Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Almost lost for words and…

…is this the end of Pellegrini’s permanent 4-4-2?

Feeling a little numb…

I think this is the most stunned – negatively so – I’ve ever been since our new owners took over. Even more so than when Roberto Mancini was ‘done away with’.

Is it because we’ve not splashed loads of cash in the final throws of the summer transfer window and have not, specifically, brought in some more top-quality players? No, not at all; I fully understand and appreciate the situation with regards to F(not so)FP and our current ‘slap on the wrist’ sanction.

Is it, then, because we haven’t brought in ANY creative / goal-scoring threat whatsoever? Yeah…partly.

But in addition to…no addition in the creative / attacking department, it feels like we’ve had our team stripped to the bone in terms of defending our Premier League title. At least we no longer have to listen to the words – and live up to the expectation of having “…the biggest squad in the Premier League” because we [now] haven’t.

And as for having the most expensively assembled, Premier League squad ever, well…huh.

So what’s ‘the damage’?


No issues there with 2 top-class keepers and decent quality in Richard Wright too, should we need him.


Well…regular readers will know that I don’t hold Aleks Kolarov in VERY high regard in terms of him being a defender but he’s “okay” and sure has his uses as a wing-back. As for Gael Clichy, he has the ability to be a very good defender and just needs to apply himself more regularly at times. His first season in a blue shirt was top-notch and he appears to be having a good start to this campaign (including pre-season). No MAJOR issues there…

Central defenders:

Well if we’d have off-loaded Matija Nastasic – a decision for such a decent and promising defender that completely baffles me – then I would be saying that we have been left a little vulnerable in this area.

Clearly our manager who, fair enough, sees Matija in training [and we don’t] just doesn’t like him for some reason. So let us, just for a moment, “forget him” and see what we have.

A much-improved and Premier-League-settled Martin Demichelis but one, who, still lacks strength on the ball and whose lack of pace will, I’m sure, undo us from time to time again this season.

Vincent Kompany – one of the best central defenders in the world…but one who can ‘break down’ twice a season and for 6 to 12 weeks at a time too.

Eliaquim Mangala – a much sort-after and, apparently, classy & pacy defender. Hope so.

So, the scenario goes like this…

Kompany ‘pulls up’ and is out for 8 weeks and, adjusting to the pace of the Premier League; Mangala clips the heels of an opponent when he’s ‘last man’ and gets a straight red for his troubles. Not an outlandish scenario I hope you’ll agree?

Are you, therefore, happy with the centre-back-pairing for the next Premier League game (or games) being that of Demichelis & Boyata?

Defensive midfield:

No problems there whatsoever.

Attacking / creative midfield:

Not really an issue…but we could have done with one more (and that’s NOT being too greedy in my book).

If they are all ‘firing’ and can stay fully fit then we shouldn’t have an issue at all really. BUT…just look at the creativity [and firepower] available to us at home to Stoke last Saturday where we scored ‘zero’ and, erm, ‘lost’.


Possibly the most stark I’ve ever seen our strike-force since we joined the ‘top table’ of the Premier League (and aren’t we pushing for “improvement” in the Champions League this season too?)

Again…when on form, fit and firing we have three tremendous strikers on our books. But similar to the central defender situation there is some serious ‘flakiness’ here now.

Admittedly in Alvaro Negredo we’ve just let a striker go (basically, permanently) who’s going to be injured for another 8 weeks or so and yeah; he lost form dramatically after his (unnecessary) shoulder injury last season. But my WORD are we exposed here now.

So THIS scenario goes…

Stevan Jovetic, out for most of last season with various ‘niggles’, breaks down again and takes 6 to 8 weeks to get over the injury…and then another 3 to 4 weeks to find his pace / form again. Half-way-through that period Sergio ‘does a Sergio’ and ‘pulls up’ in pain. After a failed return, whereby the Argentinean ‘goes down’ again after just 30 minutes into his ‘comeback game’; he’s then out for a further 5 weeks.

Unrealistic? No I don’t think so either.

Meanwhile, in the world of Mr Dzeko and whilst playing in a lone-striking role, Edin doesn’t exactly grasp the situation with both hands (or feet). Rather he clumsily tries to grasp a wet bar of soap with one hand; occasionally managing brief moments of decent play and even managing a few goals; some of which are vital ones, at vital times and in vital games to be fair.

John Guidetti? Well like Nastasic he clearly isn’t wanted and we can’t even rely on EDS-impressive Devante Cole because he’s been sent to…Barnsley.

Will, then, Jordi Hiwula be promoted to the first team? Huh…who knows.

Change of formation

Whether he wants to or not; some of those scenarios (or similar) might just force ‘The Engineer’s’ hand now. And yeah…David Silva has played ‘in the hole’ behind the striker to a high degree and Yaya Toure does a pretty decent job of an advanced midfield role too.

Ahead of a back 4...

Possibility number 1:





Possibility number 2:





Possibility number 3 (all three strikers out) – the 4-6-0 Barcelona / Bayern plan:





And for one Manchester City player, the Manchester City ‘outgoing activity’ should be seen as a good one. HAHM-ez Milner should be a little happier in-seeing that there might now be room for him somewhere in a 4-4-1-1 / 4-5-1 from time to time.

But what worries me (even more) is that our midfield (and defence of course) might be far too busy stemming the incessant tide of attacking waves produced by the other ‘challenging’ teams who have all spent big…REALLY big on their attacking / creative midfielders & strikers this summer. Mangala, Fernando (& Lampard) couldn’t possibly have envisaged the size of the task that now clearly lies ahead…

And just as I was trying to get my head around all of this, up popped the news that we’ve SOLD – not loanedEmyr Huws to Wigan Athletic! Wasn’t he supposed to be one of the ‘promising few’ coming through the EDS? WT…?!

In Pellegrini we trust? In Khaldoon Al Mubarak & Co. we trust? Well of course I do. And, I have to remind myself, I have been ‘banging on’ both via my Blog and in conversation that we are still ‘in this for the long haul’ and there are some VERY exciting, long-term plans (and times) ahead.

We have, for example, recruited some apparently-exciting youngsters (sadly all from abroad at this stage of our development) in the form of Kelechi Iheanacho, Rodney Kongolo, Javairo Dilrosun and Kjetil Haug; all more-recently added to other young lads MCFC have requited over the last 12 months. And in the Etihad Campus we have one of the best – if not ‘THE’ best – academies about to open in October 2014.

Then, of course, we have the stadium expansion(s). 54,000 capacity for the start of next season; 60,000 for the start of the 2017/18 season. If we can mostly fill them by those timescales…then great!

And, of course, we’ve easily passed the sanction imposed on us by UEFA and with ‘the guys in the City back rooms’ working hard, I’m sure, to secure some more lucrative deals in the next 6 to 12 months; we’ll see a far more active incoming transfer window; if not in January then CERTAINLY in the summer of 2015.

Being realistic…

But – and I hope I’m wrong here folks – brace yourself for us not retaining our title this season (despite my earlier, pre-window-closing prediction). Brace yourself also for a repeat, at best, of last season’s Champions League campaign (perhaps getting to the ‘quarters’ at best).

Be satisfied, if you can be, with a possible 3rd-place-finish and, with some luck with injuries, a League or F.A. Cup final for us to try an’ win. Because without wishing to sound dour; I believe that is where we’ve left ourselves after 11:00pm (BST) on 1st September 2014.

Summing up

We have tremendous players at our football club with HUGH talent of course; the envy of many-a-Premier League and European Club. But apart from some sound, defensive recruitment early on; I feel that with ‘the others’ strengthening as they have done, we have been left looking a little motionless in the last few weeks.

I hope I’m wrong of course but when you look back at the crazy, CRAZY summer of spending and, as I say, where ‘on the pitch’ our rivals have strengthened compared to our ‘trimming of the squad’; it just leaves me feeling as though not only have some of the other teams caught up but in many ways they have surpassed us ahead of the long season that awaits us all.

Want to do some last minute recruiting, City, then get the best equipment, medics and physios around to join the (already accomplished I’m sure) staff at the club…because we’ll need to keep all our lads fully fit and available as much as humanly possible over the next 9 months just to keep up!

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