Sunday, 6 April 2014

Strange game, great outcome

Struggling for possession for large parts of the game yesterday, that’s exactly what I expected from a very good Southampton side. Perhaps not to that extreme though; at times in the first half we watched a South-coast team completely dictate and frustrate our boys in blue. That’s why it so odd that it could well have been 8-1 in the end…

Twilight Zone 1:

Regarding the possession, I’m not sure what the FIRST half reads as but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be 70% / 30% in favour of Southampton. We pulled it back somewhat in the second period – although there were still periods after the break where Pochettino’s men got a-hold of the ball and stroked it around impressively – but we managed to pull back the overall possession to 56% / 44%...still in The Saint’s favour however.

So after 2 quite-correct penalty decisions, which were dispatched perfectly by both Toure & LambertBANG-BANG! We were suddenly 3-1 up at half time. Hey?

Twilight Zone 2:

The crowd, myself included, were very, VERY subdued yesterday afternoon. I’m pleased to say that it’s not just us though; I watched most of the Liverpool v Sunderland game the other week and until the home side scored – and then scored a 2nd – the Anfield crowd were uncharacteristically very subdued also.

It must be a nervous thing – SO important is it that the top sides don’t drop points (even a draw is seen as a disaster in most cases at this stage of the season) that the stands at the Etihad, at least, are looking even more blue at the moment! This, I can tell you from experience, is due to 1,000s of fans who are holding their breaths (until the 81st minute in yesterday’s game).

We need to stop that; at home to Sunderland we need to be lifting the roof in support of the lads!

Twilight Zone 3:

What happened to Yaya? Although I disagree with the Manchester Evening News’ slightly-harsh rating of 6/10 (7/10 from me) he cut an increasingly frustrating figure yesterday. I’ve rarely seen him like that. I can only assume that he was feeling hard-done-to; by having 2 further penalty appeals turned down.

The first one falls right into 2 categories. A: I’ve seen them given. B: It would have been a soft one. Although the Southampton player certainly and quite forcefully barged into the Ivorian; it was more of a ‘coming together’ of shoulders for me…and the big frame of Toure did appear to go down a bit too easily if I’m being honest.

The second one was a clear attempt at a dive and, quite rightly, Yaya received a yellow for it. I’ve never seen him do that before…

Then he was involved in a couple of challenges that just ‘did it’ for him. He had his calf studded in the second, slightly-naughty challenge and that’s when the ‘red mist’ descended. Already on a yellow, I really feared the worse as he stomped around with his arms flapping in protest. Even he own team-mates (mostly Garcia & Nasri) could barely control him; Nasri, in fact, was on the receiving end of some serious Yaya verbal - hopefully it was in French and the Referee didn’t take up that option at School…

He was certainly fortunate was our usually-cool midfielder. Having since seen the footage on the TV it was quite clear that the Chris Foy was becoming increasingly irritated by Yaya’s protests and general shenanigans. On the day itself, my wife spotted Pellegrini’s own attempts from the side-line to pass on a ‘calm it down’ message.

Fernandinho had an abnormally below-par game and, quite rightly, the yellow-carded (for an obvious handball) Brazilian was replaced by the [soon-to-be-yellow-carded] Javi Garcia (for an irritation-fuelled scrape on the Achilles of Lallana).

There was a lot of frustrations ‘out there’ on Saturday; mostly caused by a game-controlling Southampton side I have to say. Well-done to them...but it was a little bizarre [reaction] from our boys…

Twilight Zone 4:

If I was to go off ‘goals seen’ yesterday then the game ended 1-1 for me. I actually didn’t even see a goal from open play for all my match-day-attendance efforts!

I don’t always nip to the bar at half time and despite the fairly lengthy injury time after the treatment and substitution of Jay Rodriguez, I felt it was safe to leave my seat to get a pint with 43 minutes on the clock (6 minutes before the half-time-whistle it turned out). Oooops… Queue a brilliant (off-side-pass) move and a Nasri finish and then a great Kolarov cross and a firm Dzeko header. 3-1! Great…I heard the cheers from the queue at the bar.

To be fair and, of course, I wasn’t alone (hence the queue) and I swapped a joke with a couple of blokes behind me; by proclaiming that we’d all be happy to spend the whole of the second half  ‘down there’ if it ensured all 3 points for City!

Result of having another pint? On 79 minutes I needed the loo. Queue...YEEAHHHHH! Another roar went up as I miss the Stevan Jovetic goal; his first Premier League goal for Manchester City. Great first-time cross from Navas by the way.

Twilight Zone 5:

The “N” factor - Navas & Negredo.

For me Navas gets a solid 7.5/10 yesterday. He’s a nuisance to the opposition in more ways than one. Not only does he have pace AND energy in abundance - often causing the opposing defence more than a few heart flutters - but, yesterday, he covered the right-back slot really, really well too. In fact he ‘dug in’ and tried his best to break-up Southampton’s high possession as much as he possibly could. He can also, quite-superbly, trap even the most powerful and long-range passes that head his way.

HOWEVER…if only he could improve his general passing and crossing; he’d be even more impressive. Although a little harsh in their assessment that “…he was having a nightmare game”, 2 chaps behind me & my wife were quite right in pointing out his passing / crossing failings (excellent cross for Jovetic aside of course).

I said so after the Fulham game, Negredo is doing all the right things and looks to have shaken off his troublesome shoulder injury…but he just can’t buy a goal at the moment, as the phrase goes.

He was a TOE-nail’s-length away from connecting with Jesus’ fine cross, which, thankfully, Stevan was able to follow up and connect with to make it 4-1. And as the net rippled, Alvaro momentarily lay facedown in the grass; almost as though his team had just CONCEDED a vital goal! It’s understandable though; he must be desperate for a goal of his own…his first since January 2014 in fact!

He had another chance and although he had two defenders chasing him down left & right, as well as an advancing keeper in front of him; perhaps the OLD Alvaro Negredo would have ‘rounded’ rather than slap an effort right at the Goalie. Still the crowd tried to lift his spirits as they momentarily woke from their fear-induced trance to shout, "Beeeeeast!". I hope he takes heart from that.

So…4-1, job done. Over to West Ham today now…

Site developments

I’ve not done any ‘update’ pictures of the training complex development for a while; I’ll make an effort to do that as soon as possible. What I can say to those who don’t pass the site on a fairly regular basis is that it’s really beginning to take shape.

The bridge spanning Alan Turing Way / Ashton New Road - and stretching from the main ground to the new complex - is up…although still incomplete at the moment. The main stadium [in the training complex] is up and looking mostly complete; other buildings are looking mostly finished too and there’s been grass on most of the training pitches for some weeks now.

As for the Etihad itself, it’s a bit of a building site at the moment – and will be for some considerable time I’m sure…

Behind the South Stand is a cordoned-off area where the 6,000 expansion work begun about a week ago. On the grounds of the East Stand area near to the official – albeit rough-ground - car park, is a large area being used to store all sorts of building site vehicles and materials, which, no doubt, are all in full use whenever there’s no match.

BT City Square at the Etihad Stadium
And when the South Stand is complete (due for opening at the start of the 2015/16 season), of course work will then begin on the North / Family Stand extension. Not sure what’s going to happen to BT City Square [predominantly situated behind that stand] when work starts there, if the site-area behind the South Stand is anything to go off…

Transfer developments

Transfer talk has be RIFE this week. Most predominant has been the news that we have, apparently, all-but-secured the services of Porto’s excellent central defender Eliaquim Mangala. What was a little (pleasantly) surprising about this one was the reported and much-repeated figure being banded around, which was £20M…a whole £15M or there abouts less than we were being quoted in January.

When I first heard reports on this earlier on in the week I wondered whether this price suggested that we’d actually finalised a double-deal to bring both Frenchman and the Brazilian Under 20, defensive midfielder, Fernando, to City in the summer. Then, just yesterday morning, this popped up. It would seem that it might well be on the cards…for £41M. That’s an good pair; some well-needed positions secured and some excellent early business, if true…

Then all talk suddenly switched to strikers, as reports were suggesting that Txiki Begiristain had flown to Madrid for talks with both Radamel Falcao and his agent last Tuesday. £50M is the reported fee that we’re considering in the summer.

If he’s over his cruciate ligament injury - with reports suggesting that although recovering well he might not make the World Cup - he’s a PHENOMENAL striker! Dare I suggest that, ability-wise, he falls somewhere between Sergio Aguero & Lionel Messi? There, I’ve suggested it...

Although I’ve recently stated that I don’t want us to get drawn into a long battle with Chelsea for his services, if we’ve already made our mark and can do something early on then…WOW!

Then, and not for the first time, Luis Suarez rumours sprung up from nowhere. An AMAZING talent who has done (and is doing) it in the Premier League. But I don’t like his attitude, which often lets this massive talent down. Can’t see it ever happening either…

News also circulated in mid-week that City intend to swell their English ranks by pursuing both Southampton’s left-back Luke Shaw and Everton’s young midfielder Ross Barkley. Both excellent, young English talents; both of whom will be difficult to prise away both from a determined & building Saints side and a Toffees team almost certain to be playing European football at some level next season.

And thinking about the home-grown rule, apparently City are considering bringing both central defender Karim Rekik and all-round midfielder Emyr Huws into the first-team-fold. Both have been on loan; Karim all season at PSV and Emyr at Birmingham City.

Both have been getting rave reviews; although Karim’s excellent control and general ball-play isn’t matched by his physical presence by all accounts. I wonder if a season on loan with a newly-promoted Premier League team or a Championship club (one who will allow him to develop further) would be good for Karim first?

Barcelona transfer ban

Bit of a shock this one; I’m not the only one not to have been unaware that they were even under investigation. Something to do with irregularities in their acquisitions and/or approaches for foreign-national under 18 year-olds.

If upheld – assuming they’re going to appeal of course – the knock-on affect will be interesting. Having been given a 15-month ban (2 transfer windows) on any incoming or outgoing players; on the one hand some teams with talented players on their books can breath a sigh of relief [that a ‘sniffing’ Barcelona can’t touch their players for a while] and others will be left a little frustrated. Manyoo might be one of those kicking the dust at their feet; I think they were hoping to launch another bid for Cesc Fabregas and have, more recently, put Alex Song on their radar too. Shame…

Leicester City

Leicester City players' selfie-celebration
Congratulations! After beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 on Friday night and after Q.P.R.’s 2-1 loss at Bournemouth, The Foxes gained promotion to the Premier League without kicking a ball yesterday. It’s been on the cards for a while now; 9 points clear of 2nd-placed Burnley and a whopping 19 points clear of the play-offs in the Championship!

Surely Burnley will be joining them and if so, we’ll have 2 sets of fans at the Etihad who like to make a LOT of noise. I say again; we City fans need to ‘up our game’ at home...

And ‘good luck’ to Uwe Rosler’s Wigan Athletic in the play-offs (so we can reap revenge on the annoying pie eaters next season); surely a safe bet to make it to the semi-finals along with Q.P.R. & Derby County.

Although Reading are 5-points-safe and ‘in there’, I suppose Nottingham Forest, Brighton & Hove Albion, Ipswich Town & Bournemouth shouldn’t be written off either. Blackburn Rovers too might have a slim, outside chance; certainly their 2-0 victory over play-off-chasing Ipswich yesterday did their chances no harm at all.

Marouane Fellaini

….or, perhaps more accurately, Marouane Flailing-his-elbows should be his name. How IS he getting away with it?!

A ‘straight red’ completely missed when he attempted to floor Pablo Zabaleta in the 3-0 defeat to us in the Derby the other week and now? Not-only does he not even get a yellow for elbowing / slap-punching Dan Gosling yesterday but HE, somehow, managed to get the free kick award for the incident! He also managed to get away with a SECOND, unpunished elbow at St James’ Park in the same game yesterday. Unbelievable.

Perhaps his hair is memorising the officials; distracting them from his persistent and quite-violent offenses…

And finally...

...finishing on the theme of the 'strange & bizarre'. Firstly, I won the Grand National sweep at work yesterday - I cannot recall ever backing the winner before! Southampton just have similar looking players and back-room staff or was there some kind of Matrix glitch as they arrived at the stadium yesterday? Watch this from 15 to 55 seconds...


  1. Good stuff, Steve.
    Looks like potenially good news coming out of Begiristain's trip to Europe, and, I agree, it puzzles me how Fellaini is avoiding appropriate cards at the moment.
    He won't be able to get away with that sort of behaviour in the World Cup.

  2. Hi Colin... Thanks. Yeah, I hope Txiki left a good impression and that we can do something early on with Falcao.

    It's interesting really, a few weeks ago - and along with a lot of Blues I'm sure - I was convinced Dzeko would be the one to make way for a new, incoming striker in the summer. Now? I think the club seem very keen to keep Edin and, instead, rumours are circulating that in order to keep the foreign numbers down and/or just to make way for a new striker; it could well be Negredo who is sacrificed!

    I've got a 3rd option in mind that City just MIGHT be considering.

    As most 'top sides' like to run with 4 top strikers - and seeing as it's improbable that we'll be selling Edin or Alvaro in my eyes - if we are intent on bringing in another TOP talent such as Falcao; I'm just wondering if we'll keep all of our current strikers and will, instead, use Stevan Jovetic more as an attacking midfielder / wing option?

    Certainly he has the ability to do so; he often plays a deeper-lying role...and that would then negate the need for us to find an additional attacking/creative midfielder. One signing, two positions solved!

    Aguero, Dzeko, Negredo (Falcao / A.N. Other) AND Jovetic and a midfielder-come-substitute striker? That would sure see the end of John Guidetti's time at City.

    But we shouldn't be embarrassed at those riches; the other EDS, up & coming strikers will get their shot as they develop. Edin is 28; as is Falcao and Negredo is approaching 29. And a glance across Europe and the REALLY top teams, which is the level we're trying to reach of course, sees similar, high-quality squads.