dark room typing when, here in the UK & Ireland at least, we’ve had all of this fabulous weather to enjoy?!


A word or two on the World Cup…and England.

 


I think, for the most part, it’s been a really entertaining one – some really good games spoilt only by a few, very negative, spoiling-cheating teams that were largely from the continent that said farewell before the real latter stages began. Some or all of those teams need to be reprimanded by FIFA for the way they wrestled opponents to the ground, used delay tactics in all sorts of ways and generally cheated in various fashions rather than attempting to play football themselves…

Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

 


Utter waste of time IF they aren’t going to pick up, at least, on some of the afore mentioned wrestling that was going on in the penalty areas! If most of us could see it then why couldn’t the 3 people surrounded by screens and other technologies see it also? Or were officials simply directed by FIFA before the competition even started to be very lenient and allow the game to flow as much as possible regardless of outrageous footballing sins?

England

 


Gotta be proud of them, haven’t we? Looked very good for the most part and although, yes, we seemed to struggle against the better sides and, yes, it could be argued that we didn’t exactly have the most difficult route to the semi-final – I’ll repeat that’s the…SEMI-FINAL – I thought our shape looked better than in recent years; we were dangerous going forward and at set pieces in particular, had a great team spirit / looked like they were enjoying their football under Gareth Southgate and showed incredible maturity and self-control, for the most part, whilst being hurled to the ground and generally battered by cheating teams in the earlier stages.

Okay, we missed a bucket load of chances to score more and finish teams off and we did look increasingly jaded, especially in the 2nd half against Croatia and in the 3rd-place play-off game yesterday against a Belgium side who still looked to have plenty of fuel in THEIR tank.

But let’s not forget that a lot of pundits were saying how tricky, hard-working and organised Sweden were going to be in the quarters and those same pundits were getting a little twitchy before we largely dictated large parts of that game.

Yes, like many, I was left feeling that we’ve blown our biggest opportunity to get to a final; something we might not see again for YEARS to come. However, I’m also optimistic that this young side can mature and learn from that; together with the fact that we have even younger talent coming up and a manager who talks a lot of sense and seems to fit, in more ways than one, the England Manager role.

Good luck to both Croatia & France today – I hope it’s a good final for all.

Ins & out at City


Starting with the outs:


Yaya Toure – End of contract (and a mosaic put up for him in honour at the City Football Academy before he allegedly suggested that Pep Guardiola ‘has problems with African players').

Angus Gunn – Sold to Southampton for a rumoured & eventual fee of £13.5M

Olarenwaju Kayode – A well-travelled, 25-year old striker sold to Shakhtar Donetsk for £2.7M.

Pawel Sokol – A youth goalkeeper released and re-joined the club we signed him from, Korona Kielce.

Will Patching – An EDS Midfielder released on a free to join Notts County.

Sadou Diallo – A youth midfielder released and is currently without a club

Marcus Wood – Another youth midfielder released and is yet to find a new footballing home

Erik Sarmiento – A 19-year old left back who has re-joined Espanyol on a free transfer

And now the ins:


Philippe Sandler – A 21-year old Dutch, central defender who signed on 1st July 2018 from PEC Zwolle for £2.25M; in a deal that was agree in January 2018. A 6' 2", former Ajax Youth player.

Riyad Mahrez – A 27-year old, £61M Algerian Winger / attacking midfielder signed from Leicester City. Mostly a right-sided flanker but can play ‘just off’ / down the middle and on the left if required.

A word on any of those?


I’m a bit shocked about the Angus Gunn thing to be honest; I actually expected him to come back as a 'number 3', at least, having had a season-long loan at Norwich City where he made 46 appearances and got very good reviews, from memory at least. Good luck to the big fella!

And now for the Mahrez debate….

What’s the debate? Simply put, it’s largely around the, ‘do we really need him…with a bit of ‘is he all that good?’ and ‘it’s a big expensive for what we’re getting / money could have been spent on a better player elsewhere on the pitch’ thrown into the mix.

I get it…and I too was hoping first for a top-class defensive midfielder to compete with – and give some much-needed respite to – Fernandinho. Not that we haven't try like hell with the latter; turning down an ever-increasing fee-demanded for Fred and being elbowed out of the way at the very last minute by Napoli & Chelsea officials after a deal had been virtually struck with their City counterparts for Jorginho.

But to all those who DO say that we have enough in our attacking midfield / wing department without the signing of a Riyad Mahrez-type player, it’s hard to disagree with them and here’s why (in surname order):

-       Kevin De Bruyne        -           Attacking midfielder / Winger – Left / Right / Centre
-       Fabian Delph              -           Defender / Midfielder – Left / Centre
-       Brahim Diaz                -           Attacking midfielder – Left / Right / Centre
-       Fernandinho                -           Defensive midfielder – Centre
-       Phil Foden                   -           Midfielder – Centre
-       Ilkay Gundogan           -           Attacking midfielder – Centre
-       Leroy Sane                 -           Winger / Forward – Left / Right / Centre
-       Bernardo Silva            -           Midfielder / Winger – Left / Right / Centre
-       David Silva                  -           Attacking Midfielder / Winger – Left / Right / Centre
-       Raheem Sterling         -           Winger / Forward – Left / Right / Centre
-       Oleksandr Zinchenko -           Defender / Midfielder / WingerLeft / Centre

And let’s not forget how deep, at times, Gabriel Jesus & Sergio Aguero play / overlap.

Those fans, looking at that list, would simply say, “They rest their case”.

And the argument FOR getting the ex-Foxes & Premier League-winning man? I would say in the ‘plus column’ that…

·         He’s a more mature and slightly more consistent Raheem Sterling

·         He’s a better finisher / decision maker that the afore-mentioned England man

·         The general opinion ‘out there’ from fans who have watched him a lot as well as pundits & journos alike, is that he’s a very good, hard-working, pacey, creative, goal-scoring attacking midfielder / winger. So, I would say…if he’s that good when NOT having played for / been coached by Pep Guardiola then, coming into his ‘prime years’ at 27, just how good could the fella become?!

·         There’s another long, long season ahead with the other 19 teams in the Premier League, at least, wanting to knock us off our very high perch. Some of those players listed, at least, haven’t had / will not get much of a summer break because of the World Cup; some aren’t going to America for pre-season and SOME might miss the opening game of the season at least! I’m thinking Kevin, Fabian, Raheem and possibly, to a lesser degree, Fernandinho, Bernardo & David in that midfield / attacking-mid department.

There ya go – that’s 'fence sitting' done! No...seriously, I can see both sides of any Mahrez debate and although excited to have another talented & experienced player added to our exciting squad, I can see the other arguments too and I am split down the middle. Arguments such as…

...money better spent elsewhere?


Well…I’ve already mentioned the defensive midfield attempts and so I can’t “blame” City, if there is any blame in mis-spending there.

I personally would have liked to have seen us bring in a more-assured back-up to Ederson in goal to replace Claudio Bravo if we weren’t going to promote Angus. A point of note on that: Daniel Grimshaw has been elevated to “No. 3” for next season.

An additional, top-quality central defender? Perhaps sounds too greedy with-us-having Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte, Nicholas Otamendi & John Stones (with the option of Kyle Walker & Danilo)? Well, I think there’s an argument “for” an additional central defender with a long season ahead in 4 competitions and with a captain & young England central defender who have both had long World Cups and who are prone to break-downs. A Leonardo Bonucci-type age / experienced player?

And then there’s the, “Shouldn’t we be looking for extra cover in the striker department…and someone who offers something different to Jesus & Sergio?”. I get that too. Personally, I’m both “Yes & No” (I know…even more splinters in my back-side).

Yes – Because those two often break down for a combined total of around 5 months per season and, yes also, because it would be good to have a slightly taller / different type of striker available should a different approach be needed.

No – Because we have so, SO many creative / goal-scoring midfielders & wingers we can score – and have scored - PLENTY whenever our front two haven’t contributed for whatever reason. We’re more than capable of beating teams and scoring plenty with a 4-6-0 or 4-5-(false)-1 formation if needed…

Up & coming games…


…ALL, of which, will be largely represented by a mixture of those City players who didn’t take part in any, or much, of the World Cup any PLENTY of youth players. Time for a Phil Foden & Brahim Diaz to shine in particular.

All 3 in the USA
Saturday 21st July (2:05am BST)
v Borussia Dortmund (International Champions Cup)

Thursday 26th July (1:05pm BST)
v Liverpool (International Champions Cup)

Sunday 29th July (0:05am BST)
v Bayern Munich (International Champions Cup)

At Wembley
Sunday 5th August (3:00pm BST)
v Chelsea (The FA Community Shield)

At the Emirates Stadium
Sunday 12st August (4:00pm BST)
v Arsenal (our opening Premier League game)

At the Etihad Stadium
Sunday 19th August (1:30pm BST)
v Huddersfield Town (our first home, Premier League game of the season)

Right then, it’s nice to be back, thanks for ‘looking in’ at Blue chews-daze and take care for now. I’m off to enjoy more of the fine weather...



Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Jorginho & Mahrez “IF” factor…

So, as it appears and without wishing to ‘jump the gun’, we might have signed both defensive midfielder Jorginho form S.S.C. Napoli and attacking winger / forward Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City by the end of next week.

 

And it has already, quite understandably, had fans both City and non-City alike asking just where do all of our midfielders fit in; what stars are more likely to see more bench time and will ‘the kids’ get a ‘look in’? 

 

So, I thought I’d have a look at some likely formations from the midfield upwards and try to reason why the possible signing of both players isn’t such an over indulgence as it may first seem.


First of all, the list…


Kevin De Bruyne                    -           Midfielder / Winger – Left / Right / Centre
Fabian Delph                          -           Defender / Midfielder – Left / Centre
Brahim Diaz                            -           Midfielder – Centre
Fernandinho                            -           Midfielder – Centre
Jorginho                                  -           Midfielder – Centre
Phil Foden                               -           Midfielder – Centre
Ilkay Gundogan                       -           Midfielder – Centre
Riyad Mahrez                          -           Winger / Forward – Left / Right / Centre
Leroy Sane                             -           Winger / Forward – Left / Right / Centre
Bernardo Silva                        -           Midfielder / Winger – Left / Right / Centre
David Silva                              -           Midfielder – Centre
Raheem Sterling                     -           Winger / Forward – Left / Right / Centre
Oleksandr Zinchenko             -           Def / Mid / WingLeft / Centre

Quite some list, hey?

And who are the other midfielders / wingers who have been on the fringes of the first team radar in recent years or who have been purchased by the club whilst either Manuel Pellegrini or Pep Guardiola have been in charge?

Luke Bratton                         -           Midfielder – Centre
Anthony Caceres                  -           Midfielder – Centre
Bersant Celina                      -           Midfielder/ Winger – Left / Right / Centre
Aleix Garcia                           -           Midfielder – Centre
Manu Garcia Alonso             -           Midfielder – Centre
Yangel Herrera                      -           Midfielder – Centre
Douglas Luiz                         -           Midfielder – Centre
Patrick Roberts                     -           Winger / Forward – Right / Centre

I wouldn’t blame you at all if you didn’t know most of those and if you click on their hyperlinks then you can get to know ‘em; where they came from, where they’ve been on loan and how they’ve been doing.

The formations

(Just from the midfield ‘up’, don’t forget, and assuming all are fit & otherwise available)

One where we have to be more mindful of the oppo’s attack.

Likely 1st line-up (a fluid 4-1-4-1):

____________________Aguero____________________
___________________(or Jesus)___________________




Sane____________________________________Sterling


_____________D. Silva______De Bruyne_____________


__________________Fernandinho___________________


Secondary possibility (a fluid 4-1-4-1):


____________________Aguero____________________
___________________(or Jesus)___________________




Sane____________________________________B. Silva


___________Gundogan______De Bruyne____________


____________________Jorginho____________________

One where we really want to ‘have a go’ at the oppo – a chance to stick a few goals past someone.

Likely 1st line-up (a fluid 4-4-1-1 / 4-5-1):

____________________Aguero____________________
___________________(or Jesus)___________________



____________________Sterling____________________
Sane____________________________________Mahrez


_____________D. Silva______De Bruyne_____________

Secondary possibility (a fluid 4-4-1-1 / 4-5-1):


____________________Aguero____________________
___________________(or Jesus)___________________


____________________Mahrez____________________

Sane____________________________________B. Silva


_____________D. Silva______De Bruyne_____________

Winners? Those who get to play most games?


I don’t think Leroy has much to worry about, despite the fact that others can play & perform well on the left flank. Kevin is an almost certainty until it comes time for a rest, of course, and the same goes for David; although he might get some MORE welcome relief / extra games out next season. Sergio & Gabriel have no worries at all (will likely rotate with each other), especially as I think the signing of two in the ‘midfield department’ will signal Pep’s intend to ‘go again’ with attacking flare from deep rather than bringing-in an additional striker (despite paper-talk of Kylian Mbappe).

Rotated?


I think we’ll see Riyad, Raheem & Bernardo all dipping in & out of the team; most playing on the right flank with some getting a crack more centres, whether that be in the middle of the park or ‘just behind’ one of the strikers. I think Ilkay will come into that attacking/creative rotation too but, perhaps, to a lesser degree. Fernandinho & Jorginho will swap over from time to time and I’m sure we’ll always have one of those on the bench.

Losers?


Well, unless they’re going to be used as left-back / left wing-back cover for Benjamin Mendy (and don’t forget that we have Danilo) then I can see Oleksandr & Fabian getting twitchy. I think we’ll see Zinchenko go out on loan and press speculation aplenty about Delph (and I bet a certain ex-City Manager who is now at West Ham United might be keeping an eye on that one). And as for the youngsters; if we DO get both of these players and despite us fighting in 4 competitions, then I can’t see Phil getting many more games than last season, which I expected him to and I bet he thought so too. I think we’ll see Brahim go out on loan.

Any more signings likely further back?


I think if Pep doesn’t believe that Angus Gunn is ready to be 1st-choice back-up to Ederson then we’ll see another keeper come in. I don’t expect to see Claudio Bravo here for another season.

And I think likewise in the centre of defence – if Guardiola doesn’t believe any of the EDS lads are progressing enough to ‘step up’ if / when needed then I can see an additional purchase there too; one who would be ready to step in if needed but young enough to be patient and wait for his opportunity, which is likely to come in the form of how long Vincent Kompany has left. I think Nicholas Otamendi & Aymeric Laporte won’t have too much to worry about should another talented central defender come in but I’m sure more raised eyebrows will be show whenever John Stones’ name is mentioned.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to visit / read. I'm going away for a week on Saturday and so if there are any updates, I won't be able to Blog / comment.