Sunday, 5 January 2014

Still learning…

In my opinion, Pellegrini’s decisions in personnel choice and/or formation cost us points at Stoke City & Sunderland and almost blew it at home to Crystal Palace recently. It almost happened again against Blackburn Rovers and so I hope our manager learns and learns quickly about messing with teams TOO much against so-called lesser teams.

Glaringly obvious (to most)

Sergio Aguero is a very mobile forward indeed – he’s Tevez-like in his game-play. I get the feeling that Jovetic might be likewise. But some forwards just aren’t like that and although Negredo’s movement off the ball is excellent; both he and Dzeko aren’t the type of strikers that you’re gonna see marauding all over the front 3rd of the pitch to any GREAT effect.

That’s why I was very disappointed not to see Pellegrini employ a 4-5-1 away against a team that was ALWAYS going to pack the midfield [to limit damage and hit us on the break]; the game was crying out for us to employ a pacy, fluid and attacking midfield behind a ‘target striker’.

And the Negredo / Dzeko combo continues to look stagnant and pretty poor in general really; Negredo doesn’t look the same player either with Edin or without Sergio…

Obvious too was the poor decision to employ 2 defensive midfielders in a 4-man midfield. This made us FAR too stationary and slow on the break at Ewood Park; with Fernandinho having a good game as opposed to another very poor display from the truly awful Javi Garcia. Milner & Silva had to literally run all over the place; often swapping wings as well as playing down the middle to compensate for the lack of creativity in the centre of the park. I thought Milner had a good game but an experienced Blue in my local (and the Manchester Evening News rating / comments) differed with me somewhat.

And in my local watching the game as I was, I was surrounded by like-minded Blues who were screaming at the TV for Boyata to be replaced by Zabaleta. Not only was the out-of-position 23-year old having a nightmare game but with the obviously-frustrated player also being on a yellow; the red card was an absolute sure bet!

Why was Pellegrini so slow to make changes in the second half!? 70% possession overall but only 1-1 against a very average Championship side tells it’s own story.

Another unnecessary game, another wodge of cash coming out of my bank account and another opportunity for our Manager to show that he IS indeed learning; having-to-now-surely choose a stronger team to get past Rovers in the replay at the Etihad on 15th January.

I know we have to rest some players for the more important Premier League games but learn quickly please Manuel; learn that with our squad of available players there’s only so much tinkering you can do before you compromise us. Learn before these decisions cost us more than just having to play another 90-odd minutes in a replay…and please don’t chose a weakened side against West Ham United in the semi-finals, hey?


Quick comment

I’m not sure exactly what all of the hoo-ha is with Lescott. He’s ‘tweeted’ about a section of Manchester City supporters, who were supposed to have been saying something derogatory at Ewood Park. Clearly it was enough of them to make their voices heard from the stand and, according to Joleon, it was non-football related.

Being non-football related offers me some relief that our “fans”, albeit a very small section, haven’t turned on one of our players. However, being non-football related also makes me feel a bit sick as to what might have been chanted – we’re not like that in the main are we?

Fans have the right to express frustrations to some degree; they pay a HELL of a lot of money these days to watch the players (who rely on club support to pay their wages). I think we have only 3 or 4 sub-standard players in our squad these days but rather than berate them openly and loudly, I simply sigh as their names are read out on the team sheet and apart from perhaps mumbling under my breath during the game, pretty-much leave it at that.

At least (I don’t think) they weren’t as bad as the coin-throwing Spurs fans yesterday but I still hope this one dies down quickly…and I’d rather we didn’t know what was supposedly said by a clear minority.

Moving on…

I guessing here that Manuel does intend to play a strong team to, hopefully, put the Hammers out of site in the first leg on Wednesday. That being said, here’s my predicted line-up…

Formation: 4-4-2









Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Lescott, Garcia, Milner, Navas Lopes.

Hart regains his place I think; despite this being a cup game – Like Boyata, Costel didn’t exactly do his cause any good on Saturday afternoon.

Zaba will be back! How even more obvious is it that we need reliable cover for that position? Although Clichy had a decent, comfortable game against the Championship side, the improving Kolarov gets another opportunity to strengthen his case for being City’s number-1 left-back choice.

The rested Nasty & Kompany should be back to sure-up our defence; allowing, perhaps, Pablo and Aleks to support the attack a little more at home [against a West Ham side surely hell-bent on damage limitation in the 1st, away leg].

With Fernandinho a sure bet as our ONE holding midfielder, that should allow Yaya, Silva and Nasri to resume attacking midfield duties.

The next one is a quandary for me. If the ‘penny has dropped’ regarding the Alvaro / Edin combination then perhaps, as I would, Pellegrini will go 4-5-1 (yes even at home)…





As Barcelona and now also Bayern have displayed to great effect; often a strong, attacking, fluid midfield behind one recognised striker can indeed prove to be a more-attacking threat on occasions and when played at the right time.

But this is about what I think Manuel will do on the night…and I don’t think he will. Perhaps, and I of course hope, at home the front 2 combination will work this time. Hope so…

Being ‘up front’…

Doesn’t this just show you how thin on the ground we can quickly get up front? Our attacking, free scoring side has quite rightly drawn praise from far and wide this season. But with this current duo not exactly ripping up trees when played together - and with Aguero, Jovetic and Guidetti all still out injured - a look at that possible substitutes bench against West Ham shows [with some concern] that we don’t have depth in strikers in the EDS to fall back on if / when required.

Lopes & Navas are very exciting players to have on ANY substitutes bench but they’re attacking midfielders / wingers and not out-and-out strikers. With Luca Scapuzzi on loan to Serie B side A.C. Siena and Alex Nimely completely off the radar somewhere; I think I need to do some in-depth research into our EDS strikers to see what we have coming through ‘up front’. Watch this space…

Result? Although they’re doing terrible in the league this could be another case [as against Palace] of having to be patient at first but in the end; it should be a comfortable home win.


Pellegrini said: "It doesn't mean that we cannot do, maybe some things from now until the end of January but, for now, nothing important."

With these comments apparently suggesting that we might dip our toe into the transfer market in January, here’s quick another look at what positions Pellegrini might be interested in addressing.

  • Right-back: With Micah recovering but still showing more fragility than even Vincent Kompany, this is now surely a priority area for us; even more than the lessening-need for an additional left back.
  • Central Defence: Will Lescott go in January or won’t he? Either way – and despite Pellegrini bringing in his old mate (currently injured) Martin Demichelis – don’t be surprised if we make an additional signing. It SHOULDN’T be required in January with the array of central defenders at our disposal and I’m sure we’ll see at least one top-class, central defender signing in the summer. But with Kompany and Nastasic also featuring quite highly in the ‘injury prone’ column of late; there is a half-decent argument to bring another centre-half in January.
  • Striker: Unlikely but, going off my previous argument, not entirely unreasonable. Will Aguero break down again before the season is out? Hope not of course! Will Steven Jovetic EVER recover and remain fit / available? Certainly hope so. Will Edin ever find consistent form and will Negredo ever have a good game playing alongside him? Mmmm…not sure. One thing is almost certain, if John Guidetti ever finds a few months where he’s injury free then he’ll almost certainly be playing the remainder of the season on-lone elsewhere. Prognosis? Another striker – even one on-loan – might just be on the cards…


  1. Astute, Steve. I agree with you about the XI that will probably start on Wednesday, but, I, too, would go - Fernie, Toure, Silva, Nasri, Navas, Negredo - as my midfield/forward axis.
    The defence picks itself.

    Be interesting to see the approach of West Ham. They've had an awful day at Nottingham Forest today, and with their league position as it is, have a real quandry facing this game.

  2. My thoughts exactly Colin... It certainly looks like Allardyce fully intends to play his strongest side against us; perhaps in an attempt to reach a final so-as-to paper over the terrible cracks around him.

    So just for the fact that they'll be really 'up for it' and will, no doubt, make it as difficult as possible for us to score in the 1st leg; we'll have to be on our 'A' game on Wednesday before the return leg on 21st January.

    Cheers Colin...