Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Manchester City 3:0 Wigan: Match review.

The only light at the end of a long, cold and miserable day was the promise of trip to COMS, where City were set to strike back after a disappointing loss last week. Sadly the performance didn’t quite match my deluded vision of what was meant to happen. City’s showing more than matched the dismal drizzling rain that lasted most of the night.

Mancini set out for a 442, dropping Barry, opting for De Jong and Vieira partnership. He also gave a swift return to Adebayor after his 4 game ban. Ireland failed to make the final squad, presumably through fitness, whilst, Richards, Bellamy dropped to the bench. The squad on paper really showed a lot of promise. Inevitably it didn’t deliver!

The first half lacked tempo and sharpness in all regard. Wigan pressed our defence with little success, although created some good chances for shots from outside of the box. City were much the same, chances were few and far between, mainly due to a lack of good service. Tevez created the best chance, cutting in from the left with a great individual effort. With SWP and Johnson on the wings, it should really be more productive. Johnson looked the more promising of the two, as per usual. SWP once again put a largely disappointing performance that will surly decrease his chances of going to South Africa with England! (He can go on holiday, obviously!) The half ended with some half hearted boos, I’m not a fan of this, but it was perhaps deserved, to serve a reminder that it simply wasn’t good enough.

Expectations were immediately raised at half time with the sign of Bellamy doing rigorous warm ups and being briefed by Mancini. He replaced SWP and allowed Johnson to switch to right wing where he has been the most dangerous. This move proved important giving City more purpose and aggression. The turning point in the game was the dismissal of Caldwell for a rash two footed challenge on Tevez. He was on the receiving end of a few suspect challenges during the game. I haven’t seen the replays of this, but from what I had seen live, it may have been a little harsh for a straight red. Referee Atwell had a pretty awful game along with his assistants.

Wigan went down to ten men and started to look the most promising side. The city defence looked lest than assured against Moreno and Rodallega who may feel unlucky not to of pulled ahead. But once again Carlos Tevez came to City’s rescue. A nice pass ironically from a pretty awful Vieira found both Tevez and Adebayor reaching the ball before the hapless Serbian goalie on loan from Sporting. Tevez was soon in the action again at 75 mins. A turn of pace from Garrido into the box, a flick from Kompany led to an easy finish from Tevez to make it two.

The final goal and the third for Tevez came in the 84th min. A great run down the right, followed by a slick finish that the keeper had no chance of saving. City finally finished the game on a high, with a good tempo and energy and dominated the 10 man Wigan side.

A very good result in the end. I sensed a great deal of nervousness and pressure on the City players today. Fans were quick to get on players backs, which I find can be counter, productive, But you can’t really blame them. The performance wasn’t at all good enough. The midfield didn’t function well. De Jong was quite ineffective, although most of the focus will be on Vieira who didn’t put in a performance like his did at Fulham, but instead looked far off the pace, his only saving grace was his passing. He managed to create some very good chances, but we need to see a great deal more from him if he is going to keep Barry out of the side. Adebayor looked rusty, and was the brunt of some criticism, but he certainly didn’t lack effort, it looked like he tried too hard.

3-0 at home, clean sheet, and we were on TV. In the end it’s a good night, we are still very much in the fight for 4th spot and move ahead of Liverpool in the table. We didn’t look like a team fighting for 4th, but is it not a good sign winning when you don’t play well… a cliché too far?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Transfer Report from Goal.com


Goal.com produced 2009 summer transfer market grade report today, which I was about to upload. In general, I agree with their mark. Here are the grades they gave:

Gareth Barry: C
Carlos Tevez: A
Roque Santa Cruz: D
Emmanuel Adebayor: C+
Kolo Toure: B
Joleon Lescott: C
Sylvinho: B-
Patrick Vieira: D
Adam Johnson: B+

I agreed with Barry, RSC and Manu's grade. Barry seemed an excellent capture for City as he has been playing well for Villa and he would improve City's midfield, where they lacked past 2 years. However, he was not the player City expected to be. Slow, lack of creativity, narrow vision...... It looked as if he has been playing in old City fashion for quite some time. In general, his performance has been indifferent for me. Grade: C/D

RSC was a risky purchase, especially at the price of £25m. Ever since he started to play football in Europe, the series of injuries bothered him and this has been main factor that he wasn't rated high, despite his huge talent. He had one good season in Blackburn but that was about it. Shouldn't have bought him after all and I think it was the worst transfer deal Hughes had done during his regime. Grade: C/D

Adebayor lost his way in Arsenal under Wenger. His bad relationship with Benthner seemed as exit of Emirate stadium was imminent and, unexpectedly, City snatched him up. Result? Goals were coming until his exuberant goal ceremony against Arsenal. But after his suspension, he seemed a bit lost his form a bit and his problem with ankle stopped his goal coming, only 2 goals before the African Cup of Nations. Then accident in Africa forced him to have compassionate leave, which took a few weeks for him to make himself available to play for the team again. 3 goals in 3 games when he came back but since then no goal from him. Grade B/C

Tevez's arrival at Eastland was sensational. Everyone knew it was great signing, simply because he was from Utd and he was integral part of squad, who won EPL title last season. Although he had slow start, it didn't take him long to score his first goal for City and apart from his compassionate leave in February, he has been the most consistent threatening player in the squad. Grade A+

Toure was an odd signing. The player was clearly in downhill from his career but for some reasons, Hughes signed him to strengthen the troublesome defense. He started the season with captaincy and played well until the African Cup of Nations. After he came back with injury, he lost his form a bit and struggling to find his spot in the team sheet, as Kompany did excellent job while he was away. Captain Toure? Well City need better captain than him. Grade B/C

Lescott, at first, I thought he was one season wonder and with playing style, I expected him to struggle a bit: I was half right. He struggled a bit, as he did not have any pre-season training with Toure and he seemed unsettled time to time on the pitch. However, he got better and him and Kompany combination looked more solid than with Toure as his partner. He certainly has future in City shirt. Grade B

Sylvinho signed for experience by Hughes and he seemed to be doing good job of covering Bridge so far. Lack of pace and physical ability is covered by his vast experience of playing football. Grade C

January transfer market was quite odd for City. It was thought by many speculators that Mancini will buy big but it didn't turn out to be that way, signing just two players, Vieira and Johnson, both with relatively cheap price.

Vieira, signed early in the transfer market, was seemed as absurd signing. He was not Vieira, who played in Arsenal's unbeaten squad, but out of flavour and diminishing star, who is looking at the finishing line of his glorious career. Mancini had different view on him. He thought City lacked winning mentality and needed veteran midfielder to enhance their chance to get into 4th place in the league. Without any cost, other than extravagant wage, City got him for free and so far, he seemed to be getting better by each match. Grade C

AJ was a surprising signing for City. Playing well against City in the 3rd round of FA Cup, he seemed to catch Mancini's eyes and dramatically, on the last day, he was signed at the last minute of the winter transfer market. His home debut against Bolton, when he won penalty against Robinson, and away match against Sunderland proved that he is a rising young talent. City are lucky to sign him with relatively cheap price. Grade B/A

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Manchester City 0:2 Everton: review.

Mancini changed the winning side from the Fulham trip, dropping point man RSC and Vieira to the bench probably due to fitness and making a surprise move replacing left back Garrido with Zabaleta. Steven Ireland returned to the team after a prolonged absence in his favoured position behind the striker.

City started brightly dominated a large part of the 1st half. Ireland's passing was good, although he still lacked the energy and grit in the middle that won him the adoration of city fans last season. We had chances, but simply failed to capitalise on a good spell of possession. Our lack of finishing nearly cost us at Fulham and it certainly cost us last night! It's here, where i feel Spurs have an advantage, with Pavlyuchenko and Defoe , they have two players who would take advantage of the many chances we make in front of goal.

The game changed when Barry gave away a very contentious free kick outside the box. He appeared to win the ball fairly. Even if the free-kick was contentious, it still didn't excuse the defending. Cahill is brilliant in the air, yet was allowed to easily get his head to the ball. City finished the half in a disappointing manner, a lead Everton generally didn't deserve, but were allowed a chance on goal and took it!

City had to change shape with the withdrawal of Steven Ireland through injury, and we didn't look good. SWP came on the right, moving Johnson out left and Bellamy through the middle. It didn't work! Johnson was having some success on the right, being both footed he made life very difficult for Baines, but we didn't really utilise his ability on the left. RSC came on and gave us a focal point, but at that point, the midfield was simply non existent. Vieira's introduction came too late, we needed his ability to keep the ball and pass. I thought Barry was exceptionally poor.

City tried to pile on the pressure, with little result, good chances going amiss with poor finishing and no luck. It was inevitable that Everton would score a second on the break and that sealed city's fate, confirming City 1st loss at home since last Easter.

Once again we were undone by a side that came to disrupt and be overly physical. I thought Everton were pretty disgraceful in their conduct, using a tactic that is popular amongst lower level sides. Disruptive football, a lot of low grade fouls, time wasting, diving and arguing, this conduct highlighted by actions of their Manager who was more than happy to join in the time wasting charade. City lost momentum in the game because of this tactic, something that happened against Stoke as well. Everton are very similar to likes of Stoke and Blackburn, but with the ability to pay 15 million for one player. They were of course allowed to deploy this tactics with the aid of weak refereeing performance from Walton. His performance was deeply suspect, allowing Everton to get away with a great deal and not punishing players enough to limit them. City don't cope well with this pressure from these low-grade tactics and it's something other lower-level sides with be keen to implement when they face us.

An ultimately disappointing result and performance leaves a bitter taste after what appeared to be a turning point at Fulham. The Wigan performance will have to be of the highest calibre. Adebayor should be ready for a return, without much competition! To finish we an over used football cliché, 'it's a must win.'

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Tactical Triumph for Mancini!

Unfortunately I was not able to see the Fulham match on Sunday, hence the lack of match reports. But I did manage to catch the extended highlights of what appeared to be the most complete performance we have seen under Mancini! ( Although i wasn't too impressed with the MOTD coverage which showed the game to be much closer than it actually was!)

What i felt Mancini got right, was the inclusion of a revitalised Vieira over the ferocious De Jong. This move allowed the midfield to change focus. Neither players are 'defensive mids' as some would have you believe! Both clever players, lacking in pace, but able to create with good passing and general reading of the game! We didn't altogether dominate the middle, but we had the quality in possession to make the difference!

With two players on the wing, equally able to cut in or run the line, it makes City's offensive threat extremely hard to defend against. Opposition full backs through out the league will struggle to deal with a player who can take the ball both ways!

Another plus point would be RSC, who luckily only had cramp last match, and not another injury! TLDORC has some good analysis on RSC role in the game and interesting comparison with Adebayor (who is still banned!) Ade tends to drift out wide, and often leaves us without a target in the box, as Tevez sits deep and plays off him. So having service on the flanks becomes almost redundant. But RSC is a natural target man, and as shown with his goal, has the instinct, to be in box at the right time . He provides a real focal point for the attack, and has the ability beyond a lot of big target men, to play people in, or score himself!

Mancini has been juggling the side around, looking for a perfect formula, but he has been interrupted with injuries and suspensions. He has had to adapt quickly and often change things in game, something which he appears to do well. But I think this latest squad we will be one Mancini will use a great deal more of in the next few weeks. Starting with our revenge date Everton on Wednesday! It's balanced, good attacking threat but also solid, a promising sign in our battle for fourth spot!

Monday, 22 March 2010

How to solve a problem like Wright-Phillips?

A Contract row between SWP and the City execs has been the focus of recent press reports. The perennial loudmouth Ian Wright, made high profile allegations in the Sun highlighting SWP thoughts and feelings on the matter. Sadly recent performances, including last night, show SWP to be a player vastly out of form and certainly not deserving a starting spot let alone a new contract.

Comeback Legend
On his return, SWP had been greeted by many city supporters with open arms, back when he made his comeback in 2008. City lacked in creative attacking options and former City winger, who was having a difficult time at Stamford Bridge, seemed to be perfect fit. In his first appearance, he scored 2 goals against Sunderland.

But when new signing came in in summer transfer window, an increase in competition saw SWP role diminish and as his niggling injuries continued, he seemed to lose his rhythm and ability to get past a defender. Although we have seen some bright patches from SWP, goals and assist wise, he hasn't looked in great form.

With the signing of promising winger Adam Johnson in the January Window, SWP has slipped down the pecking order. Johnson has shown better form, creativity and success going forward. It looks as though he will continue to stuggle to compete for a starting role, if last nights performance was anything to go by.

Uncertain Future
In the current system, Mancini likes to put wingers at the weaker side. This perhaps hasn't been very popular amongst blues, as players such as shaun and indeed petrov are not really able enough to do the job. But if the player is both footed, like Johnson, it's a great deal more productive. With Bellamy on the opposite flank, they can cut in on full backs, create and score goals.

Therefore, under this circumstance, Wright-Phillips should not be in the press asking for more money, but working his socks off to earn his spot back. There is a great deal at stake for SWP, his immediate future is about getting into Capello's World Cup squad, money quibbles with 2 years left on a current deal is simply a distraction we don't need. We need SWP on full form, for his goals and assists, it's time for him to really perform.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Blast From the Past: Paulo Wanchope

Wanchope- the Rubber legged, Costa Rican Genius!

I have noticed someone else has done an article today, but i will post it anyway!

I was actually looking Joe Royle on Wikipedia, reviewing his City career and i noticed a cut away remark about him and his conflict with Wanchope. I had forgotten Royle put Wanchope, the then record City signing at 3.6 million, on the transfer list. Famously Royle labelled his attitude as 'bigger than the club.' Royle wasn't a fan of temperamental footballers (he wouldn't enjoy the current squad), he had already sacked former World Player of the Year, multi coloured boot clad striker George Weah after 7 games! Wanchopes City career was saved by the sacking of Joe Royle, after he failed to keep City in the top flight.

Along came King Kev, who acted instantly to reassure Paulo and keep him on side. Keegan, of course, no stranger to the extravagant player, after he managed the 'unpredictable' but 'brilliant' Faustino Asprilla at Newcastle. Although Wanchope struggled with injury's during Keegan's 1st season, he still scored 12 goals in 15 games in a glorious season that saw City promoted as Champions. I have fond memories of team with a striker line of Anelka, Goater and Wanchope! We were seeing the type of form that 1st made Paulo famous in England, the amazing goal he scored for Derby Vs United. He was unpredictable on the ball, ultimately impossible to defend against in such form. His second season under Keegan wasn't as success. He pretty much missed the season through injury, which was a shame, as city finished 9th that season and qualified for Europe through the Fair play league.

The following season wasn't a very good for City, Wanchope featured more prominently this season, although he couldn't stay fit through the whole thing. Despite 17 goals from Anelka, City were terrible in Europe and in the league finishing 16th. This would be Paulo's last season for the blues, before he set off for Sunny Malaga. He only lasted a season in Spain before heading to a series of clubs in Qatar, Argentina, Japan and finally finishing his career in the USA.

Paulo Wanchope is actually one of my favourite old city players, despite his limited City career. I remember his fantastic skill on the ball, the ability to dribble through players awkwardly and still retain possession. Adebayor is similar is some regard to Wanchope, both players of exciting ability and being widely unpredictable . A career plagued by injury and controversy, he finished prematurely ( he's only 33). But I will always remember the Costa Rican legend for his brilliance.

Here's an overly dramatic tribute to the man himself!

The Season So Far: A new writer at NotB

Notes from the editor: I just want to welcome John to the site. Probably the only Korean season ticket holder at City! Here's a brief review of the season so far...

Early Season

City looked to have an excellent transfer period. The signing of Premier League proven players, like Adebayor, Toure, Barry and Lescott, showed intent, that City wanted to be strong enough to challenge the 'Big 4' and at least the top 6. A bright start with consecutive wins (inc. Barca friendly and cup matches) without conceding a goal seemed to prove that City were on the right track. After 9 games, 8 wins and one loss, City seemed to have turned a corner in their development, the success had some people even dreaming of winning Premier league trophy.

But then disaster struck: they recorded 7 consecutive draws. The joint most consecutive draws in the league’s history to date. The most damaging factor was the standard of opponents faced at home, minnows such as Burnley, Fulham and Hull, the result were simply not good enough . Yes, they were not defeats, but the performances were not good enough., surely every city fans will agree with that. The tactics were rigid, big signings didn't perform consistently and midfielders and defenders seemed not functioning. The defensive issue hadn't changed since Hughes took over, with vast investment, some improvement was needed! The result made the Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Garry Cook impatient and ultimately, the draw against Fulham forced them in to the process of recruiting a new manager.

The first target for the executive was Guus Hiddink, excellent manager with great track-records. Unfortunately, he was tied with Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich so they moved on to their second choice, Roberto Mancini. The Italian jumped at the opportunity after a years break from the game, despite knowing that he wasn't their first choice. After some internet rumblings, the 4-3 win against Sunderland spelt the end of the Mark Hughes era and Mancini immediately took the charge.

New Era

Roberto Mancini; although clearly not their first choice, he has great CV, certainly better than previous incumbent. Winning the Scudetto 3 times and several domestic cups, Mancini record isn't a fluke, he has a good knowledge of English football and the game in general. It seemed to be a good appointment for a City team that wasn't functioning. Mancini enjoyed a good start, and changed the emphasis of the side from ultra-attacking side, to a very defensive set up. However, after the ‘honeymoon’ period, the result seemed to be slipping away from him, especially after crashing out in Carling cup and FA cup in space of 3 weeks. The win against Chelsea alleviated Mancini from some pressures in the press, but the match against Sunderland showed City require more improvements to become dominant force this season and secure that 4th spot.

So, will City get their holy grail? Will City change their manager if they we don't secure 4th? Is Jose on the way? Will Robinho ever come back to City? (probably not!)

... only time will tell.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Sunderland 1-1 Manchester City: Match Review!

It’s been a long and frustrating wait for City fans to play another games since the impressive victory at Stamford Bridge! So today’s performance was all too predictable anti-climax for the blues! The performance reflected in some regard, the Chelsea game. The 1st half was slow in tempo and manner, as we struggled to get to grips with the opposition, allowing them to score an easy goal! The Second half showing was far brighter and more exciting for the visiting fans, only the lack of quality finishing let down to side.

It was a terrible start to the game, Kenwyne Jones static in the box was able to connect a pretty much-uncontested header, which Given had no chance of saving. City were all over the place, Richards caught out of position several times, Kompany failing in several aerial battles with Jones summed a pretty unmotivated and lacklustre start for the Blues. An early change removing Wayne Bridge for Santa Cruz gave the team more shape, but the supply in the midfield was non-existent. Not a performance worthy of 4th spot let alone a new contract! Bellamy and Tevez looked out of sorts and without a clinical attack, we are pretty toothless.

The break couldn’t come soon enough, it gave time for Mancini to grip the side and send them in the right direction. We came out second half all guns blazing creating several chances. Yet we couldn’t beat an impressive Craig Gordon. For me the biggest disappointment was the quality of finishing and poor decision making. RSC looked like a striker who hasn’t played for a long time. Bellamy was, hard working as ever, but severely lacking quality in his final ball; he tends to blow hot and cold. As does Tevez, whom wastes allot chances and often scores the more difficult opportunities. This is a quality City do lack, and have done for years. We have some great attacking players, with flair and fantastic ability, but we dont have an instinct striker. Watching Spurs on Friday, they weren’t in full form, but when a half chance falls to Pavlyuchenko or Defoe, they tend to score! With City, i don’t know if we have that type of player. Adebayor has that ability, but haven’t found how to get the best out of him regularly!

Mancini made two changes that really worked. Vieira swapping for poor Micah Richards and Adam Johnson for a disappointing SWP. Vieira came into middle of the park and looked a little rusty, but quickly settled in, and was able to orchestrate the ball around creating several chances and holding the ball well. He looked fitter too. Perhaps the extended break was a blessing for him, as he didn’t look great when he was first rushed into action. Adam Johnson came on and gave that creativity we severely lacked and desired. Some good work down the right flank had ‘cletus Ferdinand’ in tatters, something SWP couldn’t really manage in the game. He of course then scored a brilliant goal to draw city level. Johnson a 'Mackem' himself, showed the under performing 'stars' how it's down! It was a great relief to get the draw in the end, but the second half performance warranted so much more.

It’s disappointing result today, as it was a chance to exercise our dominance in challenging for the 4th spot, instead we took our foot off the gas and have made life more difficult for us in future games. We can’t afford many more performances like this; the attitude has to change quickly. After the Chelsea win, with all the talk in the press from the players, the performance came somewhat as a surprise. We didn't look like a side motivated to challenge for 4th spot. It's difficult for the manager too, one match he think he's found the best side, only for the team to look completely lost in the next!

We must do better!

Fulham next ...

Saturday, 13 March 2010

NewsOftheBlues returns!

Well I decided to return to my blog, mainly through boredom. I stopped writing due to various issues, non city related, but I'm glad to be back.
A great deal has changed since I last posted, Mark Hughes has been dismissed from his post and replaced by Roberto Mancini! City have exited both cups, yet have firmly staked their claim as a real contender for the 4th place. Disappointing results with Stoke have been counter balanced with great win at Chelsea!
We have seen a stark contrast in style's between both managers. Hughes gung-ho approach eventually cost him his job, although very entertaining to see your side completely geared to attack, it didn't satisfy the needs of the club result wise. The inability to create a settled defence in the two season, with vast spending, cut short Hughes City career. So it was no surprise to see Mancini step and place the emphasis on defensive duties. We have looked better organised and we haven't seen a repeat of the 3-3 type performances against Burnley. Mancini has come under some pressure already from fans, I think it's completely unwarranted, but the issue stems from a difference in styles. The defensive approach, didn't sit easy with many fans. I feel the lack of action in the January window, had added to Mancini's problems. Losing a creative asset such as Robinho, who for all his flaws still finished our highest scorer last season. The arrival of Vieira on a free, was a signal of intent for Mancini, the type of player he felt necessary to correct the flaws in the squad. I have been of the opinion that selling Elano and not replacing him, left us very short in the middle of the park. I think with Mariga, as an energetic box to box player, or Gago as a deep lying play maker, it would of made the middle of the park function much more efficiently. Sadly we could not seal either deal in the window, with one consolation prize of young up and coming winger Adam Johnson, who looks an exciting prospect for City and England!

From what I have seen from Mancini, I am excited, Inter looked a far more enjoyable side to watch in his second season there. His transfer dealings were very impressive too. Reaching 4th this season is very important, I think with our current team, we should be able to achieve this, if key players, such as Tevez and Bellamy stay fit and keep in form!

The future is looking bright for City, along with recent announcement for development around the ground, It's a real statement from our owners that this club has to be take seriously! The club wants to compete with the best clubs on the highest level. These developments will go some to way to helping City profitability and the chance to be self sufficient as a business!

Just a brief review, to step back into the blogging world. If you didn't read before, welcome! I am also on twitter, feel free to follow!

Next up Sunderland Away!