Saturday, 22 October 2016

In-form Saints up next in our bid…

…to get ‘back on track’. 


It’s gonna be no ‘walk in the park’ against the South-coasters as we look for our first win in FIVE games; a stat I never thought I’d see under Pep and one that sends a little shudder down my spine if I’m being honest.

The recent stats

Manchester City’s first 10 games in all comps in the 2016 / 17 season:

Played 10
Won 10
Drawn 0
Lost 0
For (a whopping) 30
Against (a mere) 6

Southampton’s opening 4 fixtures of 2016 / 17 season:

Played 4
Won 0
Drawn 2
Lost 2
For 3
Against 6


Manchester City’s last 4 games in all comps:

Played 4
Won 0
Drawn 2
Lost 2
For 4
Against (a whopping) 10!

Southampton’s last 8 games in all comps:

Played 8
Won 5
Drawn 2
Lost 1 (a narrow 1-0’er away to Inter Milan)
For 12
Against (just) 2!

What an amazing contrast of form those two team have shown in the opening 2 months of the season and, for us, a somewhat alarming one after an amazing start.

So…is there something wrong (leaking 10 goals in 4 winless games would suggest there is) and if so, what? I’ll try to be as brief as possible and look at areas I think might be part of the issue.

Claudio Bravo, for the most part, scares the hell out of me and has been directly at fault for conceding goals and, in general, putting the rest of the team under FAR too much pressure by ‘doing the footwork thing’ just-far-too-much and for far too long [on the ball]. It might be what his manager wants him to do (and so I think Pep needs to take some of the blame for this) and he might be better than Hart at it BUT…Joe is a far, far better keeper; a better shot-stopper and all-round safer to have in net in my opinion. The England number 1 should never have gone out on loan.

The early-season, incredible form of Aleks Kolarov has nose-dived of late to the point where we’ve hardly even seen the fella on the pitch! How many times have we seen him have 5, 6, 7 or, in this season’s case, 10 good games; only for him to then turn back into the ‘old Kolarov’? Far too many times for me. We now know he’s CAPABLE of such good football - even as a central defender - and, so, we can only hope that he finds that form again.

Other than that - and aside from a few errors ‘here & there’ - I can’t fault the individual, defensive performances too much overall. Particularly Gael Clichy, who I think has been terrific for us whenever Aleks is not in the team. And so…I can’t think of any other defensive reasons for our recent failings. Yeah of course we’ve had Bacary Sagna out for a large percentage of the time but Pablo’s been absolutely fine in his place…but is injured himself again now.

Could it be the role asked of Fernandinho? We don’t necessarily play with a defensive ‘linchpin’ in midfield but the Brazilian - who likes to go forward whenever possible - is usually asked by his manager to sort of sit deeper than the likes of David Silva & Kevin De Bruyne. And so-although he’s having a decent season so far; perhaps there’s a little bit of not quite knowing if he should protect the back 3 or 4 (whatever we’re playing at the time) or support the attack. I dunno…I’m just chucking that one in there.

Could it be a simple as the loss of ‘in form’ Kevin De Bruyne? Well the ‘argument for’ is that he was injured right at the end of our last victory, which was a 3-1 Premier League win away to Swansea City. After that, we conceded 5 goals both in a 3-3 draw away to Celtic in the Champions League before being taught a lesson in some ways at White Hart Lane in a 2-0 defeat. Kevin then came back, somewhat surprisingly for many, for the Everton home game but, despite looking sharp in his comeback game, missed a penalty in a frustrating 1-1 draw. Then he gets chucked in an 'advanced role' away at Barcelona and we register a ‘nil’ in the ‘goals for’ column.

 ‘A la Aleks Kolarov’, has our form dipped since Sergio Aguero’s inexplicable loss of confidence & form, following some outstanding, early-season displays and goals tally? Perhaps it’s a combination of two of those main elements – losing Kevin for a couple of games and then him-not finding immediate form / impact AND the loss of Sergio’s ‘mojo’.

Raheem too started the season ‘on fire’ but has been less effective of late; Ilkay has been…okay so far and I’m still waiting to see what we’ve bought in Leroy Sane!

I’ve got to add also that this was Kelechi Iheanacho’s big, BIG opportunity to shine under his new manager and although it’s still very early days of course; I’m sorry to have to say that our only other real striking option [to Sergio] is not exactly grabbing that chance with both hands (or should that be feet?).

To their credit, amidst looking for ‘reasons why’; David Silva and Nolito have been in both brilliant & good form respectively.

So why the drop in team form over the last 4 games? Why the sudden ‘leaking massively’ of goals and, also, difficulties in-breaking teams down (Celtic aside)? Why the loss of form of so many individuals and, similarly, confidence?

There were murmurings the other week, I think it was mainly from Fernandinho, that Guardiola’s intensive training sessions / fitness regime was already starting to takes its toll on the bodies of some of the squad. Does that, then, start to have a negative physiological effect also? It’d take better informed people than me to answer that - again I’m just ‘throwing that one in there’ really.

Whatever it is, 'in Pep we trust' of course – we’ve got a manager who MANY, quite rightly, consider to be the best in the world and so there’s no need for any serious alarm. After all, we’re having a little ‘blip’ and yet still remain top of the league [before the early game today] and on course to still-qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League as runners up at least.

But we really do need to turn a corner tomorrow…

v Southampton

Etihad Stadium

Predicted starting 11, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:


___________________De Bruyne__________________





Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Kompany, Fernando, Gundogan, Sane, Iheanacho.

Bravo to continue in net, I think, despite last Wednesday’s error in Spain.

With our main right-backs injured, I suppose there’s the possibility of our manager changing the structure of the back line and / or using Gael as a right-sided defender and asking Aleks to ‘go again’ after he played a full 90+ in midweek. But if ‘Pablo junior’ is to progress then surely a home game in the Premier League is a realistic possibility? That’s what I’m going for. So, then, it’s Gael on the left with Nicholas & John in the middle.

A familiar-looking ‘middle 5’ with Nolito & Raheem flanking Fernandinho, David & Kevin.

Sergio surely to get his place back on Sunday.

Willy the keeper insurance; Aleks & Vinny in there as defensive replacement options. Fernando & Ilkay to make up the central midfield cover, with Leroy & Kelechi the attacking change-choices.

Notable absences: Bacary Sagna (injured), Pablo Zabaleta (injured), Fabian Delph (injured and no return date now!) and Yaya Toure (not being selected after an agent / club ‘bust up’).

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

If they are all ‘fresh legged’ after the 'Barca experience', then there's no arguments from me there.

Result? Well if Everton were hard to break down then I would suggest that these will be even harder! Southampton have conceded one more than Everton in the league (an impressive 7 from 8 games to Everton’s even more impressive 6) but, as I’ve already indicated; Southampton’s more-recent defensive stats are even MORE impressive! It’s another ‘brick wall’ for us to pound at...

As my mate said at the last home game; these are the types of games where you-then need your big players to ‘step up’ and make a difference, particularly in attack. Well…we’ve got them in our ranks and if we can get a goal in the first 30 minutes or so (and keep tight in midfield as well as at the back of course); then any confidence issues our players might have should melt away and, if so, I can see us sticking another one or two on top of that 'opener'.

It’s a ‘tuffy’ for sure…but despite what I’ve said about tomorrow’s ‘oppo’; I’m going for a home win by a couple of goals. Less recovery time following midweek games and more travelling for Southampton might be to our advantaget too...

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Predictions v Barca

Sorry folks, brief one / little time…

v Barcelona

Camp Nou

Predicted starting 11, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:


___________________De Bruyne__________________





Claudio in net.

Being rested at the weekend; it seems obvious that it was for tonight’s game and, so, Aleks & Pablo to be our flanking defenders this evening. Nicholas & John in between those.

Fernandinho given the main, ‘deeper / protection’ task (good luck with that!) and I can see Pep wanting to go for his preferred, strongest 'centre' ahead of the Brazilian...that being David & Kevin. Either side of those is ‘birthday boy’ - who came on as a late sub last Saturday and got us a point - on the left (Nolito) and I think our manager will want to see Raheem back to his early-season best on the right side.

Sergio to get his starting place back tonight.

Willy the keeper cover; Gael & Vinny the defensive replacement options. Fernando to 'come to the rescue' if we need to 'dig deep' and defend for our lives; Ilkay, Leroy & Kelechi the more creative & attacking options form the side.

Notable absences: Bacary Sagna (injured), Fabian Delph (recovering from injury), Jesus Navas (not selected) & Yaya Toure (not included in Champions League squad).

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

Yep…it’s about as fresh-legged and as strong as we can muster in many ways.

Result? It’ll be interesting to see what effect two teams with similar, high tempo / pressing styles will have. Results-wise it’s not been a great period for us of late BUT I’m going for those similar playing styles to cancel each other out. It’s a very creditable draw for us I think.

Expected weather conditions during the game: Overcast, hardly a breeze and a pleasant / comfortable 64F.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Huffed & puffed against the yellow-brick wall

The stats say it all really… 


·       72% possession

·       19 shots to their 3

·       8 shots ‘on target’ to their 2 and… 


…13 corners to their 1 


Unfortunately for all that effort, dominance and pressure the final stat was Manchester City 1 – 1 Everton.

Nothing to get into a twist over…

…but that’s no wins in 3 now and 7 goals conceded during that trio of fixtures. What an amazing contrast to the previous form of played 10, won 10, scored 30, conceded 6! That series of events had me almost using the phrases “typical City” and the “great unpredictables” as I left the Etihad yesterday. Almost

Those last 3 games might suggest to some that we’ve been “found out” but I’m not going for that just yet.

-       At Celtic it was always going to be one of those where the home side – and fans – would be right up for a loud, Champions League party-atmos night…and we held our own despite a poor defensive display.

-       At Spurs, then, yes; they ‘did their homework’, ‘did a number on us’ and fully deserved their victory on their home patch.

-       Against Ronald Koeman’s men, yesterday, it was simply an excellent defensive display by ‘the oppo’ – numbers behind the ball too – and a SUPERB day at the office for their keeper! Iheanacho will have better days (a missed opportunity in many ways for the young striker who appeared to struggle to control the ball at times) and Aguero too appears to be hitting a little ‘crisis of confidence’ spell.

But I was heartened by other displays.

Despite a shape that took me some time to work out; I thought we looked more assured at the back and further up the field, David Silva was amazing as is often the case of course. Kevin De Bruyne looked sharp for a player who has just returned from a fairly serious-looking injury [at the time] and Nolito continues his [good] habit of getting in places where it hurts. Happy birthday fella!

In summary…

…not too much damage done – Arsenal moved closer but definitely wobbled a little by scraping a 3-2 home win and impressive [against us] Spurs just about managed to salvage a point away from home.

Leicester don’t look like they’re going to be a threat this season - not for the moment at least – and Liverpool & Manyoo are about to ‘scrap it out’ tomorrow…hopefully for a ‘points shared’ in my book anyway.

It never feels good to drop home points but with…

Crystal Palace (A) and…
Burnley (A)

…all up next in the league before December; as long as we continue to press teams as we did yesterday then our quality should bring us out of those 5 fixtures with a decent amount of points before a tough December & January.

At least it makes it interesting!

Note following-on from yesterday’s blog posting (side note at the end):

Unless there was an incident I’m unaware of, it was really good to see the Everton fans behaving well yesterday. In fact, before they scored yesterday they were really very quiet indeed!