Saturday, 3 December 2011

Calling it a day.

I'm not going to do these anymore because, quite simply, nobody is reading them. Sorry to those that do read my work, but I just don't feel like it's worth it anymore.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Arsenal - City, preview.

After our good result against Liverpool, we’re now being rushed to London to face Arsenal in the League Cup. I very much doubt we’re going to see the likes of Silva, van Persie and Aguero tonight, but it will be a chance for arguably the two best youth teams in the country to show off their budding youngsters.

I think it’s going to be a tight one. In fact, this may even go to extra time. Mancini has promised 11 changes from the side that started against Liverpool, but those comments were made during a rant at the Premier League fixture schedule, however, I don’t think Mancini is a man to go back on his word unless he is forced to.

Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Barry, Balotelli, Aguero and Silva will either be on the bench or not feature at all because we’ve got a big Premier League game on Saturday at home to Norwich (and before you start, every game is a big game), and we’ll need to have our strongest team available to make sure our unbeaten Premier League record doesn’t come to an end.

We haven’t won at Arsenal in 36 years, so maybe it’s time to end that jinx. Clichy sounds desperate to do so as well (of course he would, returning to the place he used to call home), but whether he’ll be playing is another matter altogether.

Pantilimon, Onuoha, Zabaleta, Savic, Kolarov, de Jong, Nasri and Dzeko should start. And I predict they’ll be joined by a couple of youngsters: the returning Abdul Razak has impressed on the south coast at Portsmouth, so I imagine he’ll partner de Jong in midfield if Mancini is truly serious about this competition. And “Boy with the Nice Hair” Denis Suarez may be an additional creative option up front behind Edin Dzeko.

Prediction – Arsenal 1-3 Manchester City, AET.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City, thoughts.

I’m pretty shocked at how devoid of ideas we looked on Sunday. I think the extra games each week are finally beginning to have an impact on the squad, and yesterday in a game where we were up against a fully rested Liverpool side it was displayed for all to see. Liverpool had much more fight and urgency about them throughout the game and danced around as our tired legs stumbled on the Anfield surface.

Thinking about it, I suppose we could have come away with three points if Lescott hadn’t been where he was, but it’s a mistake and we can move on. Joleon’s finally getting to the top of his game, so getting on his back won’t help.  I think we all know that Lescott is one of England’s best centre-backs, and this mistake doesn’t make him any less of a defender than he was last week.

I thought Joe Hart was our Man of the Match. Some of his saves in the dying seconds were outstanding. In fact, that save from Andy Carroll could be one of the saves of the season. It was incredibly similar to his save from Tottenham’s Steven Pienaar last season: as Joe fell to his right, he managed to thrust out an arm and throw his body weight back in the other direction to make the save. Who says we don’t have a world-class shot shopper between the sticks?

Outfield, our best option was probably Clichy. Normally I’d expect to be lauding Silva, Aguero or Yaya, but they were almost non-existent in the second half. Clichy did brilliantly to get forward and swing balls over. Some of his crosses reminded me of Kolarov’s “crossing”, but when Gael connects with a cross you’re almost certain that a chance will come at the end of it.

Now – the sending off. How? Just how? How, when he’s been so wonderfully well behaved, does Balotelli go from hero to zero in 18 minutes? I guess he’s the only person in the world that can do that. Some could argue that his reputation precedes him, but you can’t jump into someone with your arm up and expect to stay on the field afterwards if you’re already on a yellow? I’m not exactly getting sick of Balotelli (I love him), but I fear that Mancini may be losing patience with him. Thankfully Balotelli, along with Barry, will only miss the League Cup quarter-final against Arsenal on Tuesday but it’s a selection headache Mancini would rather not have.

Even though that was our worst performance of the season so far, you have to just look at the Premier League table and raise a smile; we’re still five points clear, we’re still far ahead of everyone else and we’re still unbeaten. Our form in all competitions has taken a tiny bit of a dent, but regular services should resume on Tuesday – and if not then, at home to Norwich next Saturday. Norwich have only won once away this season, while we sit on a 100% record at home.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Napoli 2-1 City, thoughts

I thought I’d wait until the morning after the night before to express my views on what was effectively our Champions’ League exit. I’ve found that over the past couple of years my knee-jerk reactions have lost me a lot of friends on football forums and in real life, so I took the advice I gave to someone a few months ago, and gave myself a night’s rest and a chance to calm down.

I thought were unlucky last night, looking at the stats and the direction of the play. I can’t remember Napoli causing that much of a threat when they weren’t scoring goals, and both of our goals were slightly down to our own errors – errors that can be corrected with slightly better organisation. We had 60% of the possession away from home in the Champions’ League and we had 18 shots away from home in the Champions’ League; we just couldn’t finish our chances. I don’t think it was Balotelli’s night, and I think we could all see how frustrated he was getting with his missed chances.

We’re not totally out of the Champions’ League, but we’ll need a near miracle to progress. We’ll need to beat one of the best sides in the world (currently) in Bayern Munich, and we’ll need one of the worst teams left in the competition (Villarreal) to beat Napoli. It’s not looking likely, is it? We’re in a difficult position, though; do we just accept that we’re out and rest our players against Bayern so that they’re fresh for the Chelsea game at the weekend, or do we go out all guns blazing with nothing to lose and play a slightly weaker team against one of our biggest title challengers and potentially surrender our unbeaten domestic record for nothing?

I have to stress, though, that if Mancini leaves both Richards and Clichy on the bench together once more, I may have to throttle him. Zabaleta and Kolarov offered very little attacking threat last night, and it’s not the first time this season that they’ve failed to impress when played together. Kolarov did give us a wide option in Naples but when he did cross the ball or look to cut it back, every pass seemed to be a guess (added to that, Kolarov was even getting the basics wrong in the same way Wright-Phillips did during the 09-10 season; balls were slipping under his feet, and his confidence was shot), and none of Zabaleta’s crosses were successful. In all honesty, as much as I love him, he was very poor last night.

Which leads me on to my final point, and the biggest problem about last night’s game... Mancini hasn’t used Zabaleta properly this season. This season he’s played in less than half of our Premier League games (4), but he seems to be first choice right-back for our Champions’ League games. Is that the right thing to do? Mancini seems to be throwing Zabaleta into our biggest games without a shield or any big match practise. I guess it’s just unfortunate.

I can point the finger at specific players and blame them for our poor showing in the Champions’ League this season, but this is just the start. I have to focus on our rivals, Manchester United, to fully get my point across: United were running away with the Premier League in 1994, but they exited the Champions’ League before reaching the group stages of the competition, losing to Galatasary on aggregate. Six seasons later they won the competition.

In other words, it takes time to establish yourself in European football, no matter how good you are domestically. We may have players like Aguero, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko and Kompany but they’ve only been playing together for three months. We’re running away with the league and the team we have is one of the best in the world, but European football is an ugly beast that shows no mercy to a new group of people.

Let’s just batter Liverpool.

Hart 7; Zabaleta 5, Kompany 6, Lescott 6, Kolarov 5; de Jong 5, Yaya 7, Milner 8, Silva 6; Dzeko 6, Balotelli 7.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Napoli - City preview.

If we win this, we’re through. If we draw we have to face Bayern Munich and win in the last group games, and if we lose we’re basically out.

Tonight is a big moment in the history of Manchester City Football Club, and if we progress to the knockout phases of the Champions’ League with a game to spare (in a group as difficult as this one) will surely make the eyes of the giants focus on Manchester for another week. We’re making shockwaves around the UK, but we’ve merely started a tremor in Europe. Could tonight be the night?

After his fantastic performance on Saturday, Micah Richards gave Mancini something to think about ahead of his team selection before tonight’s game. Pablo Zabaleta has featured in the Champions’ League quite a lot this season, and he’s signed a new deal this week, but Richards’ recent form may be enough to get him a starting place tonight. I imagine Zabaleta will start at the weekend against Liverpool if he doesn’t start.

And because he didn’t start on Saturday in the 3-1 win over Newcastle, Gareth Barry will start tonight in midfield alongside (I think) Yaya Toure. I’d argue that we have the strongest midfield in Europe in terms of quality available, and I hope I’m still saying that at 10pm this evening.

Silva and Adam Johnson may be our link between the strikers and the midfield tonight because they both started from the bench against Newcastle – but our depth does not stop there!

Edin Dzeko should start tonight because he didn’t feature on Saturday, and I reckon he’ll be joined by Balotelli over Aguero. Balotelli is on top form at the moment, and being back in Napoli he now has a chance to prove a point to the Italian fans that dislike him because of his antics when he was an Inter Milan player.

I think we’re good enough to win this comfortably, but Napoli’s defensive discipline may shut us out once again. Being in such a hostile arena is not the most ideal situation to be in when trying to progress ahead of the team that calls the hostile arena “home”. But we’ve got players used to this sort of game, and this is where their true quality needs to be on display.

Final prediction: Napoli 1-2 Manchester City.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle - thoughts on the game.

Barcodes priced out by brilliant billionaires City
As a team, I don't think we've been at our absolute best since we hammered United in October, but we've still managed to bag nine goals in three games, close teams down and come away with maximum points. We're now the in-form team in the Premier League, with six wins from six, and everything is looking perfect for us.

We seem to be putting to bed the theory that we can't win when Silva doesn't start. Nasri and Aguero were causing Newcastle's previously rock-solid defence lots of problems, and when a combination of the two stars found Yaya Toure via a deflection, the African's volley was blocked by a hand. Man of the moment Mario Balotelli converted another penalty spectacularly to keep up his 100% spot-kick record.

Micah Richards is City's other main man at the moment. He was bombing forward, tackling back, supporting Milner and even helping out Kompany and Nasri - he was all over the pitch, but rarely out of position! Capello and England are missing out on Micah, but if he keeps his head up Richards will sooner or later work his way into the England team.

David Silva once again proved how special he is. He came on as a substitute for Balotelli, and within thirty seconds of his arrival to the field of play, a lovely reverse ball to Micah Richards drew Ben Arfa and forced another penalty. Aguero converted - game over.

Joe Hart's distribution is still slightly subject, but some of his goalkeeping was tremendous: denying Demba Ba and superbly flicking away a low cross-cum-shot at his near post. The signs are encouraging from him, but his kicking needs a bit of work!

Roll on Napoli.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Manchester City - Newcastle, preview.

Once again I'm sat here worried about the nxt game. Newcastle have the best defensive record in the league and they're looking like more than just a solid unit under Alan Pardew; Demba Ba is firing on all cylinders, and Cabaye and Tiote have been like Elano and Johnson were for us under Sven. But they face City today, a City team that are - like Newcastle - unbeaten in the Premier League.

Aguero, Silva, Dzeko, Balotelli, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Richards, Hart, Milner... the list goes on and on. Newcastle have started the season well but they haven't faced any of the so called "big boys" as of yet. City, United and Chelsea greet them before 2011 is through, so let's see where they stand in the table by the turn of the new year.

I think we're going to win this game, but we need to expect a performance like the one we faced against Everton. Will Newcastle park the bus, or will they go all out attack? We have the flair players that can break tough defences down, and should the Goerdies go on the offensive, we 're going to rip them apart if Silva and Aguero are at 50%. And Newcastle look like they're going to be stuck with Gosling - Guthrie in midfield (which hasn't gone down too well with the Newcastle fans: "If we don't have Tiote or Cabaye back for this we are honestly f****d") becayse Tiote is struggling to prove his fitness, which may cause Newcastle to take a more defensive approach.

Manchester City 2-0 Newcastle.