Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Transfer deadline day....All quiet!

Bar out goings it was a very quiet transfer deadline day at Manchester City.  Some might see that as a sign UEFA'S FFP restriction was really biting but in all honesty City's main business in getting the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany etc... to sign new long term deals could be the best business the club has ever done.

True there were issues.  Kompany hasn't had a settled partner, Martin Demichelis was only ever brought in as cover though injuries meant he was called on to play far more regularly than Manuel Pellegrini could have imagined towards the end of last season he possibly was City's best defender and had a decent World cup for Argentina.  That issue could well have been solved by the signing Eliaquim Mangala.  

Fernando at first puzzled me we had two decent holding players in Yaya and Fernandinho.  Though having seen his form in the league games he's played I totally get it.  He is a play breaker who isn't afraid to run with the ball and he can spot a pass.  Added to that his signing gives Pellegrini the option of  pushing Yaya further forward where his sheer size and skill have panicked many defences.

Joe Hart on his day is one of the best keepers in the world.  But does seem to lose concentration.  The signing of Willy Caballero is a good move as it keeps pressure on Joe, the sort he's not really had since Shay Given was at City .  Caballero is know and trusted by Pellegrini so any slip ups by Hart he knows the manager has a ready made replacement breathing down his neck.

It's no coincidence City's squad that played West Ham to win the title in 2014 contained many of the same players that won the title in such dramatic fashion against QPR in 2012.  City have a very settled squad which will not need much tweeking the next few years.  Then throw in hot academy prospects like Marcos Lopes currently on loan to Lille returning next summer.  Devante Cole appears to have settled well on loan Barnsley. Jason Denayer has looked very good both for City in pre season and whenever he's played whilst on loan at Celtic.  There are some good young players who will be putting pressure on Pellegrini for a chance next year.

The surprise departure in Alvaro Negredo has left many questioning if 3 strikers is enough.   Looking back to last season it more often was the case that if you were fit you started.  City rarely had 4 strikers available as Aguero missed  half the season with Jovetic missing more.  Jovetic appears to now be fully fit having had a full pre season and has been looking like a new signing almost with decent form.  Indeed injuries in key games like Everton away meant City switched to one up front.

All in all perhaps not the window some expected but in many respects did much need changing?

Sunday, 22 June 2014

What a difference a year makes

Last summer the dust was settling from Roberto Mancini's sacking and the subsequent appointment of Manuel Pellegrini.  The rumours of a dressing room divided with big stars apparently asking the club to sell them were all over the press.

Pellegrini certainly had a tough task but his calm demeanour seemed to rub off on the players, even when results didn't match performances very little seemed to bother "the engineer" He quietly and respectfully went about his tasks and whenever questioned he seemed to find the answer.  Indeed any side losing a player of the quality of Sergio Aguero for pretty much half of the season would struggle, but Pellegrini seemed to reinvigorate Edin Dzeko who came on strong when it mattered.

Other players who struggled last year also came to the fore.  Samir Nasri by his own admission had a poor 12/13 but was sensational for long periods of 13/14.  Aleks Kolarov was also a key player and for me made it so h/e should be the first choice left back.  Even Javi Garcia looked much improved under Pellegrini's guidance. There was a togetherness style and swagger as City won the first major trophy of the season in the Capital One Cup was won.

Then as Liverpool crumbled under the pressure of all but being certain of winning the title Pellegrini's City won 4 straight including a dramatic 3-2 win at Goodison Park, a ground where City have rarely won in the Premier League era to wrap up a 2nd title in 3 years.

It has been an incredible season 102 league goals with some amazing performances from many in the team.  Though special mention has to go to Yaya Toure 20 goals from midfield in the league was an amazing achievement. 

Though a lot of credit has to go to the manager.  Manuel Pellegrini his first season in England, what he achieved is a credit to the man.  To win two major trophies in his first season whilst still learning the league is outstanding.  He's set himself high standards and you know he'll want more!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Early season review

Manuel Pellegrini's arrival at Manchester City also saw the 4 new players through the door and the departure of Carlos Tevez, whilst not being impressed with the way the club handled Roberto Mancini's sacking I had seen enough to suggest things weren't right between the manager and the dressing room.  Never really paying much attention to pre season (for me about fitness and bedding in new players)  I arrived at the Newcastle game full of hope and certainly wasn't disappointed City turn on the style and crushed a hapless Newcastle side with a style and swagger that was so pleasing to watch. Though the loss of Vincent Kompany to a groin injury was a worry.

Against Cardiff the swagger went and we conceded two sloppy goals  from set plays defensively we looked like we missed Kompany.  All this after dominating play and taking the lead.   The attack was too slow and that allowed Cardiff to keep 10 behind the ball whenever we attacked.  After the match there was a change in post match interview style, Roberto Mancini was on occasions quick to point out errors where as Pellegrini  tried to point to the positives. 

Against Hull sat behind the goal I was able to see those defensive frailties, the biggest issue was there was no one leading the line marshaling and talking so everyone was on the same page.  Whenever City went forward Yaya Toure and Fernandinho pushed up leaving space for Hull to break into if the attack broke down.  Again for much of the game the attack was simply to slow it allowed the tigers to stay solid, in fact on the rare occasions City upped the work rate and attacked at pace it resulted in Alvaro Negerdo scoring a great header after some lovely quick one and two touch passing.  Joe Hart was rarely on to make a save where as McGregor did pull off a few smart saves but you did get the impression City stole the points after Yaya Toure's brilliant free kick wrapped up the 2-0 win.

It's obvious we are still a work in progress but it's also clear City do need another Centre Half to cover if and when first choice pair Nastasic and Kompany are injured.  I'd also question if Yaya and Fernandinho can play in the same side they are basically doing a similar role what is needed is someone to sit back in centre midfield to mop up should attacks break down to ensure teams aren't instantly attacking the defence.  Up front we have the creativity and talent to ensure finding goals aren't an issue indeed yesterday proved that when Negredo came on city instantly looked to have more of a threat.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Player ratings and Player of the year

Joe Hart 7
If ever a players season summed up the clubs Joe's does.  Golden Glove again for 18 clean sheets in the league but some uncharacteristic mistakes have marred this season.  That said anyone who saw his display against Dortmund in the champions league will have been amazed at the brilliance Hart showed that night he earned City the draw as much as Mario Balotelli's late penalty.

Costel Pantilimon 7
Did very well in the few games he played certainly harshly dropped for the FA Cup Final.

Pablo Zabaleta 9
Has been a revelation this season lion hearted brave never say die attitude means Pablo will always be a fans favourite.

Micah Richards 6
Hard to judge Micah injuries have really restricted him so never really been match fit.

Vincent Kompany 7
A few early season wobbles but slowly but surely the confidence came back.  Always respectful in the media he is the ideal character for his role as club captain.

Matija Nastasic 8
Simply the buy of the season been a key part in helping Kompany find his confidence maturity and calmness beyond his young years.

Kolo Toure 5
Always seemed to take two or 3 games to find his feet before showing his form.

Joleon Lescott 5.5
Exactly the same as Kolo struggled for first few games before showing his best.

Gael Clichy 6
Solid left back who does seem to have a phobia of crossing the ball when further up Field.

Aleksander Kolarov 5
Not a natural left back and does struggle with defending but always a goal threat from free kicks.

Gareth Barry 6
Consistent and always noticeably missed when not in action.

James Milner 6.5
Always gives it his all but probably not had enough of a run to really show his best.

Javi Garcia 3
Started well then went backwards seemed to struggle with the pace of the league and not helped by being in and out of the team.

David Silva 5.5
By his own high standards not the best season.  There were definite glimpses of his best but not enough.

Scott Sinclair unable to score
Almost zero point in his signing I do feel sorry for the man too few starts to be fair to him.

Jack Rodwell 6
Again hard to judge due to injuries but as he gained match fitness there were good signs Jack will prove to be a great signing.

Samir Nasri 4
Slowed play down way to often and at times just didn't seem bothered.

Yaya Toure 5.5
At times brilliant at times lazy much like Silva not his best season.

Edin Dzeko 5
Always seems to score important goals but so frustrating to watch in and out of the team didn't help but even with a run of games he looked yards off the pace sometimes.

Carlos Tevez 7.5
Started off the season all guns blazing perhaps didn't hit the heights of his previous two full seasons but always put a shift in for the team.

Sergio Aguero 6.5
Injury hit season still capable of match winning performances and scoring spectacular goals.

Mario Balotelli 5
Never really got a long enough run to find his form before his transfer to AC Milan.

Has to be Pablo Zabaleta genuinely outstanding for most of the season never say die attitude fully committed to the cause.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Ciao Roberto

The news that Roberto Mancini had been sacked earlier in the week was sadly unsurprising given rumours it was coming had been doing the rounds pre the FA Cup Final.  What was perhaps most shocking was the rumours appeared to be leaking out of the club.  The lack of a denial or indeed Mancini's comments attacking club officials after the Cup Final only added more fuel to the rumours.

To an outsider looking in it does appear strange given Mancini took City from UEFA Cup qualifiers to Champions League regulars as well as adding the first major silverware in 35 years winning the FA Cup.  Just a year later that was followed up by the League Championship, City fans hadn't had it this good since the late 60's.  Modern football has brought us magnificent new stadiums and seen the Premier League generate billions in TV money and the Champions League has become a monster, so perhaps the need for instant results have played a part as 2nd this year wasn't good enough?

As the week has progressed more and more stories leaked out mentioning player unrest.  Mancini it is rumoured used his PA to talk to players whom he'd fell out with if you take what the Daily Mail say seriously.  The Mail article is a stunning read and really makes you question the standards in the Premier League in the sense with that much chaos apparently going on City we still able to finish 2nd place.  Speak to most City fans and they will probably admit performances this year haven't quite been the same as the previous year.  Certain players seemed pre occupied and unable to find the levels they had in previous years.  Mancini certainly didn't hold back in press conferences savaging players who he felt had cost the side his headmaster style of management coming through.  Added to the previous summers savaging of Brian Marwood for his apparent mishandling of transfers it appears Mancini had made a bad impression in the board room.  Champions League groups wouldn't have helped either as City failed to progress two years running yet on both occassions the draw was hardly kind.

Fans have been left stunned as the Club shot themselves in foot with the shoddy way the sacking leaked out and Mancini's reported replacement Manuel Pellegrini already in the public domain.  It was very much like 3 years ago as I got texts at a match at the Etihad telling me Mark Hughes was sacked and Roberto Mancini was in the crowd or on the way to Manchester.  Both sackings sadly show the club in a poor light and do nothing to aid it's growth.  The club need to learn from these PR disasters it genuinely feels like they have chased column inches to get the clubs name out there without caring about the content.

Personally I will miss Mancini he has brought Manchester City kicking and screaming from sleeping giants to contenders again and I thank him from the bottom of my heart it is a pity it ended so messily but in a great gesture Roberto took out a full page ad in the Manchester Evening News thanking the fans for their support and we in turn thank him.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Ciao Mario (Mad, marvellous or both? Part 2)

The news that Mario Balotelli is signing for Ac Milan brings to an end an eventful 2 1/2 years at City for the Italian.  And because of Martin Tylers brilliant commentary there will always be"Manchester City are still alive here Balotelli...AgueroOOOOO!"

There have been many highs from his brilliant performance in the Fa Cup Final which rightly lead to him being Man of the match.  He was excellent as United were beaten 1-6 at Old Trafford.  His nerve to slot home a last minute penalty against Tottenham a feat he repeated against Dortmund in this seasons Champions League. As well as that pass on when falling to the ground helping clinch the title. Some comedy as well from his infamous hat through to his Bentley having a Camoflague paint job and of course that fireworks incident.

There have been the lows as well from getting stupidly sent off a few times too his off the field antics which the press simply lapped up.  As I said in the first Mad, marvellous or both? It did seem a lot of pressure on young shoulders as story after story was printed about him.  It didn't affect him during the European Championships as he was instrumental in Italy's performance almost on his own putting Germany to the sword.

At club level things weren't going so well as a virus put him out for a while not long after scoring his first league goal of the season he had been in and out of the side. He'd not long returned when the news of the Milan deal broke.  He certainly split opinions with pundits and more and more it appeared with the City faithful.  Personally I wanted to see the best of him but had grown tired of the media circus whilst good it got the name of the club out there it was always twisted slightly.

Perhaps the best example was the training ground bust up with Roberto Mancini.  Mancini admitted HE over reacted and went for Mario after a poor tackle yet the media used it as yet another example of "Mad Mario" Perhaps also he was a distraction to the other players as well as stats show City's win percentage to be higher when Balotelli was missing, few though could doubt his quality and playing for the team he grew up supporting hopefully he will have more Germany type performances showing Roberto Mancini was right to stick by him.  The english media will certainly be at a loss without him Sky even sent a reporter to Milan to report on his arrival.  But one thing they cannot argue with is many players will go their entire careers and not have the success Mario has had at 22.

Despite growing tired of the circus I have to say he is one of the best players i've seen when he's in the mood.  He is definitely mad and yes can be marvellous good luck in Milan Mario!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Tinkering the european problem?

The dust is settling on a 2nd straight poor showing from City in the Champions League as yet again the best the Blues can hope for is 3rd in the group.  Whilst the draw both times has hardly been kind to the club but 3 wins in 11 games so far is a grim stat.  People have pondered and puzzled as to why City have struggled some pointing out rightly it took Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson a few attempts to get past the group stages.  Others have pointed out poor Champions League form played a part in Roberto Mancini getting the sack from Inter Milan.

 Whilst planning this blog I must admit I seemed to recall a lot of squad changed as each European game week came and went and that curiosity lead me to look at the starting 11's for each game.   It shows 2 or 3 changes every game sometimes a few more. Below is a list of both seasons Champions League starting 11's


Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Yaya Toure, Barry, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko , Nasri
Hart; Richards, Kompany, K Toure, Clichy; Barry , Y Toure; Aguero, Nasri, Silva; Dzeko
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, DeJong , Yaya Toure, Nasri , Silva, Johnson , Dzeko
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Savic, Clichy, Yaya Toure , De Jong, Nasri, Silva , Milner, Balotelli
Hart, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott Milner, Silva, De Jong, Y Toure, Dzeko , Balotelli
Hart, Savic, Clichy, Lescott, Kompany, Barry, Y Toure , Silva , Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko 


Hart, Maicon, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Yaya Toure, Silva, Barry, Tevez, Nasri
Hart, Zablaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy , Yaya Toure, Garcia, Nasri, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko
Hart, Richards, Clichy, Lescott , Kompany, Barry , Milner , Yaya Toure, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko
Hart, Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Nastasic, Garcia, Barry, Y Toure, Nasri, Tevez , Aguero
Hart, Maicon, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva, Nasri, Dzeko, Aguero 

True injuries play a part and of course there was Carlos Tevez's infamous bust up in Munich last year.  But for a team trying to find it's feet in the competition it can't help not knowing for definite who your playing partner will be.  There is also new players bedding in whilst in the Premier League things have been a touch smoother the constant changes to the starting 11's cannot have helped in Europe.  True with an easier draw I might not have come to this conclusion but given how hard the groups have been the tinkering cannot have helped especially  when trying a new formation as the blues have this year with 3 at the back some games.  

With a settled side I do wonder if the club will do better if they qualify next year time will tell, but another poor showing and it could lead to pressure on Roberto Mancini's job despite the domestic success we have enjoyed.