Thursday, 3 April 2014

It’s all in the patterns

If the ‘signs’ are to be believed we could be in for a decent weekend. Fate we should really leave in our own hands; we need to work hard and win this title for ourselves. But a bit of help from somewhere wouldn’t go amiss…

Looking back

After a tremendous performance and 3 points away at Manyoo (a team who, apart from getting destroyed by Liverpool, have not been beaten otherwise in 10 games in all competitions), we travelled to a very tough Emirates Stadium. There we faced a team who were ‘smarting’ after some recent and very poor results. It was a dangerous place to go.

Nerves amongst City fans were tangible leading up to this game and, to be fair, as much as I wanted a win of course; I was content before the game to take just a point home. In the end – and on the overall balance of play – I thought a draw was a very fair result.

But it could have and perhaps should have been all 3.

We absolutely TORE them to pieces in the first 10 to 15 minutes – especially down the right-flank. But we just didn’t have the finishing power to get on the end of some fine, fast-paced attacking wing-play; mostly provided by Jesus Navas. I’m not saying he had a bad game but if Dzeko had managed to have kept up with the play and imposed himself early on (or had-we-have-had a fit Aguero on the pitch) the game would have been dead ‘n’ buried less than a quarter of the way in.

But we didn’t…and although we dominated most of the first half we just couldn’t find the same intensity in the second period; Arsenal came right back into it and there was huge relief from the Blues who I was with at the final whistle.

Quick note on that: My wife & I watched the match in a (packed) pub in Manchester with a couple of friends / work colleagues before heading off to a 50th party just up the road and I have to say the atmosphere was very good considering the mixture in there. Yeah there were a couple of ‘bouncers’ on the door and this pub is well used to housing footy fans. But there were Manyoo & Villa fans in following their early kick off; a Leeds United fan, a Blackburn Rovers fan, a smattering of Liverpool fans and nationalities from several countries. It certainly restored my faith that fans of English Clubs can get along when they want to – ‘well done’ to all!

If there’s anything to these ‘patterns’, then…

Liverpool travel to mid-table West Ham United on Sunday and although, looking at the sizzling form of Liverpool, that doesn’t exactly look like a daunting prospect for Brendan Rogers’ men; I’m not so sure they’re going to have it quite so easy – I’m quietly confident, in fact, that West Ham can take something from this one.

Similar to a lot of strikers; I’ve noticed that Sam Allardyce’s West Ham side seem to be a ‘confidence team’. Whenever they hit a rough patch then can go 3, 4, or even 5 or more games without a win. But on the ‘flip side’ whenever they DO find that allusive victory, it seems to send them in the complete opposite direction; they go on a reasonably sustained run of wins & draws.

After getting whacked at home by Newcastle United 3-1 on 18th January we then spanked them 3-0 (9-0 on aggregate) on their own patch in the League Cup just 3 days later; that ill-fated, Negredo shoulder-fall game.

So West Ham did what they seem to do best, they scrapped their way to a creditable 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge and then went on a run of 4-straight Premier League wins! Then, at a difficult Goodison Park, they slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat, which sparked another ‘mini crisis’ with 3 back-to-back defeats.

Queue a home game with Hull City and a 2-1 win and what do they do just 5 days later? They travel to battling-for-their-lives Sunderland and despite West Ham only having 39% possession, they manage another 2-1 victory…and all of a sudden they’re on another ‘winning streak’.

And so it’s Liverpool at home next. Andy Carrollthe ex-Liverpool striker – got a confidence-boosting goal at the Stadium of Light on Monday night too and so I’m more than hopeful that West Han can eek-out a point against the Scousers this coming Sunday afternoon…perhaps even all 3? That would be wonderful - c’mon the ‘ammers!

What about us?

Well then there’s Southampton’s very own pattern. Without DOUBT a team NOT to be taken lightly; even at home. But their form is certainly something of interest (and possibly benefit) to us. Put briefly…they’re inconsistent.

Southampton’s last 10 games: D W D W L L W W L W

If we’d have-had that sort of form not only, of course, would we not be where we are in the league; we’d also all be screaming the ‘T’ phrase (‘Typical City’ if you had to ask)!

They’ve just walloped (inconsistent and faltering) Newcastle 4-0 at home and listening to the reports; it was 50/50 a-case of how poor the Geordies were and how brilliant The Saints performed on the day.

But at the Etihad on Saturday early-afternoon – with West Ham poised to do us a favour the following day – whisper it…I’ve got a good feeling about this weekend.

And so…

Prediction time.

Formation: 4-1-4-1:









Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Richards, Lescott, Garcia, Jovetic, Negredo Aguero

I'm doing this prediction before the pre-match press conference / squad announcement and, so, feel like I'm working a little blind here. However...
Hart, Demichelis, Kompany and Zabaleta pick themselves for this and most games now. At home and having played Clichy in the last game and most likely against Liverpool next Sunday, I think he’ll go for the more-attacking left-back option of Kolarov.

Fernandinho as ‘the holder’ whilst a marauding, fast-paced attacking quartet will most likely sit behind a lonesome striker; that being the recently improved Edin Dzeko.

Need him back...AND FIRING!

BIG GUNS on the bench! Defensive / midfield cover in the form of Clichy, Lescott and Garcia but other than that; some serious firepower in the form of Jovetic, Negredo…AND AGUERO! Early mid-week reports were suggesting that Aguero himself was being understandably cautious; being quoted as saying that he wasn’t going to rush back and risk anything. However, it transpired yesterday that those quotes were taken from an interview a week earlier [and that he was far closer to a return than the reports were suggesting]. Scratch this now - Pellegrini has since stated that this is one game too early for the recovering striker; who should be fit and raring to go for our trip to Liverpool next Sunday.

Mauricio Pochettino
Hopefully, if the game is sitting right after 60 minutes, it’ll be right to bring on Sergio and, similarly, I hope there’s also an opportunity to reunite Negredo and the Argentinean at least for the last 20 minutes. But in saying that I am not – and I’m sure neither is Pellegrini – taking Southampton lightly at all. Under Pochettino, and with the talent spread throughout the Saint’s side, these can be very dangerous.

They like to mix it up and pass it around and can be lethal on the counter attack. As they like to hurt teams ‘on the break’, particularly away at grounds like ours I’m sure, it might suggest that they’ll also sit deep at times and I just wonder, therefore, if playing Edin up front on his own will be enough. But with that midfield five of ours – four of ‘em out & out attackers – I’m sure we’ll have enough to counteract Southampton’s increasingly respected abilities.

As for Aguero, I can only hope the Physios & training staff have been working on his sharpness as well as ‘shoring up’ his latest hamstring injury. I say this because when he came back from his PREVIOUS ‘hammy’ he was like a man possessed – he was on fire! Although that didn’t last long [coming off at Spurs] and I, of course, don’t want that to happen again; his last recovery / comeback saw an Aguero who couldn’t get out of 2nd gear. He was WELL off the pace [before breaking down again at Barca]!

Thankfully Manchester City officials recently denied Sergio’s request to travel down with the squad for the Arsenal game last weekend. Rather than having him sitting on a coach, train or whatever for x-amount of hours they, quite rightly and instead, wanted him to stay behind and do some more work on the training pitch. Sounds very good and very sensible to me…

Result? I’m glad this one is at home. Even with our ‘tail up’ as it is at the moment  I’d be a little jittery going into this fixture away from home.

But AT home - and with all the personnel at our disposal - even a decent Southampton side will, in my opinion, not have enough to cope with us over the 90-odd minutes. It’s a very needy (they all are now of course) 3 points to City.
C’mon City!  C’mon West Ham…

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your XI posted above, Steve, with the exception of Negredo for Dzeko today.
    I was glad of the point at Arsenal, three would've been ideal, but it wasn't to be.
    It is a tricky one today, but I think we'll do it. Our defensive record lately is what's given me confidence, and a West Ham/Stoke point respectively wouldn't go amiss at all!