Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Defeat! How will we cope? If the faith I have in this manager and this bunch of players is not miscalculate then we’ll cope very well and will bounce back in style.

Such wide-ranging opinions!

First of all let me apologise for not posting yesterday. I often have more time on a Tuesday and use some of that time to post a Blog – yesterday was somewhat unusual to say the least and I found no time whatsoever.

Wow! I’ve seen some contrasting reactions from City fans and press/pundits alike since Monday night! Some of the more pragmatic fans and pundits have pointed to missing key personnel, other players who weren’t quite fully fit and players doing their best when being played out of position. That section, which includes me by the way, also point out how good Chelsea were; they didn’t have the possession percentage nor the corners and shot attempts we had but they were pacy, determined, very well organised…and basically deserved their victory. Well done them.

The other camp, however, have been having a pop at Pellegrini, Nastasic, Demichelis, Dzeko and even ‘The Beast’ Negredo. Football really does evoke passions and divides opinions, doesn’t it? It’s great!

I’m of the belief that you should always try to respect others’ opinions unless they are WILDLY erratic and/or exaggerated beyond belief. I’ve not come across that in particular in this case but I am slightly disappointed at the amount of dissatisfaction that has turn into outright criticism.

I agree with the fact that Nastasic has a bad game but c’mon; he’s having a bad season. Compared to his start at Manchester City and most of last season he’s having a SHOCKER! Can’t work out quite what’s gone wrong there…

Kolarov, who seems to have largely flown under the critic’s radar on this occasion, had another poor defensive game; equally having a decent attacking time of it on Monday night.

Yes we got another abject performance from Edin and not for the first time did we see his (mostly) failing partnership with Negredo on display again. It’s just not a good combo at all. Negredo himself gets a little more sympathy from the critics – but how much of that ‘allowance’ is made up from the fact that he’s been generally awesome for us (in contrast to Dzeko) and how much is down to the fact that, apparently, he WASN’T 100% fit I just don’t know.

Demichelis, though, seems to have been the focus of most of the discussions. Some have absolutely lambasted the Argentinean central defender-come defensive midfielder while others? Well my mate sat next to me at the Etihad said of him, at one point, that he was having such a good game [all things considered] that he was heading for City’s ‘man of the match’! I told you football’s wide-raging opinions were great indeed!

I agreed with him at the time and although he might not have ended UP as City’s MotM (not sure who did really…Zabaleta? Kompany? Navas? Silva?); he was tackling like crazy...and for a 33-year old converted midfielder up against a dark blue wall of fast, attacking, top-talent how can he possibly be criticised?

Regular readers might recall that there have been occasion where I’ve been less than impressed with him as a defender at times but that’s he’s natural position. And, before the Chelsea game, he hadn't really been up against a team equal to us in many ways. But, as I say, on Monday night against Mourinho’s men he was strong in the tackle and, in general, covered as well as could be expected to with his aging legs. I thought he passed well for the most part too. A respectable 6.5/10 performance for me, which, against all odds reads more like an 8.

Then there’s Pellegrini. So much was the clamber to criticise him that one poor sod in Brazil wrongly had his Twitter account…what would it be, wrongly ‘twerked’ all over by City & Chelsea fans?

“No plan B”. “Why didn’t he play Milner?” Why did he play Demichelis?” “Why didn’t he go 4-5-1 from the start?” Why-oh-Why-oh…spells yoyo.

I said some of those just before and during the game. I thought a more-attacking and compact midfield would have been just the counter-threat required to handle Chelsea. In fact there was a pretty good case to have Jovetic in from the start as a deep-lying forward with the attacking 3 of him, Silva & Navas behind one striker (with Yaya and Milner behind those). So yeah, perhaps Manuel could have done better. I must add though that there was a rumour on the night that despite him being on the bench; apparently Milner wasn’t 100% fit either.

Not such ‘strength in depth’ after all?

I’ve always slightly disagreed that we have the best and strongest squad in the Premier Leagueironically I think Chelsea win that one…particularly across the midfield. In fact when I hear a TV or radio pundit say that we have two world-class players for each position (four for central defence and four for attack) I get quite vexed.

Eliaquim Mangala
Sure we have a wealth of amazing talent at our growing and fine football club but take out a few key players and I’d like to think that I am, more often than not, proven correct. We were without Fernandinho, Nasri and Aguero against Chelsea and, as I’ve already alluded to; neither Milner nor Negredo were fully fit either. And what about Clichy? I can only assume he wasn’t fit to start ether; sitting on the bench against Chelsea having played possibly the best game of the season against Spurs just 5 days earlier.

This has been another criticism of Pellegrini (and perhaps Ferran Soriano & Txiki Begiristain too); that we didn’t go the extra mile to sign both (or either!) Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando in January. Although (quite rightly) recognising that we shouldn’t be held to ransom because of our wealth; teetering on the edge of so much potential silverware as we are this season has brought out a very good argument that we needed them both to solidify us for the remainder of the campaign. That viewpoint I DO have to agree with on this occasion…

We don’t have two (or four) world class players for each position:

Goalkeepers: Yes. Both may have had their moments but I’m not jittery when either are in net.

Left backs: When on form we have one in Clichy. But Kolarov as a defender?

Right backs: Zabaleta of course. Richards? Sadly I have to say “No” these days…

Centre backs: Kompany without doubt. The rest? Huh…well, you’d have to say “No”. Lescott can produce some fine displays next to our Captain but he’s hardly ‘world class’. Nastasic exited me a LOT when we first signed him - his displays were never less than 7/10; often getting a well-deserved 8. What a difference a season makes hey? Then we have Demichelis. A player who, at times, oozes the kind of class that makes you see exactly why he’s played so many times for Argentina and the kind of clubs on his footballing CV. Other times he looks completely out of his depth in the Premier League; lacking not only pace but also body strength and general awareness.

Defensive midfielders: In Fernandinho I had wondered, at first, what on earth we’d signed for a WHOPPING £30M. He looked, well, very average indeed. But he grew…and grew and boy how we now miss him when he’s not there. It was similar to the Gareth Barry story - another criticism of our manager for letting him leave for Everton – and a lot of fans quite rightly said at the time that it might come back to bite us. So behind Fernandinho in reserve? Javi Garcia. I’ll just politely say “No” there I think. Rodwell? Well he COULD have a very bright future at City and, indeed, for England. He LOOKS like he might well have the talent to become a top player. Will we ever find out? I’ve got to say I’m starting to very much doubt it and so…”No”. So, as with our defence; we have ONE world class player for this position. You COULD add Milner to that mix. However, although I think he suits a central role better than a wing-man function; we often get more from James when deployed with attacking instructions. Having said that, I’d put him in that deep, holding, mopping-up position every time before Garcia and Demichelis if Fernandinho wasn’t available.

Attacking midfielders/wingers (combined): 4? Yes. And, similarly, I’d chuck Milner into that mix as a more-than-capable back-up. We’ve also got Jovetic who CAN perform deeper than his ‘Forward’ title would suggest; either centrally or as a left-winger. So it might surprise a few (but not regular readers) to hear that I’d still go for another top, TOP attacking midfield talent in the summer (unless Lopes is really going to start to make his mark in the first team). Take one of those 4 out of the equation with an injury and, at the same time, remove another one through suspension and you literally take the attacking heart out of our team…our main strength no less.

Forwards/Strikers: 4? Well I’d say 3 ½ at best. There’s a lot of top teams both in England and Europe who would love to have Dzeko in their ranks. But the man who needs half-a-game and several wayward shots to wind himself up to look anything NEAR like a top striker – and one who often goes missing and sulks like a child who’s just dropped its ice cream – and we’re left with an often very average and VERY frustrating striker indeed. Although he can often pop up with crucial goals at crucial times; can we carry him in key games when we’re now a footballing force challenging every season for silverware? I’d say “No”…and I don’t think he’ll be here next season.

So there goes your strength in depth for me. Although some would say that I’m being very greedy – certainly a time-travelling 'me' from 15 years ago would do – this is where we are now; this is why we need to add considerably more talent to our cup-challenging team in the summer…and is why I join the critics on this one for not getting the two Porto lads in January.








But we move on…

It’s too early for a predicted line-up & formation against Norwich – a potential Banana skin if we’re not careful but another training exercise IF we’re 100% - but I just wanted to do a Premier League run-in prediction to see how many points we might amass:

Norwich City away: Win

Sunderland at home: Win

Stoke City at home: Win

Aston Villa at home: Win

Hull City Tigers away: Win

Fulham at home: Win

Manyoo away: Draw

Arsenal away: Draw

Southampton at home: Win

Liverpool away: Draw

West Bromwich Albion at home: Win

Crystal Palace away: Win

Everton away: Draw

West Ham United at home: Win
I don’t actually think we’ll get beat in the league again this season. The danger games stand out as being Arsenal & Liverpool away. I’ve stuck Manyoo down as a draw and if they get Mata, Rooney and Van (I'm a footballer get me out of here!) Persie all really ‘firing’ by then (and all 3 are fit to play against us) then that too COULD be a tricky one. If not, that predicted draw could equally well be another win for the Blues at Scaffold Trafford.

Everton away is never a good ground for us but under the more-attack-minded Martinez (something that often suits us) I just can’t see which way that might swing just yet.

So...that’s, erm, 34 extra points from a possible 42; finishing the season on 87 points. That’s 2 points less than title-winning Manyoo got last season. It’s boarder-line and without fine-tooth-coming over Arsenal & Chelsea’s fixtures I can’t say whether that will be enough to regain our trophy from 2 seasons ago.

Factors that might get in the way of winning the title…

Extra fixtures in the League Cup final; continued participation in the F.A. Cup (including a tough re-match against Chelsea) and, of course, two very, VERY tough legs against a certain Barcelona. If the chance of a domestic treble or just yer double is on; I’d be happy to wave bye-bye to the Champions League if I’m being totally honest.

Factors going for us in the title race…

Look at those fixtures from Norwich to Fulham. With disrespect (can this comment be without?); if we drop any points during those fixtures then we don’t deserve the title. Come through those with maximum points and that could put tremendous pressure on the two London clubs – come through them unscathed and we could be on top AND have stretched a bit of a cushion-lead by then. If we DON’T get that cushion, then from March 25th (Manyoo away) to April 12th (Liverpool away) could get a bit twitchy.

Similar to us, Arsenal have to play Liverpool twice (once in the F.A. Cup), Manyoo, Chelsea and their Derby rivals, Tottenham Hotspur (away), in the league. Like us also they have two VERY tough games against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Less so, but still, Chelsea have to play Arsenal of course and have Liverpool away in the league. They also have to travel to the caldron (but not scary-sounding) that is the Turk Telekom Arena (bet the ferocious Galatasaray fans loved the announcement of that name…)
Welcome to Hell! Erm...I mean, the Turk Telecom Arena…

Back to us…

Premier League fixture wise, by my reckoning we should have Nasri back for the Stoke home game and Aguero for the Villa home game. Fingers & toes crossed on both fronts…

In other news

The axe has finally fallen on Michael Laudrup; being sacked by Swansea City yesterday. They had been dropping like a stone in recent months; it’s a results business and I suppose winning just one (against very beatable Fulham) in 10 games was enough for the board. Can’t help feeling slightly sorry for him; he was trying to bring a fine style of football to the Welsh side, which, these days, there’s often no room for in the world of ‘survival by any means is everything’ rule.

Why do I sort of look like a drunk David Platt in this photo?
I do wonder how much longer the equally respected Rene Meulensteen has at Fulham. Rock bottom of the Premier League with 3 wins and 7 defeats (losing the last 4) AND being knock out of the F.A. Cup at home to Championship side Sheffield United must have, at least, prompted a ‘one-agenda’ board meeting today…


  1. Very fair piece, Steve, and a cracking read

  2. Cheers Mike! Much appreciated.

  3. The thought is money came into the decision to back off signing the Porto duo, especially when one will be on a free transfer at the end of the season. Like everything, time will be the judge of that particular decision.
    You're right to argue, Steve, that when the strength of the squad is examined closely, the truth from our point of view varies from that of the pundits, especially as it is limited to 25, with provisos in place for home-grown/national association elements.
    I agree with Mike, it was a cracking read. Glad the blog is now bookmarked!

    1. Hi Colin... I think you're right; money was certainly the deciding factor with the Porto lads. And that's right too; we shouldn't pay over the odds 'just because' [of our wealthy owners]. And yep, I'm not sure how much they were demanding for Fernando on his own but they will lose out when, as you say, he can move for free in June. If he IS 'all that', I just hope Juventus (or someone) don't step in a gazump us!

      Yeah, when you look really closely at the squad more than a bit of 'fine tuning' might still be required in the summer. Certainly not a MAJOR overhaul by any stretch but perhaps more spending than our owners would have wanted to with the 'fair play' thingy in mind.

      Cheers for the compliment too Colin! So very pleased you liked...