Saturday, 31 January 2015

Play 4-4-2 Mr Pellegrini…

…and we’ll lose this one.

Hot topic.

It’s been debated on & off during his time as manager of Manchester City and increasingly so in recent months. Is Manuel Pellegrini too rigid / not flexible enough or, whisper it out of his hearing range, not quite ‘The Engineer’ he’s built up to be?

Often accused of not even having a ‘plan B’ during games (although I disagree with that first and rather harsh assessment) never mind a ‘plan C’; one specific debate & criticism of our manager is whether he is SO fond of the 4-4-2 system [with 2 strikers] that he’ll play that system regardless of who the opposition is / what system they might deploy or whatever the circumstance might be with regards to available personnel.

Well if he plays 4-4-2 this evening at Stamford Bridge (5:30pm KO GMT) he’ll be walking right into another load of condemnation…and rightly so in my mind.

This game SCREAMS 4-5-1!

Why? Well with a slightly envious eye I’ve bleated on enough over the last couple of seasons about the attacking midfield wealth of Chelsea - it might not be the ONLY reason but I’m sure it goes some way in explaining that beyond Diego Costa and others before him, there isn’t too much emphasis at the London club on-having the kind of riches other top Premier League clubs have in terms of secondary / back-up strikers.

And although that comment might sound a little disrespectful to Didier Drogba and Loic Remy; the fact is that Chelsea do rely heavily on their goals coming from their many attacking midfield threats. And that’s my point.

With Mr Angry-Stampy-Man being suspended for this and two more games (have I missed something – why did he not get an extra game ban for a frivolous appeal?) there’s even MORE of a reason for Jose Mourinho to go with 5 midfielders…and mostly attack-minded ones I’m sure. The canny little bugger might even chose to go 4-6-0 for this one, although even their midfield department might be a little too stretched to go the ‘Pep Guardiola way’ as Cesc Fabregas is also set to miss this game (through injury).

Incidentally – and as if to prove my point about us-ALSO needing to add numbers to our attacking / creative, midfield / winger department – Chelsea are about to swell their ranks even FURTHER with the imminent signing of Fiorentina’s right-winger Juan Cuadrado for a reported £23.3M.

So surely…SURELY Manuel you need to be a little wise yourself here and although you have 3 strikers available to you; please leave 2 of them on the bench to start with on this occasion.

Before I predict...

I rarely do a, ‘What I’d go with’, before my Pellegrini predicted line-up etc. but seeing as this is the main topic of this piece, I thought I’d avail myself of that opportunity.

4-5-1 (of course):











Regular readers might go…WHAT?! at seeing Aleks Kolarov in my starting 11…and there might be a few raised eyebrows too at the fact that I’ve only got one defender on the bench – a mostly-recognised right-back – leaving our most expensive defender out altogether. I’ll explain…

Firstly, although he blows Martin Demichelis out of the water for pace - and that pace against their attacking midfielders is most-certainly needed on Saturday - can we really pin all our hopes on Eliaquim Mangala having his first exceptional game since we last played Chelsea on 21st September 2014? Huh…I would say not. Besides, which, we have the pace back there in ‘our Vinny’ and I think we’ll need the wily-ol’ head of Martin next to our Captain for this ‘top clash’.

In not even putting Mangala on the bench; it’s simply because he’s not the kind of defender you want to bring on to ‘sure things up’ / calm thing down if a change is needed - he never leaves me feeling particularly calm anyway…

In Sagna we have someone who can play in the centre if needed; and the rest can be shuffled around too if required. No…I’ve gone for a subs bench largely based on ‘game changers’, which I think’ll be a great option to have this evening.

Why Aleks then? Well I’ve also dropped Navas to the bench and not just because I, amongst many, don’t think he’s been playing particularly well of late. But with Kolarov & Milner ahead of Clichy and Zabaleta it just gives us that little bit of extra protection without completely compromising our attacking threat – Aleks to whip those balls in like Navas should; James on his favoured right foot likewise. And with ‘the Ferns’ in there scrambling it up and Silva ahead of them / a bit behind Aguero, I’d like to think that’s a pretty formidable 11 to face Chelsea away.

But that’s me, this is what I think our ‘Engineer’ will go with…

v Chelsea (predicted line-up, subs and outcome)

4-5-1 (phew…):










Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Demichelis, Lampard, Nasri, Jovetic, Dzeko

Hart to return after a short spell on the side – determined and ready to prove a point to those who have been recently ‘pointing their fingers’.

Clichy & Zaba the more solid left & right-backs and Vinny ‘in there’ of course. But if he’s gotten over his reported minor shoulder injury - and although it’s not a trait that I think exists in our manager - I think Pellegrini will be just a little bit nervous to be without the pace of our French central defender for this one. Martin on the Bench to come on and definitely calm things down if / when needed…

4 from the 5 midfielders we agree on but with James on the left and Jesus on the right. I just can’t see him leaving his favourite little Spanish winger out of the starting 11, particularly if he does-indeed sacrifice a striker.

Aguero ‘up top’ on his own – hopefully not feeling too isolated and receiving plenty of support / supply as & when possible.

Willy as back-up to Joe and it’s Bacary who loses out in my predicted squad to face the current league leaders. I’m sure Manuel will want the crossing / free-kick option of Aleks and, of course, Martin there for insurance purposes. Frank to hopefully ‘do it again’ if needed; Samir the very surprising return package possibly making the bench (WAY ahead of the initial injury assessment and having trained with the squad for the last 2 to 3 days) and two very different striker options sitting there too.

Result? Points shared. Whether that’ll be 0-0 or whether there’s goals in this one I’m not quite sure.

With 15 games to go after this one; just 5 points behind, no League Cup or F.A. Cup to think about and with the returning Nasri, Yaya & Bony and with Aguero getting his match fitness back game by game; I’ll take a draw today to the point where it might-well feel like a victory in some ways.

Movements in brief

  • Scunthorpe United have signed George Evans on loan for the rest of the season. The struggling League 1 outfit take the services of one of our most highly rated EDS players and both clubs, I’m sure, will be looking to reap the benefits of moving the central defender come defensive midfielder to Yorkshire.

  • Scott Sinclair has finally moved on, with Aston Villa securing his services on loan for the rest of the season. The deal looked dead the other week and a confusing newspaper report in the last couple of days stated that it was a loan-deal for now with it likely being turned into a permanent deal in the summer; where City were hoping to receive a small fraction, at least, of the £7M spent on his purchase from Swansea City in August 2012. Confusing because he’s out of contact on 31.05.2015. Perhaps it’s part of the agreement that Villa can loan him for now instead of an out-right purchase; a compulsory clause as is often ‘tagged on’ to loan deals these days…

  • The goals have dried up for John Guidetti in recent weeks and he appears also to be playing his cards close to his chest and holding out somewhat with regards to any permanent move away from Manchester City. I think Celtic would like to sign him – although his wage demands as well as any transfer fee might be a stumbling block for the Scottish side – and now, apparently, Marseille are glancing in his direction.

  • The Pepe rumours are back! Apparently Real Madrid are putting their future defensive plans together already and they don’t included the hot-headed one. Worth a punt? Well I did post my opinions on forum the other day, which read…

No doubting his pedigree but at 32 on 26th February it would be another reason for many to snipe at our average-aging squad and to wonder why, as [another City fan] suggests, we don't have a good enough centre back emerging from the EDS right now (although that time will come and I take no notice of those who are too impatient to wait a little longer for youth product results).

For me it's all about his mentality and better informed than me will know whether or not Pepe has lost his 'nutter' tendencies in recent years. If he HAS - and despite his high wage demands, I'm sure - I'd go for someone of his experience; the more know-how we have around Mangala [to learn from] the better and, equally, we need experience to cover for the often injured - and lacking true form - Vinny.

Could be a good move IF his 'red mist' days are behind him...

  • Mancini wants Yaya at Inter Milan. I’m sure he does and, I’m sure, if he doesn’t go there in the summer then he’ll be at PSG or somewhere similar. But that’ll be in the summer and not on 3rd February 2015.

  • Devante Cole has joined MK Dons on loan for the rest of the season. The EDS striker - and son of Andrew Cole - moves after a loan spell at Barnsley, where he netted 5 goals in 19 appearances for The Tykes.

  • Having recently signed a 2-½ year contact with the club, attacking midfielder Sinan Bytyqi then joined SC Cambuur on loan for the rest of the season.

I’ve got a small feeling that we’ll pick up someone before the transfer deadline at 11:00pm (GMT) on Monday 2nd February 2015 but I’m less convinced now that it’ll be an Isco or a Marco Reus-type acquisition.

Pepe is a possibility I suppose; I’m sure Pellegrini would welcome him - and would be something of a calming influence ON him - but I doubt the board would sanction a move for a player of his age and with his wage demands after splashing out £32M+ on a central defender just 5 months ago.

Perhaps there’s an 'last contract', £5M to £10M, 2 to 3-year deal player out there that’s slipped under many radars to give our squad a boost heading into the last 3rd of the season (or perhaps Sami Khedira for the same price?). Having said that, I can’t now see Jovetic moving-on in the next few days and with the returning African Nations players landing soon enough; my instinct is going with the Club being happy with what they have for now / the rest of the season.

Mad Monday is nearly upon us though!

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