Saturday, 11 January 2014

Free-scoring City! Let’s keep on rollin’…

Momentum and confidence are wonderful things to have as a football team and we have both-a-plenty at the moment. Although 8th-place Newcastle have ‘hardened up’ since their woeful start to the season; a strong line-up against ‘The Toon’ should see us continue our fine form on Sunday afternoon.

West Ham analysis

The old, ‘Just how poor were they and how good were we?’ questions were understandably cropping up once again from those unfortunate enough not to have witnessed last Wednesday’s demolition of the Hammers. The 7-0 Norwich City hammering was described by my mate (who went in my place) as being like a ‘training match’; further describing the Canaries as a very poor side who offered little resistance. The disposal of Tottenham at home also saw equal amounts Spurs criticism and Manchester City praise.

And it’s true, West Ham WERE dreadful; with nothing in midfield and a defence who, for the most part, looked frightened to death of us! The chasm that was opened-up by the retreating West Ham defenders for Yaya’s splendid run ‘n’ finish just before the break was SO evident it was quite laughable! To quote Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park -The Lost World:

Oh dear...sad ol' Sam

But as poor as Sam Allardyce’s team were, we were awesome at times - particularly the finishing. I have nothing but praise for our players. Even December’s Manager of the Month Manuel Pellegrini kept his pre-match promised by (FINALLY!) pitching a strong-enough team to get this one done ‘n’ dusted; tweaking the side only slightly by playing just a couple of (considered) ‘lesser players’, whilst retaining the majority of strong, ‘first-teamers’. If only he’d done that away at Stoke City & Sunderland in the league and, more recently, Blackburn Rovers in the F.A.Cup

Continuing the ‘poor Vs magnificent’ theme; am I being harsh in suggesting that perhaps both the very average (at best) Garcia and the strangely out-of-form Clichy had good games last night BECAUSE West Ham were so dreadful? Perhaps...and so that’s where I’ll stop. They all deserved their plaudits for a very fine display indeed.  

Special mention

Aside from a rusty start – where it looked like, once again, he’d put the wrong boots on – I thought Edin Dzeko had a really good game. For the first time I can recall, the Negredo / Dzeko combination worked – I suppose these things do take time…

His 2nd and City’s 6th goal was a real fizzer (after a great move down the left)! After a couple of lower-key performances where it looked like he was counting the seconds until the return of Sergio Aguero, Negredo was simply awesome! His finishes, touches and positional play were just excellent. He was feeding so well off both Dzeko and the superb passing of (3rd time on-the-trot African Player of the Year)  Yaya – what about that first goal!

Feeling the pinch – the literal price of success…

Shame it was watched by a vastly-reduced crowd on Wednesday night; being, as it was, 17,469 below our capacity of 47,805 (with about 2,500 West Ham tickets sold from the initial offer of 6,000 apparently).

I know times are tough, especially so soon after Christmas. And so chuck-in both the Champions League and F.A. Cup matches to pay for - along with an almost-certain trip to Wembley in the League Cup final to finance too - and I have to criticise Manchester City just a little bit for the cost of last Wednesday’s tickets. Mine was £29 and despite it being a semi-final; I’m sure that if it had been marketed correctly then reducing those prices by £5 could well have attracted a further 5,000 fans.

It’s also a further £20 for me (£25+ for some others) to see the replay against Blackburn on Wednesday night; a game where not only are the club closing my stand and moving me but, I’ve since learnt, the game is going to be televised live on ITV anyway! Again, £15 would have been a far fairer price…

Despite laying out £94 in 3 weeks for 3, various cup games it could be worse I suppose. I understand that West Ham United F.C. are going to charge some of their season-long-suffering fans a whopping £45 (the same as my Barca ticket) for the second leg against us! What are they doin’?! They’ll be no-one there!

The rested & refreshed join the party!

Loved by many...but it's a bloody odd shape isn't it?
Although Yaya might be feeling a little stiff and ankle-sore after his fine endeavours in League Cup we should have some raring-to-go, vital players available for selection for the St. James’ Park clash. Of course it’ll be too early for Sergio Aguero – who apparently starts back in full training on Monday after his rehabilitation – but we should have Fernandinho, Jesus Navas and Matija Nastasic all available after being rested in mid week. And should he choose to rest Pablo Zabaleta, apparently Micah Richards is also available for selection once again.
The improving Aleks Kolarov was mostly rested on Wednesday night too - I can’t believe I’m suggesting that it might be a good thing to bring him back for Gael Clichy…but I am!

And with Toure possibly feeling the rigours of a very fine display both before and after his painful-looking ankle knock in mid-week, we always have the ever-ready, eager and adaptable James Milner to introduce as well.

So with all of those options in mind, as always I’ll TRY to predict the personnel and formation for the Sunday 2:05pm KO (GMT).

Formation: 4-4-2








Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Nastasic, Richards, Garcia, Milner, Navas.

Hart should regain his place for this Premier League clash but despite a good performance against The Hammers, I think Clichy will find himself replaced by Kolarov. Although Micah is now available for selection once again, I think Pablo will get yet another start tomorrow - the ever-dependable Argentine will get his deserved rest on Wednesday; when Richards will, I’m sure, get his chance as we take our second shot at making it through to the 4th round of the F.A. Cup.

I’ve just got a feeling that Lescott will retain his place along side our Captain and so it’s a bench spot for Nastasic. Fernandinho should resume his defensive midfield duties in place of Garcia and I’m going to bet that Yaya will be patched up and able to play at least 70 minutes against Newcastle (and as a fellow Blue and work colleague of mine quite-rightly pointed out yesterday; St. James' Park has proven to be a good ground for the Ivory Coast international). Nasri & Silva are a given and so Navas joins Milner on a fairly strong-looking bench (despite no striker option).

Alvaro & Edin to go again up front…

Result? Although their 1-0 home defeat against Arsenal was a close affair and, perhaps, they deserved something out of that game; Newcastle have lost 2 on the bounce after their resurgent 1 defeat in 8 games run. They will, of course, want to rectify that as soon as possible and on ‘home soil’ it should prove a tough and interesting game.

However, as I was saying only yesterday to yet another Blue and work colleague; I think it’s about time we had a sterner test so-as-to sharpen up the senses [against any possible complacency that might sneak in to some of the players minds] and I think we’ll rise to the challenge in the chilly North East.

It’s an away win for me.
Don't forget your binoculars Blues!

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