That one hurt…
That old feeling.
Having followed City on a regular basis for 31 seasons, I can still recall from the early years just how badly I took certain defeats (and games that just 'felt like'). These ‘hard hitters’ were usually in the second tier of English football and were following games against teams that we "should" have beaten at home and didn't...either that or they were after poor officiating or quite simply abject City performances leading to either frustrating home draws or defeats, of which there were many in those days.
On these occasions, I used to be in a foul, sulky mood on the way home; it often put a right downer on a Saturday night out and if it was really bad, it used to take to until about Tuesday afternoon [following a Saturday afternoon game] to get it out of my system (no exaggeration there)! As time passed, I matured and although some frustrating draws, poor performances and undeserved defeats still hurt of course; I think I’ve developed an automatic defensive system that allows me to ‘soak it up’ and even look back with some sense of pragmatism.
Yesterday broke that defence system and it’s taken me several deep breaths and a little mental torment - after a restless night’s sleep - to drag myself to the PC and cobble together some words following our 1-3 defeat to title contenders, Chelsea, yesterday afternoon.
Ouch number 1.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first – a certain referee called Anthony Taylor. Mr Taylor, according to his Wiki page, supports Altrincham FC…but long-standing rumours have it that he is, in fact, a Manyoo fan.
Regardless of that, shouldn’t Chelsea have been complaining that a referee born in Manchester shouldn’t have been selected to officiate a game involving a Manchester team…or do they know for certain that he is-indeed a “red” and was hoping for exactly what they got yesterday; an official in charge who had an agenda and who gave us next to NOTHING in terms of decisions that we deserved?!
He was actually very, very poor all round yesterday and missed several incidents that should have gone the visitor’s way – a few of those involving Fernandinho early on and then throughout the game where, in my opinion, the Brazilian’s head wasn’t right from the start and where he should have had 2 yellows before the red card melee.
But David Luiz should have gone for being the last man and taking out Sergio Aguero with NO intension whatsoever of attempting to get the ball. That would have been a 'game changer'. We should also have had a penalty when Ilkay Gundogan had his legs swept from under him and from behind.
But there were dozens of challenges that went unpunished, likewise muliple dives from Chelsea players and the amount of acting / 'feigning injury' going on in dark blue shirts was appalling!
And in that carnage at the end of the game, did any Chelsea players get punished for barging over, attempting to throw punches and slapping one of our player’s face? No, did they ‘eck…and I now expect to see retrospective action taken on at least one of their players after video footage is viewed.
If ever a referee deserves 0/10 then it was one Mr A. Taylor yesterday.
Ouch number 2.
Whilst brooding heavily in the garden after the match and sinking several cans of liquid pain killers, I decided to fire off a couple of texts to fellow Blues. One was on this subject.
Regular readers will know that, prior to a match, I do a predicted starting 11 line-up. Well…I made the decision this morning that I’m never going to use Claudio Bravo’s name in that line-up anymore and, instead, I’m going to refer to him as, “Outfield player with gloves on”.
The Chilean, huh…”stopper”, couldn’t be at fault for Chelsea’s third but I am frustrated beyond words that our Joe Hart is in Italy – apparently having said that he will never return to a club who has made it so clear he was not wanted – while we have a player [occasionally] between the sticks who appears to make SO little effort to stop shots on goal! I swear without any doubt whatsoever that Joe would have got a toe, finger or even his face on some of those shots [that lead to goals] not only yesterday but throughout the season so far.
Pep, in my opinion, has made a grave error in sacrificing keeper “footwork” for one of the best keepers in the Premier League.
And in front of the Chilean?
Ouch number 3.
My God we need a new defence!
First of all, Guardiola needs to take some blame for his choices yesterday…and I don’t say that just in hindsight. I was wide-eyed yesterday when I saw his 3-6-1 formation & personnel choices against an in-form side who are packed full of devastating, attacking talent.
Okay we were at home…but to go ‘just 3’ that contains a player who has more “off” games than “on” (Otamendi) and a player who I’ve questioned for years, for the most part, as to whether he’s any kind of defender at all (Kolarov) - and all ahead of a the ‘yellow peril’ in gloves – and, well…you can see what I mean can’t you?
I actually saw Messrs Nicholas & Aleks do a few good things yesterday and applauded them from my seat at the time. However, they really aren’t up to the task most of the time and especially not against quality opposition.
John Stones is excused – he did what he could yesterday (some very good stuff at times in fact); clearly has quality and will be a very good City defender for years to come I’m sure.
But it needs a complete rebuild.
Gael Clichy – When he gets a run in the team and on the left of a back-4 I actually like him. I appear to be in the minority of City fans with that opinion though. I will add, though, that at 32 in July he’s not going to get any better and I do think we NEED far better. He needs to be replaced in the summer.
Aleksandar Kolarov – I’ve said it all already about the just-turned 31-year old. He shows brief flashes of being a decent player but then flips that on his head. Indeed, for the last half-dozen or so games at the back end of season 2014/15 he played like a different man! Same again at the end of last season and he followed it up by having a good, 10-game spell under Pep. But, once again, that was it; back to the old Kolarov of being far to slow of thought and in body and looking like a clumsy one-footer with no clue whatsoever! That’s two left-backs we need in my opinion.
Vincent Kompany – I hope not…but surely ‘that’s that’ for the classy Belgium.
Nicholas Otamendi – A player who has more errors in him than a corrupt computer. He’s a 'goal for the oppo' waiting to happen; sprinkled with more than his fair share of rash challenges, I have to add. He can look classy & composed at times…but not nearly enough for where we need to be aiming for quality-wise.
Bacary Sagna – Despite being 34 in February, I think a fit Bacary is a strong player still 'full of running'. A very good defender too and, perhaps, our best EVER free transfer? I would say so. But that is "34 in February" and, surely therefore, we need to be looking for fresher legs or freeing-up some room for EDS talent to come through.
John Stones – Solid, classy, English defender who is still learning. Glad we have him on board.
Pablo Zabaleta – Love the man bits; a truly great right-back and he looks leaner and as fit as ever under Pep! 32 in January and although that makes him nearly 2 years younger than Bacary; he doesn’t quite seem to have the same leg strength as the French international. He’s slowing down now and, therefore, I think he needs to move on in the summer. Hope he stays on as a defensive coach…but like the left-back situation; that’s 2 right-backs we need (even if one of those is an EDS player who makes the breakthrough).
Other than that, we have Tosin Adarabioyo (central defender) & Pablo Maffeo (right-back) who I believe have very good changes of making it at City and, similarly, Cameron Humphreys (central defender) & Jose Angel Tasende (left-back) who have shown some promise also. Jason Denayer’s future, I believe, may lie elsewhere now…
And seeing as it’s supposed to be part of the defence, I will chuck in that we are DESPERATE for 2-new keepers!
That’s a lot of defence-work-spending and seeing as it’s hard has hell to prize quality players away from their clubs in January, I think we’ll see most of that re-build done in the summer now, sadly. We might see one central defender at least join us just after Christmas but whether that’ll be enough is anyone’s guess.
Here’s a list of keepers & defenders we’ve been linked with recently…
Name: Gianluigi Donnarumma
Current club: AC Milan
Contracted to: June 2018
Name: Alex Sandro
Position: Defender / Winger - Left
Current club: Juventus
Contracted to: June 2020
Name: Mario Gaspar
Position: Defender - Right
Current club: Villarreal
Contracted to: June 2019
Name: Joao Cancelo
Position: Defender / Winger - Right
Current club: Valencia
Contracted to: June 2021
Name: Serge Aurier
Position: Defender / Winger - Right
Current club: Paris St-Germain
Contracted to: June 2019
Name: Benjamin Henrichs
Position: Defender / Midfielder - Left / Right / Centre
Current club: Bayer Leverkusen
Contracted to: June 2019
Name: Virgil Van Dijk
Position: Defender - Centre
Current club: Southampton
Contracted to: June 2022!
As you can see, some of these players are heavily contracted and, so, would cost a fortune I’m sure.
Ouch number 4.
I managed to raise a puzzled look from one fellow Blues in my local the other week when I spewed out my own, researched stat. And I was then puzzled at his puzzlement…
The stat was about ‘shots’ to ‘shots on target’ and apart from the first 10 games where we were ripping teams apart and all over the place, I think for the quality we have in our team our shooting has been pretty awful to say the very least. We’ve been very wasteful indeed of the chances, to our credit, we’ve created and it has cost us many points already – so many in fact that we would easily be at the top of the league “if only”…
The stat I came out with was that in our three, 1-1 home draws to Everton, Southampton & Middlesbrough at least; we had 58 shots (that’s excellent!) but of those only 18 were on target. To me, at least, that figure of 18 is pretty poor and wasteful for, I’ll say it again, the talent we have at our disposal.
Sergio has been as "in" and then "out" of form nearly as much as his Argentine comrade, Nicholas Otamendi, this season; and whenever Kelechi Iheanacho has been ‘given the nod’ to either start or come on as a sub, I think the majority of the time he’s choked for some reason this campaign so far. That needs to change with Sergio now serving a 4-game, domestic ban!
We’ve got Gabriel Jesus to come into the squad early January and, hopefully, he’ll inject some extra accuracy that’s clearly missing. I hope he is indeed the finisher we’re all lead to believe he is because even from midfield / 'the wings' we’re failing badly in front of goal of late.
Ouch number 5.
Missed opportunity to go top for a while and 2 points clear of Chelsea. Instead, we’re now 4-points behind to a team who have now won 8 Premier League games in a row; conceding just 2 goals in that time! Yikes!
Ouch number 6.
No Sergio for 4 games, no Fernandinho for 3.
Ouch number 7.
Big win for Arsenal to stick the weekend knife in further.
Ouch number 8.
Big win for Tottenham Hotspur to then twist that knife.
Huhhhh…come on Bournemouth & Everton today. Update on that (3:48pm, 4th December 2016) - 'Get in' Bournemouth!
This sums up perfectly how I felt - and still feel - about yesterday's game...and, in particular, the referee (you might have to click on the speaker icon on the video to activate it).