Fulham 1:2 Manchester City: Mancini’s Road Warriors Take All Three

March 22, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Match Summaries 

Even the most ardent supporter of Mark Hughes must admit that Roberto Mancini has had a positive impact on the club’s results. Under Hughes, City was inept away from home. On the current three game Premier League road trip, the Blues went undefeated and picked up seven points, continuing a strong push for the 4th and final Champions League spot.

Joleon Lescott’s late scratch denied the defender the opportunity to audition at left back for Fabio Capello, but Javier Garrido filled in admirably. City’s shape was helped by the presence of Patrick Vieira who despite several clumsy fouls, positioned himself particularly well in the deep lying midfield position. Vincent Kompany continued his recent outstanding form helping to organize the backlin. Kolo Toure’s return was a successful one, although their were several occasions where the Ivorian looked out of position only to recover quickly.

Going forward, the wide play provided by Adam Johnson and Craig Bellamy was outstanding and as always Carlos Tevez was on the mark. Seven points from a three match road trip is the type of form that puts a club into Europe or even title contention. Let’s hope this proves true for City.

Fulham Preview

March 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Previews 

Roy Hodgson is the type of Manager that Manchester City’s high priced squad would excel under. An English tactical maestro, who has lots of continental football management experience, Hodgson is as good as an English manager gets.

City, however have chosen a manager who as recently as 2007 downplayed the role of tactics in favor of player psychology. No doubt in my mind, that many of the non-British players in the squad have excelled under Mancini, but the form of the Gareth Barry among others causes concern.

Fulham is coming off one of the biggest nights in the club’s long history: a European triumph over Juventus. Just a few years ago, the thought of the likes of Juve playing a meaningful match at Craven Cottage was a fantasy of the highest order. But today, under Hodgson, the Cottagers are flying.

October’s reverse fixture at Eastlands exposed the frailties of the Blues under Mark Hughes. Conceding a two goal lead at home and allowing countless chances for Fulham to score even more than the two second half goals they tallied. Whatever Manicini has done tactically or psychologically, a significant change is that it is often City that is playing from behind and gutting out results, not the opposite which was os often the case under Hughes.

This match will tell us a great deal about City’s quest for fourth position. A victory, and the Citizens are well on track to grab fourth, a draw and we’re still very much part of the discussion. A loss means perhaps we’ll be dreaming of replicating Fulham’s good fortune in this season’s Europa League at this time next year.

Chelsea 2:4 Manchester City: Team Bridge Puts on a Counter Atatcking Clinic

February 27, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Match Summaries 

Manchester City’s roller coaster week ended on high with a shocking victory at Stamford Bridge. After a frustrating home draw versus Liverpool and a disappointing FA Cup exit in midweek, City appeared to be on the back foot for the first forty minutes. The Citizens record at Stamford Bridge is one of those statistics you constantly hear from opposing supporters and wish would go away, and initially it appeared the record of futility would continue.

The last City manager to win at Stamford Bridge was Peter Reid, and that was in the first year of the Premier League era. But today, with Fleet Street focused on pre match handshakes and scandal, City hung in the match without conceding but a lone first half goal, and then took control.

Possession stats tend to lie in football. While I have not seen a final number on today, Chelsea certainly controlled possession. But after Lampard’s initial strike, Cheslea’s ball movement was less crisp and the possession ultimately less valuable. Having been handed a blueprint on how to expose Chelsea’s frailties at midweek by Jose Mourinho, Roberto Mancini deployed Adam Johnson and Craig Bellamy in wide positions to put pressure on Chelsea’s replacement fullbacks. When Adam Johnson fell down on the job (literally in some cases), SWP was inserted to force Flourent Malouda to play deeper than he would have liked, opening up more midfield space for City. Malouda is replacing the injured Ashley Cole at Left Back.

Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy were titanic forces today as they have so often been when City is successful. Bellamy’s pace gave Ivanovic, replacing Jose Bosingwa fits all afternoon, and Tevez had his way with Chelsea’s sloppy center back tandem. Also poor for Chelsea was Obi John Mikel, a replacement for Michael Essien, who is also out injured.

Wayne Bridge acted professionally today, while his opposite number in the tabloids John Terry continued to play the victim. Despite the classless taunts from many (but not all) Chelsea supporters, Bridge had a workmanlike outing which contributed mightily to the Citizens victory. John Terry on the other hand played poorly and continued his history of complaining to the officials every time Chelsea was on the wrong end of a decision.

It should also be noted that Roberto Mancini had tremendous success at Inter in exposing Carlo Ancelloti’s preferred diamond midfield. Today simply continued that pattern, though the venue and sides were different.

(more later)

Manchester City 0:0 Liverpool: It Never Comes Easy

February 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Match Summaries 

In typical City fashion, Sunday represented a missed opportunity. But unlike City of yesteryear, the opposition did not leave Eastlands or Maine Road feeling as if they had gotten the best of the critical tie. The battle for fourth is very much alive after Liverpool failed to take three points in match most with a historical outlook would have considered a lock for the Reds. As this season has progressed both City and Liverpool have resorted to more negative football in big games, particularly away from home. For the Blues it was a coaching change that did this, but for the Reds, Rafa Benitez has seemingly changed his tactics to ensure survival.

The bottom line is that City continue to be right in the race for fourth with a tough set of fixtures coming in the next few weeks.

City’s backline looked surprisingly comfortable and confident without captain Kolo Toure and Micah Richards, both either benched or injured depending on what source you believe. Joleon Lescott had among his better games since joining City from Everton, and Pablo Zabaleta continued his strong recent play under Roberto Mancini.

Going forward, Emmanuel Adebayor, left alone on an island worked hard but was largely frustrated and ineffective as City’s midfield was run over by a stronger unit from Liverpool. Garreth Barry and Stephen Ireland were particularly poor, while Adam Johnson’s initial flashes of brilliance gave way to poor distribution, chronic diving and bad corner/set piece taking.

This match was a forgettable affair, but a result ensures City stays in the race for a Champions League place.

Player Ratings

Given   7

Zabaleta  8

Kompany 7

Lescott 8

Bridge  7

DeJong  8

Barry  5

Ireland 5

Johnson 6

SWP  5

Adebayor 7

Bellamy 6

Ibrahim 5

The Most Important Point?

February 17, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Match Summaries 

If the Blues somehow manage to finish 4th in the Premier League this season, chances are we will look back on Garreth Barry’s late equalizer as the most important goal City has scored since promotion back to the Premier League.

The City performance while visibly poor, and perhaps aided by some poor officials decision, can count as a job well done. Stoke is a very tough side to break down at the Britannia, and City’s late flurry of goal scoring chances despite not having Carlos Tevez or Craig Bellamy available, speaks highly as to the motivation for this current City side.

A less resilient and determined team would have lost last night. This result bodes well for City’s 4th place chase. Ultimately, I still believe has too much quality and historical pedigree to be overtaken, but should the Blues actually achieve this lofty ambition, we will look back on Tuesday’s night’s draw as the key result.

City Struggles

February 15, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Adam Johnson, Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy 

Saturday’s uneven and un-inspirational FA Cup performance versus Stoke  confirms many of the fears supporters had about playing without either Carlos Tevez or Craig Bellamy. Both will be unavailable for tomorrow’s league clash with the same Potters, but cup tied Adam Johnson will be available.

Without Johnson in the lineup, City struggled for attacking link up play behind the strikers, and Stephan Ireland’s run of poor form continued despite his mouthing off about Mark Hughes during the week.

City’s recent FA Cup History has seldom if ever seen such a poor later round performance at Eastlands. While disastrous cup ties have taken place in the early rounds of both the FA and League Cups (most recently City’s embarrassing performance under Hughes versus Nottingham Forest last year), most poor Cup efforts such as the 2007 Quarterfinal rout at the hands of Blackburn have come away from home.

Roberto Mancini is now learning first hand about the grind of English football and fixture congestion. Often times his Inter Milan teams began to fade down the stretch of the Serie A campaign, sometimes allowing its title rivals to sense a collapse. While Mancini’s 2007 and 2008 Inter teams did win the Serie A title, their were wobbly stretches of football in February and March.

City’s FA Cup and Champions League qualification ambitions demand that these wobbles be minimized.

Manchester City 2:0 Bolton: Derby Victory for the Blues

February 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Match Summaries 

I was tied up with a major press announcement of a new NASL team in Edmonton and did not get to focus as closely on the match as I would have liked. I will re watch the match Wednesday and have some more complete thoughts.

Hull Thoughts

February 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Adam Johnson, Match Summaries 

One of the worst first halves since the Stuart Pearce era for City gave way to an equally frustrating second half even if the level of  football was more acceptable. Wayne Bridge who has had to deal with so much this week was the lone bright spot among players who featured in the City starting XI.

Rather than emphasize the negative, which could take all morning to outline, let’s focus on the two new Manchester City players that made their debuts in this match.

Adam Johnson played a vital role coming in for the ineffective Stephen Ireland after Hull’s second goal. Johnson played in a floating role behind the two strikers, Tevez and Adebayor and provided a definite spark . Johnson seemed more effective when pushed towards the right hand flank. Johnson played some nice balls into the box and was able to take on defenders.

Patrick Vieira added a degree of calm into the City midfield which has been disjointed in the past several games. The on field leadership and experience Vieira provides is missing from a group of City players, that while accomplished do not have significant experience winning major honors, and leading title winning teams.

Saturday’s performance was the worst of the season for the Blues. But perhaps we saw a glimmer of hope going forward from the two newest additions to the squad.

Hull City Preview

February 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Previews 

For all the laughter Phil Brown elicits, Hull City’s side has been remarkably competitive the past two months. Beginning with a 2-1 win at home to Stoke, and then continuing through the Jimmy Bullard goal celebration at Eastlands, Hull has gone from seemingly dead and buried to having a real opportunity to escape relegation.

Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at the KC Stadium provided proof of how well Hull can defend at home. Given, that City’s two point blown in the earlier matchup will be critical in the final table, three points is essential tomorrow.

The experienced Stephen Hunt leads Hull’s attack, which features lots of depth but questionable quality. No question that Brown, partly through overspending has brought more attacking options to Hull (the latest being Zaki) than any other team fighting relegation has, save West Ham who aspent big in this recently closed transfer window.

But Brown has failed to develop a continuity among his strike partnerships of his midfield and Hull often times resembles a disjointed group of players not accustomed to working together.  City will have the opportunity to exploit this.

This game is critical for City’s remaining hopes of making the Champions League. Hull has played reasonably well lately, but taking the full three points at the KC Stadium would make a strong statement that City, under Roberto Mancini can deal with the type of squads that troubled MArk Hughes’ Blues.

Transfer Window Thoughts

February 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Adam Johnson, Benjani, Roberto Mancini, Robinho 

The decision to loan Benjani to Sunderland will no doubt provide a bit of a shock to the supporters base that has been concerned about a lack of scoring punch beyond Carlos Tevez recently. Benjani scored the only goal in City’s 1-0 victory over Boro in the FA Cup Third Round, and has a reputation for lively play inside the opposition 18”.

Combined with the loan deal that sent Robinho to Santos, City enters the final portion of Premier League matches and the fifth round of the FA Cup with substantially less going forward. The signing of Adam Johnson from Boro will certainly help in the league, he is FA Cup tied, and will play no further role in that competition.

While the collapse of the Gago deal may actually provide a blessing in disguise for City, the failure to secure McDonald Mariga thanks to the UK Home Office is a devastating blow for the club. Additionally, the failure to sign Victor Moses, a young striker with tremendous future upside was disappointing.

When Patrick Vieria returns from injury, this transfer window will truly be judged. If the former Arsenal great provides the leadership and midfield cover necessary, Mancini’s cautious movement can be applauded for not unsettling the team too greatly. However, if Moses provides a spark for local rival, Wigan and Benjani helps revitalize Sunderland’s season, question will no doubt be asked of the manager.

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