Thursday, 2 January 2014

I’ve never felt more like singing the blues…

….we all know how the song goes. I rarely mention Manyoo unless I have to but I have to say that I can’t recall, during my time of following the Blues closely (about 29 years), a time where we were 10 points ahead of ‘that lot’ going into the second half of the season. Feels good.


Places like the Liberty Stadium are usually where we hit the self destruct button; often coming away with nothing or a lucky / scrappy point at best. Indeed it was our first win away at Swansea City in 26 years!

With BOTH sides having key players missing yesterday, I suppose it was a case of 'who has the strength in depth of quality players'. The 3-2 scoreline suggests that we just edge it. Compared to Swansea City, to me that confirms that we’re far from the finished article squad-wise as Premier League title challengers and even further from having the quality in depth for the Champions League.

But so-called debutants for the likes of Clichy, Silva & Aguero did very well indeed yesterday. Alvaro Negredo had probably his worse and most frustrating day in a City shirt; continuing not to be able to work effectively with Edin Dzeko. But fortunately the Bosnia & Herzegovinian striker had a much improved game yesterday; his teamwork and work rate in general kept pressure on the Swans’ defence. His inconsistent, hot & cold performances continue however…

With the absence of Silva, due to a 1-match suspension; there was a starting place once again for Jesus Navas and his continued run in the team saw another fine performance on a very wet & tricky surface.

The steady improvement in recent weeks of Aleksandar Kolarov continued with one of his best performances. Despite his unexplained dip in form this season I still feel safer with Gael Clichy as a defender at left-back…and I still firmly believe that we need to invest in that area either in January or certainly in the summer. But there’s no doubt about Kolarov’s resurgence in recent weeks and yesterday’s fine performance saw him finish a very long run down the left with a fine, right-footed strike for Manchester City’s 3rd goal.

Continuing the theme of improvement, I have to mention Fernandinho too. He’s gone from regular 6/10 performances to regular 7s and is quite often getting 8s these days. Aside from controlling the midfield for long periods in his usual calm & assured manner yesterday; he capped it off with a wonderful strike for our opener. That makes it 3 goals for the defensive midfielder in the last 19 days.

Well done to our manager and all the lads for yesterday’s tricky away game victory.

It’s that time of year again…

I’ve promised myself not to bleat on about the left-back situation unless we get strongly linked with someone for that position. Despite my afore mentioned praise about some improvement in that area; regular readers will know my feelings about the need to strengthen the left of our defence. However, I just can’t see our manager going for one; certainly not in January at least.

In contrast there’s a very good argument to get some right-back cover for the rest of the season. If nothing permanent then certainly a quality loanee would make a lot of sense with Micah continuing to show injury frailties. Even the almost indestructible Zabaleta can’t run for ever and play in EVERY competition for the remainder of the season - I’d hate for him to be pushed to the point of picking up an avoidable injury due to being over-played.

With Matija Nastasic back from injury I’d like to think that with the 20-year old Serbian, Boyata, Demichelis, Kompany and Lescott we’d have enough centre-backs to take us through to May. However, with Kompany prone to regular ‘break downs’ we need to sign a world class central defender (or two if we lose Lescott and Demichelis) in the summer if we’re to move to the next level next season.

What’s the Mata with me?

With the likes of Nasri, Navas, Silva, Toure (and you can most certainly chuck Milner into the mix too) you might think this next suggestion utterly crazy. The proposal might sound a little reckless, greedy and perhaps even impatient too when we have the likes of Marcos Lopes coming through.

But I’ve just mentioned ‘the next level’ and although we have a wealth of attacking, creative midfielders; it would be a very shrewd move - and would be a real statement to the rest of the Premier League and Europe - if we were to make a strong bid for Juan Mata from title-rivals Chelsea.

It would take a HUGE bid to prise the goal-scoring, creative Spaniard from Jose’s side; not only does he have 3-½ years to run on his extended contract but any bid from a rival Premier League Team would certainly bump the price up [compared with any overseas interest]. And the competition would be very high indeed; not least from our desperate neighbours from M16.

I started today by talking about the strength-in-depth-in-quality of our squad and later about moving to the next level. So just think for a second, if you will, how much sense it makes to bring in a player of Mata’s quality; a player who Mourinho doesn’t get on with for some reason and who he has said can leave if he wants to.

Yaya is certainly not past it at just 30-years of age but with us now competing strongly for 4 trophies every season; there’s more than enough justification to spend £25M+ on this (almost) 26-year old. In fact it’s mouth watering to think about that particular Spanish Armada (Mata, Navas & Silva) rampaging through the Premier League and Europe!

Go and do it City; let’s show our intent…

Thick ‘n’ fast!

Two Cup games up in quick succession next. I’m glad that I can’t say the cliché, ‘A welcome break from the league’ because, of course, we’re going great guns on that front. But I also don’t see it as an ill-timed interruption to our league campaign either; THESE are the competitions we need to be competing strongly for in our long-term re-growth as a football club.

Before we face West Ham United in the League Cup Semi-final 1st leg at the Etihad on Wednesday night, we have a trip to Ewood Park in the F.A. Cup 3rd round at 12:45pm (GMT) on Saturday. A sharper contrast in relatively new owners you couldn’t get; the Venkys haven’t exactly endeared themselves since taking over the Lancashire Club in November 2010 – I feel genuinely sorry for Rovers fans.

But on the pitch this is a time for Manuel to mix ‘n’ match and slightly rotate once again. We certainly shouldn’t weaken too much of course and we have a few strong players who should be fresh for a return. So with all of that in mind, straight onto my predicted line-up for our manager’s first endeavour into this competition.

Formation: 4-1-4-1:











Subs:  Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Rodwell, Nasri, Guidetti, Negredo.

Pantilimon finds himself, once again, the ‘domestic cup man between the sticks’ and Clichy too is playing ‘second fiddle’ more and more to the improving Kolarov these days...but will get another chance to shake off his differing form against Rovers I think. I can see Lescott being given a run instead of Nastasic for this one; our Captain, however, will probably have to put in another shift with Demichelis still recovering from a knock (I think) and Boyata likely to be giving Zabaleta some much-needed rest from his right-back duties.

A strong, 5-man midfield sees the return of the suspended David Silva; I think Milner will get a run to rest Nasri and, of course, Pellegrini will surely (but sadly) give Garcia the nod over Rodwell if he chooses to rest Fernandinho, which I think he will. Rodwell, at least, might make the bench after his 4 minute cameo on New Year’s Day.

As the Negredo / Dzeko pairing continues to look uneasy, Dzeko certainly deserves another crack in the starting 11 on the premise of ‘last performance’. I’d love to believe that John Guidetti would get a start – even if it’s only to stick him in the shop window before a loan more – but I think I’m being optimistic by even putting the Swede on the bench! Good luck John. Update: The latest club to be linked with a loan move for John is Uwe Rosler's Wigan Athletic. Although most Blues quite rightly want to see John tested at Premier League level, it's not a bad move at all really if he can play most weeks for the promotion-chasing side. Further update (5:30pm - 02.01.2014): John Guidetti is out with a muscle injury with no announced return date. Similarly, Stevan Jovetic has a hamstring injury but has an expected return date of 12.01.2014. While I'm at it, both Micah Richards and Sergio Aguero are expected back towards the end of January 2014.

Result? An away win.

To get you in the mood, here’s a classic City game from Ewood Park… (also available in the 'Those were the days...and moments' tab, along with other notable City games)


  1. I think Nasri may have been unavailable for the cup tie in any case, as he had a huge ice pack taped to his leg following his substitution yesterday.
    However, you're right in your piece about him probably needing a rest, it's a wise move.
    That's an interesting starting XI, and one that won't be far off the mark, and, hopefully should have too much for Rovers to cope with, especially if we can continue our recent habit of scoring an early goal.
    Your blog is now bookmarked!

  2. Thanks Colin... I wasn't aware that Nasri left 'strapped up' on Wednesday. In that case definitely rest him if he's 50/50 or there abouts.

    Yep, we certainly do try to go at teams early these days, which is a good thing of course (as long as we don't take our foot off the gas too much as against Southampton to name just one).

    Thanks very much indeed for commenting (and bookmarking!); feel free to share with fellow Blues! Cheers Colin...