Monday, 2 March 2015

All the tools available to him but…

…a continuing & alarming lack of ideas from our manager, as well as a lack of a proper ‘leader’ in the middle of the pitch.

Set-up and counter measures

To see Liverpool set up at home in a 3-4-2-1 come 3-6-1 with 4 strikers sitting on the bench was not only a rare sight indeed but it also said a lot about how modern football has changed. And both worryingly and frustratingly it also shows how inventive and adaptable other managers are…and much our increasingly stubborn and inflexible our manager is.

As the opening 10 to 12 minutes ticked by – and after a fairly lively start from us – Liverpool grew into their tightly-packed formation and began pressing and pressing until we cracked, thanks to a wonderful finish from Jordan Henderson. But the pain of going behind was nothing to the agony of watching us flounder by showing no signs of adapting whatsoever for the next 5 or 6, very long minutes. Then on about the 17th or 18th minute David Silva switched to a more central role and it seemed to change the whole dynamic of the game.

Now whether that instruction came from the bench or whether the Spaniard decided to take the situation into his own hands I just don’t know. Part of me would like to think that we DO have players who can take charge and reorganise themselves to a degree…but I mostly yearn to know that we have a bench in Brian Kidd, Ruben Cousillas and, crucially of course, Manuel Pellegrini who are ‘right on it’ and get message onto the pitch to change things to good effect.

Let’s hope it’s the latter…but my word they were far-too-slow to react!

5 or 6 minutes delay might not seem too long when you say (or type) it but it’s an eternity in a football game. But change we eventually did and on 25 minutes Aguero & Dzeko combined beautifully for the Bosnian to slot it away in front of the Kop.

I don’t want this to turn into a full ‘match report’ and so I’ll sum up.

Credit to Brendan Rodgers for reading this one perfectly well and, let’s not forget, we were picked off by two world class goals from Henderson and Coutinho.

Other than a few poorly-paced and wayward passes from both Fernandinho & Yaya - and a defence that, in the first half, collectively looked ramshackle and quite nervous at times - no individual had a particularly bad game, I didn’t think.

But we just looked like a disjointed and largely ineffective team; almost completely lost for ideas of how to change and invent a new way to break down the opposition. We didn’t look anything like the champions of England and haven’t done for large parts of this increasingly frustrating (there are those words again) season.

Kompany cut at frantic, startled figure as he tried to hold things together at the back; needing more that 2 eyes to keep a check on the potentially-scary combination of Kolarov & Mangala as well as having to contend with only sporadic cover and under-strength passes from Fernandinho.

Frank Lampard who, earlier on in the season both saved and created crucial points for us, must be beginning to wonder what his role is at City; other than providing some experience on the training pitch and in the dressing room as well as filling the bench. And if we’re TRYING to drive James Milner out of the club at the end of the season then we’re going about it perfectly (huh…at least we’re getting that right!).

Game after game James now provides company for ‘Super Frank’ on the subs bench and when he finally gets on the pitch – with instructions to try and save us / salvage a point – the poor bugger ends up playing in at least 3 positions for the remainder of the game; as our manager then - and FINALLY - starts to show some tactical, proactive engineering with often just 30 minutes to go.

As I feared, Bony in now entering the, ‘coming on as a sub, trying to get up to the pace of a game and trying too hard to force that first goal for his new club’ phase.


It resulted in a 30-odd minute tsunami of Manchester City callers all pretty much saying the same thing [as above] on a Radio Manchester phone-in straight after the match.

One caller almost ran out of breath as his passionately ranted about how he hadn’t turned into a spoilt Manchester City supporter [having watched years of poor players and disappointment after disappointment] but, instead, was livid at the fact that the bunch of players we have now couldn’t, in any way, muster what previous Champion-winning sides could; in making a fist of retaining their title.

Others were equally dismayed and I chucked in my two-penneth in the form of a text that read…

Jack, does Fred [Eyre] agree with me that a team from the ‘midfield upwards’ works much better when they have high confidence in their defence? If so, does he ALSO agree that not only does a class left back need to be on the summer shopping list but also ANOTHER ‘top drawer’ centre half AND a different defensive midfielder [to the one we have]?

What I didn’t add, as I needed to be as concise as I could, was that we need to get rid of the mediocre pairing of Fernando & Fernandinho and buy a true monster of a defensive midfielder. Not just a protector of the back 4 but a midfielder leader; a manager on the pitch who can not just ‘rally the troops’ but who can literally take a game by the scruff of the neck and change things without necessarily needing his manager to intervene. And we need Mats Hummels, a crackin’ left back, an additional creative spark and a replacement up front, at least, for Jovetic. Basically a medium-sized summer re-build really, it pains me to say.

Whether our manager will be here to orchestrate those summer adjustments depends largely on how he performs over the next 84 days.

For the record, the experienced Fred Eyre agree wholeheartedly with each of my 3 suggestions…

So where does it leave us?

Well to answer that you don’t even have to be all that into football to say, quite frankly, pretty much trophyless this season. Only those who think that we can win in Camp Nou by 2-0 or 3-1 etc; who thinks we can then overcome whoever may then lie ahead in the Champions League AND who thinks we can turn around a potential 8-point gap over Chelsea could possibly think otherwise.

In fact – and not wanting to sound TOO dour about the situation – we’re in serious danger now of entering a battle for 4th; as both Arsenal & Manyoo breath down our necks being, as they are, just 4 & 5 points behind us respectively.

For me? Forget the Champions League and put every effort (and that includes you Mr Pellegrini & Co.) in TRYING, at least, to put whatever pressure on Chelsea you can in the Premier League. Coming off the back of a moral-boosting League Cup win over Spurs yesterday it’s difficult to see Jose’s men ‘drop off’ again but that’s our only hope now; well that…and the hope that we can keep the reds of both North London and Trafford at bay.

Leicester City parking 2 busses at the Etihad on Wednesday night – can’t wait…

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