Why is it often taking a bucket of cold water – often in the form of a big scare or, worse, going a goal down – for us to wake up so often this season?
Why - even though we have (and have had for some time now) most of our injured players back - do we still look like we’re playing in one of those post, just-won-the-title seasons; where the players can often then find it hard [for some weird reason] to lift themselves after becoming champions the previous season?
Why are we not addressing the weakest area of our team, which is the whole left-side of our defence [in Mangala & Kolarov]?
Yeah, it was a fantastic comeback on Saturday…but I’m thinking more “Come back” with regards to two players in order to help stop our leaking, creaking and panicked defence.
Like many players this season, Gael Clichy has been ‘up there’ with the worse affected in terms of injury (or injuries). He’s supposedly back now and I pray that he’s ready to step in; that he can remain free from injury for the rest of the season and hits the ground running with some fine, solid displays and long-lasting form.
Not gonna buy or loan a flippin’ good central defender in January (very unlikely of course)? Is Vinny going to continue to have injury, after injury, after injury, after injury? Then flippin’-well get Jason Denayer back from Galatasaray if possible OR let an EDS player such as Tosin Adarabioyo or Cameron Humphreys step up to the first team! Why? ‘cause we cannot possibly continue with the left-sided pair of Mangala & Kolarov much longer if we are serious about winning something this season!
And although he has done very little wrong and has, in fact, had mostly 7/10 performances so far this season; Bacary Sagna needs some respite soon and I for one can’t wait to see whether a returning [from injury] Pablo Zabaleta can be back to his very best. Pablo not-only solidifies that side of the defence but, assuming he’s not lost any pace (although he was never blessed with blistering speed of course), he creates an extra dimension on the right-side of our attack too; with often devastating overlaps with whoever is playing of the right-side of the midfield in front of him.
Even on paper…
…calms the nerves over the horror show often dished out by…
…Sagna excluded - and with a regular, decent centre-half partner next to him I can see the class in Otamendi.
Sort it out quickly Mr Pellegrini!
Back to Saturday’s game…
It was ALWAYS gonna be a hard-fought contest; I’m quickly building a lot of respect for Quique Sanchez Flores who organises his side so very well indeed. They’re a team-spirited, tight unit but one who don’t just defend but who ‘grind teams down’ and can be-then devastating in attack too – just ask Liverpool who went there recently and came away on the ‘nil end’ of a 3-0’er…
Unlike Leicester City a few days earlier, Watford came at us strong in the opening 20 to 25 minutes and we struggled like crazy on the slightly greasy pitch to gain any possession. After that fairly lengthy spell we then pushed back for the majority of the remainder of the first half, which was largely ‘even Steven’ over all.
I thought we started the second half quite lively but, and not for the first time, we looked sluggish and slightly out of sorts; not being NEARLY as clinical in our passing...and playing, pace-wise, in 2nd to 3rd gear. Result almost inevitable – they hit us with a goal, albeit an own goal by my least favourite player already mentioned.
BANG! Straight away we reacted and although well-drilled Watford held strong for 27 minutes, we began to shift closer to 4th gear and was zipping the ball round with more purpose.
Why? Why do we need that negative jolt to bring us to life?!
Once alive – and in particular once Yaya had crashed home a Kolarov corner – we were all over a shell-shocked-looking home side and finished ‘em off in style…although our “defence” which, by now, included MotM Fernandinho for the withdraw Mangala, still managed to make City hearts flutter.
Despite a now-fairly decent 3-game run of results, which has yielded 7 from 9 points from a …W D W; the unpredictable [in results over the last dozen or so games] and scary [in play] Manchester City are well ‘n’ truly back, I’m sorry to say…
How did we fair in ‘the 8’?
On 20th November 2015 I did a piece that included an 8-game, mini season up to an’ including our away game against Watford. Why? Well, simply put, it was a run of games where I saw a few ‘banana skins’ and downright difficult clashes; where if we came through it reasonable well; I felt with-then two home games coming up against ‘up & down’ Everton & continuely improving Crystal Palace we’d have a fair ol’ crack at the title this season.
The results were ‘guess work’, of course; perhaps with a little bit of ‘hope’ too at the time…
Outcome: Defeat (a horrible, wrong-personnel choice, scouse rout)
Stoke City (A)
Prediction: Win (silly me…)
Outcome: Defeat (one of the worst, if not ‘THE’ worst performances I’ve seen under the current manager)
Swansea City (H)
Outcome: Win (…just!)
Outcome: Defeat (…against a very good team in good form but, at least, a good performance from City)
Leicester City (A)
Predicted points tally: 18 from 24
Actual points tally: 13 from 24
Yikes! That’s more like a mid-table team’s points tally rather than that of a title-challenging side, which doesn’t bode well for our Premier League crown chances, does it?
Well fortunately – and in no particular order – Manyoo have been playing like dogs of late, West Ham United hit a run of 5 draws from 5 that caused them to slide away a little; Leicester’s last 3 reads L D D, Liverpool's "challenge" under their new manager continues to cough & splutter in-between decent results and even consistent, in-form Arsenal blew up in style 4-0 away to Southampton on Boxing Day.
And despite Tottenham Hotspur quietly sneaking up the table almost under the radar; that fairly woeful 13 points from 24 still sees us sitting 3rd, just 3 points off the top and with the joint best goal difference (with Spurs) in the league.
Phew…could have been a lot, lot worse.
One report states that talks are well under way and that the Spanish midfield playmaker MAY even sign this week! Reading between the lines and from experience, that means he’ll either sign in the last week of the transfer window or not at all…